Numerous medical conditions affect office workers. Long periods of sitting leads to poor posture, staring at a monitor for hours on end causes eye strain, and repetitive commuting causes Carpool Tunnel Syndrome. Germs, poor air quality, stress, and work all contribute to office illness on a scale never before seen in human history.
Something funny had to be done, and it was.
Know Thy Enemy
The first step in combating this corporate scourge was to identify the specific antagonists. While medical science can point to official diagnoses for many office ailments, many more go unreported and unidentified. For the first time, many of these have been officially listed, and treatments designed.
The stress of working in an office can cause more maladies than you can swing a probe at. These range from physical, mental, neurological, and visual, to auditory, addictive, internal, and more.
As the human body succumbs to both physical and psychological stress in the office, it is more important than ever that emerging disease is identified. But that is the easy part. The hard part is finding a cure.
Need for Relief
99 office workers can't all be wrong. As they posed on, over, and in their desks and cubicles, the complaints were frequent and familiar:
Their job was to demonstrate animal-inspired techniques designed to alleviate office maladies, and along the way, many got sore, but relief was found.
In The Official Guide to Office Wellness, the job of the models was to pose in bizarre positions on, over, and in their desks and cubicles. Photographed in offices, and inspired by animals, these models showed that laughter and an awkward pose can go a long way towards improving office wellness.
The measure of success of any office wellness program must include caloric burn, and the example below illustrates how one can combine exercise with a targeted wellness regimen. In the example, the worker seeks to alleviate a particularly stressful condition. This is taken directly from The Official Guide to Office Wellness.
Do not attempt this.
Dogfish Shark Bridge Position
Gossip is the lifeblood of corporate communication, but like any specialized skill it should only be practiced by trained professionals. Without proper instruction, the novice may be inclined to disseminate rumors that lack therapeutic precision. The Dogfish Shark Bridge Position suppresses the body's tendency towards indiscriminate news sharing, and at the same time strengthens gossip fundamentals. This technique is perfect for new employees, or as a refresher for old timers.
Various wellness approaches such as yoga and tai chi are based in part on animals. Throughout history many cultures have recognized that animals practice natural healing, so it makes sense that in their own approach to wellness humans would mimic some of the techniques developed by animals.
The Official Guide to Office wellness recognizes his human-animal connection, and relies heavily on animal inspiration in all of its techniques. An inadvertant byproduct of this approach is the occasional element of humor, which is a positive attribute, since laughing is known to burn calories, and also promotes endorphic release.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses. According to Wikipedia, "neuropeptides are involved in a wide range of brain functions, including analgesia, reward, food intake, metabolism, reproduction, social behaviors, learning and memory."
Thus, a byproduct of the humor evoked by animal inspired techniques is potentially quite dramatic, and positive. Office wellness can only improve under such conditions.
The Creation of Wellness
Blending exercise with cubicles is risky business. Office workers certainly have issues peculiar to their environment, and the forgotten minority of cube people desperately needed a program. After all, they arguably get less exercise then any other cluster of humans, But what would provoke them to move? The obvious answer was exercise, or more accurately, animal-inspired postures and movements.
Although the maladies to be addressed were easily identified, the associated healing positions were not as readily devised. How should the models pose? At first, upon arriving at the model's office, the author/photographer would evaluate the scene for the most ludicrous potential. On the desk, on a chair, upside down, or some combination thereof was usually best. But it quickly became apparent that with one hundred techniques, better creative planning was required.
The solution to this difficulty came in the form of stick figures. The remaining positions were drawn as stick figures and were compiled in a binder, which was carried to every photo shoot. While a particular technique might be planned for a specific individual, locale didn't always permit the anticipated shot. There were simply too many variations in office configuration. With the stick figures a more appropriate position could be immediately selected, and thus the creativity gap was bridged.
The Official Guide to Office Wellness combined photography, animal inspiration, and humor to provide both a workout and a laugh. Inspired by animals, because animals have wisdom, this literary/photographic work tones, if only incidentally. It should be read as often as desired, but the techniques described should only be practiced under the direction of a physician.
Even if none of the exercises are actually therapeutic, if laughter is generated, the book has succeeded.
It is inevitable that humor will occur at work, and eventually you may be tempted to try it yourself. Before launching into office stand-up, make sure you understand the basics.
What is Humor?
Humor is not simply something that is funny. There must be an element of intent, because humor is something that is tried, and either succeeds or fails. If it succeeds, then it is funny, it provokes a reaction, and it is indeed humor. If it fails, it's just sad.
The first attempt at workplace humor is said to have occured in 1392 in an alcove outside the Papal residence somewhere in southern France. Although the routine is generally recognized as the first official slapstick offering, the religious overtones disqualified it from any formal registration. The antics of the performer were so hilarious that a Bishop is said to have wet his cassock. Unfortunately, all records of the event were lost in a fire the following planting season, so nothing is known of the routine itself.
Modern day humor is well documented, but statistics regarding humor usage in the office vary. Humor occurs in all offices on at least a daily basis, but failed attempts are often masked by coughing or other bodily expressions, and may go unreported. Given these skewed results, and the fact that the science of humor is fairly new, it is no surprise that statistical modeling has little comparative data to consider. Strong estimates tend to support the conclusion that humor is statistically measurable within the margin of error.
Many scholars agree that humor is local. This means that the audience must be in close proximity when amusement is offered, and must have something in common with the provider. A shared miserable experience, such as work, offers an opportunity for palpable irony to exceed the threshhold of indifference. The strength or weakness of this effect can be determined by the body language of the recipient.
Measuring the effect of humor is as much art as science. The outward indication is often visibly detectable as laughter, but it is often impossible to guage the sincerity of this response. Factors such as relative socio-economic position can artificially enhance or suppress the response, resulting in false positive readings. Experiments have been proposed to mitigate this unpredictable influence, but for the foreseeable future the best measure will continue to be career retention.
The Modern Office
An office is essentially a centralized administrative gathering place that is functionally oriented, with some shared goal. This goal can be closely or loosely shared, but the various functions of the office inhabitants are designed to support this function. The specific duties of the individual inhabitants may be quite varied, and may even utilize unrelated skill sets. The most important characteristic of the office is that it generates output that helps to maintain the livelihood of the office inhabitants. In this regard, the office is a self-sustaining economic entity.
The cubicle is the primary productivity enhancement tool of the modern office. It evolved from a need to segregate human office workers, but in a way that maintained office proximity. This duality facilitates both individual effort, and group indoctrination. Although cubicle inhabitants may find the enclosed nature of the cubicle depressing and dehumanizing, corporate productivity has benefitted greatly from this organizational modality.
The typical office cubicle has four grey walls, no windows, and limited grazing room. Many cubicles can be fitted into a single, warehouse-like space, greatly improving office functionality. It is within this environment that office humor has the best chance to develop, but it is largely dependant upon the personalities of the inhabitants.-
There are three distinct office personalities. These are classified as the Stoic, the Follower, and the Humorist. Although from a psychological perspective all office workers have some combination of all three personalities, one is always dominant.
The Stoic is all about business. Even in the presence of certified humor, the Stoic will not crack a smile, as if he did not even hear the limerick that has everyone else in stitches. The bottom line is the bottom line. As long as the numbers all add up, there is nothing to laugh about. This is not to say that all Stoics are financial workers, but the numbers are what they are.
The Follower is happy to laugh at your joke, as long as everyone else does. Office celebrations are always well attended by Followers, and while Followers are seldom the first to adopt a new mission statement, they are never far behind. If a room is occupied only by Followers, either panic or paralysis will ensue. For this reason, management is always careful to organize groups with a mix of office types.
The Humorist is a paradox. Although quick-witted, the Humorist functions within a wide range of professional capability. At the lower end, the Humorist uses wit as a cover for incompetence. This can be exacerbated by a management penchant for enabling. Sometimes the need for humor is so overwhelming that a manager will overlook poor work performance in exchange for a quick laugh. At the upper range, a Humorist may be very competent, and may even rise to the top of their field. In this case, humor is used either as a release from the stress of performance, or is a simple byproduct of the good nature of the Humorist. It's really hard to tell.
How to be Funny at Work
Before you attempt any effort at humor, accept the possibility of failure. Sometimes what seems funny to you is not funny to others. Derisive stares will be the result. Try not to cry. As surely as toddlers stumble, jokes will fall flat, but pick yourself up and move on.
There are certain keys to success. First, know your audience. Presenting humor to an unknown group of humans is like door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales. Sure, you may get lucky, but the odds are just not in your favor. In the worst cases, everyone just ends up feeling uncomfortable. Second, try to make your humor topical to the group you are targeting, so that what you offer is relatable. This doesn't guarantee it will be funny, but at least it has a chance, kind of like trying to sell a vacuum cleaner to someone with a dirty floor. And no vacuum cleaner. And extra money.
The third key is to be timely. Sometimes this means being quick, and sometimes it means waiting for the right moment. In either case, timing is critical. So is spacing, as in finding room in the middle of the conversation to launch your humor. It can be tricky to put it all together.
Lastly, practice, practice, practice. This is especially important if you are not especially witty. Humor is important to any career path, as well as to social aspirations. Just because you can't think of anything funny doesn't mean you can't learn. And oh, what dividends!
Humor in the workplace is unavoidable, whether you are giving it or receiving it. Most workers try to be funny at some point, but sometimes it takes practice. Humor is a risk, but it can also have benefits, and many careers have been built or extended on little more than a joke and a prayer.
Office humor is a special example, and should incorporate the elements described above for the greatest hope of success. The only failure in the undertaking of humor is to not try at all, so by all means, at that next meeting, knock 'em silly!
99 office workers demonstrate animal-inspired techniques designed to alleviate office maladies.
This book contains one hundred photographs of office workers in various positions on, over, and in their desks, offices, cubicles, and related equipment. Each photo is accompanied by humorous text, as well as the Latin name of the animal inspiring the technique.
Scientists estimate that laughing burns anywhere from zero to one hundred calories per nanosecond. The author used this calculation to determine many of the suggested repetitions within this text, and much like yoga or tai chi, animals strongly influenced the positions utilized.
The design of this book is consistent with industry standards regarding cubicle exercise. For best results, mentally perform the pictured technique while two or three coworkers observe. This is known as cubicle imprinting, but can be performed in any office area.
At the top of each page you will find three lines of text. The first line lists the office malady addressed by the technique. The second line lists the name of the technique, and the third line shows the Latin name of the animal inspiring the technique. The three lines of text, known as a triplet, are followed by a photograph of a model demonstrating the technique.
"...funny enough to make you momentarily forget your own cramped cubicle blues." - Publishers Weekly