Don’t tell your boss I’m suggesting this, but Italian wisdom tells us … dolce far niente (it’s sweet to do nothing). No, I’m not telling you to just sit at your desk and twiddle your thumbs all day. At least not while your boss is watching.
But more and more, work has taken on productivity as a goal that often leaves human needs ignored. And the thing that many bosses still don’t understand is that human needs ignored means a workplace not optimally functioning.
Dolce far niente & the workplace
One of the first lessons I was taught when I entered the corporate work world was to make sure you look busy, even if you’re not. Show up early. Leave late. And never let them see you goofing off.
And yet people who continuously work without stopping to rest their brains are not more productive. In the end, that kind of relentless pace leads to more mistakes and far fewer creative or revenue-enhancing ideas.
Multi-tasking? For most, just a myth.
Sure you can have a lot of balls in the air at the same time, but none of them are getting your best focused attention. We humans need time to rest and replenish both strength and mental agility. And if your boss doesn’t understand this, you need to find a way to give yourself what you need.
If your goal is to excel, learn to protect yourself
from the myth of always doing something.
How to sneak nothingness into your workday
If you’re lucky, your boss does get the need for downtime — and trust in their workers. Or can be brought into the light with a little gentle guidance. People who feel watched constantly (and made to feel guilty) are not likely to go the extra mile when things get tough or creative solutions are needed. And it’s not just about permission to do absolutely nothing.
Human-centered workplaces can also provide playful atmospheres. Or events that allow for creative thinking not directly related to your work. Not only does it give your brain a mini-vacation, but it helps coworkers bond and feel better about their jobs in general.
But if your boss still believes in all work and no play, there are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Get up from your desk and walk — even just around the office once or twice.
- Meditate, even for five minutes. And even if you have to do it in the bathroom.
- Go to the supply room and look at things, letting your mind wander.
- Stop and stretch, even at your desk.
- Pull your eyes away from the screen and focus on something outside if you have a window.
- Allow your mind to drift away from a problem / project you’re thinking about. Solutions often happen when you let your mind go elsewhere.
- Listen to the sounds of nature through headphones, if allowed.
- Don’t get stuck in the lunch-at-desk habit.
- Take social breaks if allowed, even if it’s just a quick hello to a coworker.
- Yes, some social media is helpful. But not so much that you get lost in it and start to ignore your job.
- Look for other ways to give your brain a rest from work, even just a few minutes at a time.
A few more thoughts
While it’s definitely dolce far niente (sweet to do nothing), it’s not so sweet to be on the unemployment line. In your face rule breaking is not the best approach. So practice taking subtle break times. And please don’t overdo, at least not at first. 🙂
Some articles to help