Archive for Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The challenge of working ‘just right’

January 4, 2006

Our cats are working too hard.

When scouting the winter bird feeders, the cats used to crouch out of sight, beneath the deck, behind a tree, in a tree, wherever they best could blend with the scenery.

The birds would flock to the feeder and occasionally, though sadly to us, one of them would be caught in the grip of a cat's claws. Later in the day, a fuzzy scattering of feathers would prove the cat's prowess at hunting and voraciousness of appetite.

But now the cats have taken to "hunting" the birds by plopping themselves in the middle of the large round tray which is mounted on the rail of the deck. This is where we leave sunflower seeds for the birds.

Of course their new and unimproved work method satisfies no one -- save the rare unlucky bird that might have gotten caught. The birds skip breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cats catch no birds, and the people who like to watch the finches, jays, cardinals and woodpeckers miss out on seeing the wildlife.

Perhaps the cats should ease up, just a little, and not take their work so seriously.

A friend with whom I used to work says it's important to take advantage of vacations.

He has said, "I'm a better employee when I take time away from work."

There is wisdom in what he says. At work sometimes, all we can see is the deadline in front of us. Work becomes routine, production slows, creativity becomes harder and harder to reach.

There's a delicate balance between work and play.

To be long-staying at a job, the work experience must be pleasant. But of course too much pleasantness defeats the purpose and the nature of work.

And then there's entropy -- something for which employers and employees need to be on the lookout.

A Homer Simpson-esque definition of entropy could be that inherently and if given the chance we as humans tend to be lazy louts.

Or more sympathetically, if given the choice of to work or not to work, we'd likely choose the latter.

But more officially, according to the American Heritage dictionary, entropy is the tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.

In other words, like the cats sitting stark still on the bird feeder in their daily hunt -- we might as well be paperweights.

That may be fine for the cats, who rely on store-bought cat food for their mainstay. But it's something that in a workplace is unproductive.

As the new year rolls in, now is a good time to take stock of our jobs. Are we working enough? Are we taking enough time away from work so that, as my friend would say, we wind up being better employees? And, just as importantly to employers as well as employees, when we do work, are we working smart enough?

If in doubt, just remember my cats.

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