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The Dangers of Cubicle Living

The following is a guest post by Kevin, who currently lives the white collar lifestyle, but his real dream is to get out of the rat race one day. He enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

One upon a time, most of the work to be done consisted of hard, physical work, in the factories, on the farms, and in transporting those goods from there to your home. Much of this work was physically exhausting and some of it was dangerous, but on the bright side, at least people got plenty of exercise and physical activity.

Today, many of us are “lucky” enough to spend our hours indoors on a comfortable office chair and we live lives of comparative luxury! We spend many hours of our day inside a small area enclosed by short walls, affectionately known as “The Cubicle”.

Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? In other lines of work, the danger is obvious: place your hand in the wrong place and you might get your fingers crushed or worse. Yet, there are actually dangers to cubicle life as well, and they can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Building up stress until we explode.

White-collar work is less physically strenuous than other lines of work for sure, but that doesn’t make it any less exhausting or stressful. First you have to sit in traffic, then you spend a full day of mental activity, dealing with bosses, clients, and less-than-idea coworkers who get paid more than you for inferior work just because they have seniority, and at the end of it all, you slump back into your car, battle the traffic back home and daze away the rest of your night in your large home with granite countertops, living paycheck to paycheck. Then you wake up the next morning to do it all over again.

Ok, so I might be exaggerating just a little bit. However, it’s true that a white-collar lifestyle is not the healthiest. Our bodies need a physical outlet for stress, and when we sit on our asses in a chair all day we’re just not getting that. We also require healthy exposure to the sun, and in northern climes it happens that for half of the year, it’s dark when you get to work, and it’s dark when you leave! My uncle is a blue-collar foreman, and is strong as heck and fit as a fiddle, even if he does look like a roasted chicken. His work is a natural outlet for stress that comes up during the day.

For those of us in the cubicle, the stress might just build up one day until we snap, and that’s not healthy for anyone. People who have seen Office Space and who have actually worked in a cubicle will know what I’m talking about.

Forgetting about our dreams

Perhaps an even bigger danger of cubicle life is that we get so wrapped in our work and our lives at work that we don’t have much time to think about our dreams or much energy to pursue them. I can see this happening to myself, sometimes, where I take the comfort of routine and security and lose sight of where I ultimately want to be. I can also see it happening to others: friends that want to pursue master’s degrees, change their line of work, and pursue their passions and dreams.

Not everyone is as self-driven as the heroes that we often look up to, and sometimes we need a bit of a kick in the ass to get there. That can be hard when we’re caught up in the security of a comfortable job. We put up with the crap because we know, at the end of the day, we have a job, insurance, and a roof over our heads. Yet, we lose a little something of ourselves when we neglect our dreams because we’re afraid of losing this security.

How to deal with it

Stand-up desks

Don’t get enough exercise during the day? Well, Mashable has an article up on the growing popularity of stand-up desks — desks that force you to stand instead of sitting around all day. This might be unrealistic for you, so the alternative is to make sure you take breaks during the day, and often.

Diet and health

If you’re not running in marathons or engaging in back-breaking work all day, your body will have no choice but to turn all of those carbohydrates that you’re probably eating into fat. This path can eventually lead to diabetes as well as other health problems. I’m not a health “expert”, but there seems to be a lot of merit in the idea that switching to wholesome foods — meaning, the stuff you buy around the edges of the grocery store and not in the middle, and cutting down on the processed food and stuff with refined sugar, flour, and corn syrup will have a great positive impact on your health. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, either, but 4 or 5 to get you through the day might mean it’s time to cut back and get some more sleep.

Get out of the rat race

Maybe the best way is to get out of the cubicle! Of course, if you end up doing the same thing at home it could be worse, since you will then also face social isolation and lack of routine. However, if you are self-driven enough or can find another way of kicking yourself in the ass, then this can be the dream. I find Crystal’s journey to be so inspiring, because she was once stuck in the cubicle, herself, and then she actually got herself out of the rat race and is now following her passions and dreams. I’m not there yet, myself, but I am inspired by her success.

Crystal’s Comments:  Thank you so much for the kind words and excellent guest post!!!

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21 comments to The Dangers of Cubicle Living

  • I love the concept of a stand up desk. I have also considered bringing an exercise ball to sit on instead of an office chair. I work at a University, so we have a recreation facility on campus. This makes it easy to get a good work-out in a few days a week, but it is still hard to do after working a full day.

    Escaping cubicle life is an admirable goal!

  • Cubicle land is starting to get to me after 10 years. Employer won’t do much about it. At least I have a window seat … for now.

  • I got out of the race and work from home. It’s funny though, I actually get less exercise at home since my commute is about 20 paces from my bedroom. I work out a few nights a week, but definitely notice a difference in my body from the lack of standing and walking around regularly during the day. I can still play basketball for a few hours, but if I just stand around, my back hurts after just a few minutes (so sad).

  • I used to relieve my stress by walking during lunch or coming in early to get ahead.

  • I am moving my office to the basement soon, and I have a major plan to incorporate a stand up desk. I plan to work at least half of my day standing up. Now if only I could jog and write at the same time…

  • Make an effort to get out of the office. Eat outside, bring a book, meet with a friend or co-worker. WALK EVERYWHERE!

  • @MoneyForCollegePro

    An exercise ball is a neat idea, and one that would work with a normal desk, too. I might have to try that, though I bet my coworkers would have a lot of question marks on their faces.

    @Sustainable PF

    I’ve only been there for three years, so I can probably take a bit more, but I already yearn to escape haha.

    @Car Negotiation Coach

    I actually don’t think I would want to work from home simply because my condo is too small. I don’t know… maybe get a good laptop and switch between coffee shops or whatever. Not there yet, though!

    @krantcents

    Walks during lunch sometimes help me out when I’ve just been under the fluorescent lights for too long… especially in the summer when the sun is warm and the weather is nice.

    @Christa

    I’d love to hear about your experiences with the stand-up desk if you do go down that path.

    @Jenna

    I need to work more on this myself… these are good tips.

    @Crystal

    Thanks for letting me guest post, I appreciate it!

  • I used to work on the 8th floor. Started a program of walking the stairs taking the elevator. Do 3 times and keep deodorant handy. Had half the company doing it. Talk about “kick your butt”.
    Read a short time ago on Yahoo that best exercise is treadmill elevation cranked up and walking for 15 minutes. I agree. Anyone who has taken a stress test understands.
    Good post. Need to relieve that stress.
    Today I play basketball. It’s the best. 2 hours of short sprints and you don’t notice the time going by. On the treadmill the clock stops when I get on.

  • The stand-up desk is a great idea. There is someone here in our office who does it, and I am toying with the idea. Ofcourse, I think it would be ideal to do half stand-up, half sit-down. Will look more into it….

    Ofcourse blogging is a primarily sit-down activity as well! I am more aware of this though and finding time and energy to stick more exercise into my days.

  • ODWO

    I think “having a purpose” is what keeps us (me…) fairly active. Live with a purpose, a goal. get motivated. But sitting all day without getting up and making the blood move to other areas of the body is not a good thing. I agree with the building of stress … I sometimes think the body is telling me to move … the leg starts to bounce while sitting, tapping ones fingers, etc. I need to listen more to what my body is whispering to me…. not just the obvious. :) Thx for the post.

  • I try to stand as much as I can during work. If I can, I put the phone call on speaker, close my office door, and pace around my desk. A poor substitute for an active outdoor activity, I know. But still….

  • @DIY Investor

    I work on the ground floor but once every now and then I run up all of the stairs. Should probably do it more often.. I have read that a good way to relieve the stress is by doing short sprints with pauses of rest in between.

    @Amanda L Grossman

    Haha agreed about blogging. I guess one advantage is if you have a laptop you can always bring it somewhere with you. Depends where you live, too. I am surrounded by highways and the weather is getting colder, but within a short drive there is plenty of nature and trails to hike.

    @ODWO

    That happens to me too. It’s a good reminder to go and stretch the legs a bit.

    @101 Centavos

    Better than nothing. Though with your land and garden you probably have no shortage of stuff to do outdoors. :)

  • An intense 30 minute circuit training workout, followed by an extremely hot (or cold if you prefer) shower to get the blood really pumping has always worked better for me than an extra cup of coffee. I usually just eat my lunch as a I go throughout the day and then use my lunch hour (at least a few times a week) for this rejuvenating exercise. I also find I need to keep this schedule since I get too lazy/busy at home after work to do a hard workout.

  • I really like this post,I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.Thanks

  • I am quite interested in this topic. Hope you will elaborate more on it in future posts…..

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