I have been silent and stationary at a desk, 9 hours a day, for the past 5 days. This is unusual for me as a teacher who is accustomed to spending her working hours using emphatic body gestures to explain vocabulary while projecting my voice to the back of the classroom like a thespian at the Globe. One acronym: MERS.
MERS (Middle East respiratory Syndrome) has sent the country into a panic and as such, all the schools I work for as a substitute teacher have closed. I was given the choice between taking my vacation now (instead of in a month’s time when I booked it) or going to my company’s headquarters to help out with curriculum stuff until all this epidemic madness blows over. I chose the latter.
I’m not sure how people can work at an office desk their entire working lives when I felt my body going decrepit after just one day. A lovely assortment of ailments have come upon me, including but not limited to: repetitive wrist strain, eye strain, tension headaches, and back aches. I’m sure the employees at Google offices are having a jolly good time but in a typical Korean office, people rarely get up and walk around. They don’t have tea and chat breaks. You sit down and look busy in a seen-but-not-heard manner until your boss leaves and you can go home.
There are a few tricks I’ve learned to help me cope with ‘desk life’. They are as follows:
- Find a way to exercise. When I feel my eyelids start to droop, I go for a ‘bathroom break’ which is code for me running down to the bottom of the building and back up to my office floor. That’s a good 12 flights of stairs! It gets my blood moving and I feel totally refreshed afterwards.
- Remember the 20/20/20 rule. To reduce eye strain when working at a computer all day, you should focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.
- Take a time-out. When the work you’re given is just too damn dull and you feel like giving yourself a 10 minute break, do something incognito that stimulates your mind. Examples are: scouring the internet for a recipe you can make for dinner that night, or making a bucket list for your next vacation.
- Don’t rely on sugar. I used to eat a sack of gummy bears after lunch to beat the midday slump but the sugar coma hit worse than the general drowsiness.
If anyone has any of their own tips for surviving ‘desk life’ please let me know!