Editor’s note: Could simply adding an enriching or challenging activity – or giving up a bad habit or dependency – really make an impact on your workday? The CareerBuilder writers decided to find out – we each picked one thing to add on or give up for one workweek to see how it affected our workplace productivity, mood and success. We’ll be blogging about our experiences throughout the next several weeks (that is, if we make it through the challenge in one piece).
When my week came to either add or give up something for a week, I couldn’t pick a single item. So I went with a sampler of sorts. Call it a beer flight for the soul or a charcuterie board for the mind. Each day I would step outside of my comfort zone by doing something that I despise but most people would consider mundane.
Monday: Dress in business attire
On any given weekend or workday, my attire consists of jeans, a t-shirt or button-up, a hoodie, and one of many pairs of Adidas shoes. If I’ve just really given up on life I’ll wear my glasses. For the inaugural day of the challenge, I decided to dress as formally as I could using the clothes in my closet.
On Sunday night I discovered:
- My sports coats were not kept in garment bags and had so much dust on them I could not possibly wear them in public.
- If I have a suit, I have no idea where it is.
- The only belt I own is sky blue and cloth.
- I never did replace my iron after it was ruined by leaky pipes.
- Finding matching dress shoes in a 1-bedroom apartment can somehow take 30 minutes.
- I don’t own a white shirt, black slacks, or plain tie.
- 13 years of Catholic school means you never forget how to tie a tie.
I arrived to work feeling like I was on my way to a court date–but a fancy court that serves finger sandwiches and high tea due to all the shades of purple I wore. (“You look like you’re going to Easter brunch,” my co-worker Susan said. Then she took the accompanying picture to document my sorrow.) My boss was convinced I had a job interview. Another co-worker thought someone got engaged. I was simply counting down the hours until I could rip the clothes off like Charlize Theron did in that Dior commercial.
Verdict: It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but don’t expect me to wear anything that grown up unless I’m standing trial.
Tuesday: Give hugs to people
I don’t like giving hugs. I have huggy friends who, when they come in for the embrace, I either do a quick bro-pat on their backs, just let it happen, or do the Oprah hug. I’m not a warm individual. Unless you’re a dog. I squeeze dogs like they contain the last drop of toothpaste.
The first person to embrace me was our social media manager Greg. He just went in for it and I froze. The team said that doesn’t count because I didn’t return the hug. The more we discussed the rules and regulations of the hug challenge, the more I began to sweat and get antsy. I ultimately hugged five co-workers, with the best one being the co-worker who hates hugs as much as I do. See visual proof to the left. She didn’t return the hug either because “This is your thing–you have to hug me.” In that harrowing moment where we embraced, I swear I felt nausea march up my spine. It was as if my internal organs began to cry.
Verdict: No one should ever hug anyone ever. Also, don’t let HR know about this.
To compensate for the lack of social interaction, I decided to post my feelings on the whiteboard next to my desk as though it were my Facebook profile. I needed to express myself and receive validation from others like any good Millennial. The pain of having no comments was real.
Meanwhile, my co-workers decided to post more than a dozen horrible puns on my Facebook wall. If I saw them and got annoyed, I had cheated. I didn’t cheat and ended up with 36 Facebook notifications that night and a lot of confused friends asking, “What’s with all the awesome puns?!”
Verdict: The hardest part of not checking social was the habit of it. Even while I was writing an email, I would find myself going to check Twitter or Instagram for no particular reason. I didn’t realize how habitual it is for me.
Thursday: Drink a cup of coffee
I hate the smell and taste of coffee. I don’t like hot beverages. I don’t drink caffeine. Nothing about this day would be good. Fearful my heart would explode from too much coffee, the team decided to get me a small (but it’s called a tall?) something something with soy. (I made them order.) It was my first cup since 2001, when I tried and immediately quit the notion of being a coffee drinker.
I nursed this cup of the devil’s java for a good 90 minutes. Interestingly, when the coffee was in my mouth, it was tolerable. The moment it went down my throat, it reminded me of how my winter coats used to smell of cigarettes back before cities outlawed smoking in bars. It was an inescapable flavor that permeated every crevice of my mouth. To compensate, I shoveled down cookies and brownies, which actually made the taste worse, not better.
While my heart didn’t explode, I did find myself fidgeting. I had to force myself to slow down when I spoke because the words were coming too quickly, and I’m already a fast talker. I wasn’t hungry because I felt like I swallowed a balloon full of motor oil. In the afternoon, Susan looked at my weathered face and said, “You seem to be experiencing a caffeine crash.” She might have been right. She might not have even been there. Is Susan even real? I don’t know. The day felt like a blurry nightmare.
Verdict: It was like drinking a liquid hug.
Friday: No music at the office
I love music. There is no bigger music fan than me. I obsess over it and listen to it every moment I’m at the office and not in a meeting. Sadly, this day, I disconnected the earbuds from my laptop and removed Spotify from the desktop. It was painful. I tried to make one of the writers sing to me, but Matt is apparently too good to just croon in the middle of his cubicle.
More than any of the other challenges, this one made me cranky. Whereas I lived in fear of hugs on Tuesday, I lived in fear of both noises and silence on Friday. I found myself getting annoyed with everyone. When someone would be speaking at a nearby desk, I’d reach for my headphones and then have to stop myself. Silence was just as bad because it was distractingly noticeable. My brain was confused.
By day’s end I considered calling my bank and asking them to put me on hold so I could just listen to the music.
Verdict: I’m not sure how people can work in silence. If this ever happens again, I will pay a barbershop quartet to serenade me while I work.
The morals of my week: 1. I can do these things and survive. I can also fall down a flight of stairs and survive. It doesn’t mean I should ever do either on purpose. 2. My coworkers enjoyed my sorrow way too much and I now have major trust issues.
Originally posted at http://advice.careerbuilder.com/posts/5-days-out-of-my-comfort-zone