Top Five Beneficial Behaviors To Bring Home From Work (or Transitional Propaganda to Get You Through the Off Hours)

A chief complaint among peers and their partners is that So-And-So “brings home negative behaviors from work.” It’s true. Work is hard. Workdays stretch as more Americans utilize technology to both labor and communicate, extending the workday into the most unorthodox, nontraditional hours in the history of the sustained labor force. 

Work, though fulfilling for many–a source of income, identity, and ideation–can also be quite taxing on the mental and physical health of {employees, laborers, workers, drones, families, social circles, society, communities} overall. After a long day in the proverbial salt mines, exerting high, sustained levels of physical or mental engagement–or sustaining intense levels of boredom–one is not easily able to “flip a switch” and simply go from high-alert worker bee to Will Smith chillin’-out-max-and-relaxin’ all cool mode.

Have a beer. Don't get your robes in a twist, Uncle Phil.

Have a beer. Don’t get your robes in a twist, Uncle Phil.

Despite the obvious drawbacks on physical and mental health, there are benefits of enduring a long day {at the office, in the salt mines, on the docks, in the trenches, on the job}. In addition to the self-worth of investing in one’s own financial future and familial fortune, one practices many skills at work that easily translate out of the daily grind and into positive outcomes for individual sanity and social and familiar interactions.

1. Troubleshooting | Problem solving. Whether you work as a nurse, investment banker, line worker, longshoreman, or musical therapist, your day is no doubt overtaken by the subtle prerequisites that must be accomplished prior to completion of any daily to-do lists.  Before you can run your sales reports, you have to troubleshoot the glitch in your spreadsheet formula. Before you can complete a marketing deliverable, you have to locate the research folders created by a terminated employee. Before you can start an applied project, you have to gather and prepare your raw materials.

No matter your job, work is an excellent place to build a well-rounded problem-solving skillset; problem-solving skills translate into a more peaceful relationship with your partner, better interactions with your friends and family members, and a sense of accomplishment for personal and side projects. If you can fix work-related problems and trouble shoot for positive professional outcomes, the same skillset can be applied to fixing the dishwasher (watch a DIY video on youtube), creating a Halloween costume (download a pattern), or substituting X for Z in a complicated recipe (lmgtfy.com). Same for creating art, music, literature, and community.

Tip: To build your problem solving expertise, think in “if | then statements.”” If I do X, then Y will be easier. If I learn A then B, C, and D will be no problem.

2. Mathematical Applications. Not every job is math heavy, but even English teachers have to calculate grades; marketers have to utilize quantitative research to update advertising techniques; writers have to count words; bloggers use algorithms and metrics to increase productivity and amplification; musicians keep key signatures, beats, and appropriate their music into “measures;” carpet installation technicians have to calculate materials, pricing, and number of laborers against ROI; sales people have number goals; and janitors have to calculate ratios for time and supply management.

The point is that all jobs have some sort of mathematical applications including but not limited to arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and trigonometry, all of which translate outside of work. Paying bills, budgeting, building an extension on the house, tipping the waitstaff for dinner, purchasing tile, buying grocery supplies for the week, and paying the babysitter per hour per child all require mathematical skills that successful, contributing members of society are well-versed in. Also, these practical applications of math build synapse connections in your brain, so even if out of the office you never pick up a calculator, you’re using your brain to create scaffolding, actually making itself smarter in other ways. Also, isn’t it handy to have the power of basic math when you’re building a fence, baking cookies, or painting your three-year-old’s bedroom?

3. The Art and Science of Appropriate Conversation. Unless you work at home alone running a mail-order business, chances are you talk to someone at work: your boss, your direct reports, your colleagues, the mail carrier, etc. Work conversations, are by nature, grounded in efficiency and expertise. Emails and memos shouldn’t be loquacious and meetings should not be wasted by “catching up” with coworkers.

Beyond that, humans as social animals tend to have non-work-related conversations subtly weaved in and out of strictly-business talk. You feel out coworkers; you learn which people start all emails with “shoot-the-shit” language before asking you for a 400 page detailed sales report; which ones just don’t ever say good morning because they’re not really awake until 10 am; and which people do and do not enjoy personal banter by the water cooler.

The skill of conversational content and delivery at work transfers to having engaging and focused conversations with your social circles outside of work. If you’re practiced at having morning summary meetings with your team, summarizing household budgetary matters isn’t as stressful. If you are adept at customer service, then you can network easier off the clock and build your side-business or nonprofit. If you can explain confusing data in an interesting way, summarize long passages, or time humor appropriately, then you can easily converse with even the most reserved, awkward strangers.

If you ask me how my Monday is going one more time, I will reach through this phone and punch you in the rectum.

If you ask me how my Monday is going one more time, I will reach through this phone and punch you in the rectum.

Additionally, modeling conversation is a necessary act of parenting. Would you rather your kids learned to converse only via text message? Conversation can, at times, be uncomfortable and challenging, but applying professional conversational tactics when you’re practicing at home and in social settings can improve your communication effectiveness overall and dramatically increase your engagement factor.

4. Interpersonal Conflict Resolution. Her name is “Kathy.” She talks while chewing with her mouth open, she gives direct orders to people who don’t report to her, and she tries to bring everyone in the office to Jesus on a daily basis.

Jesus saves WHAT, Kathy?! Jesus saves what?!

Jesus saves WHAT, Kathy?! Jesus saves what?!

Who’s your Kathy? Who is that one person that no matter what they say, it grates your nerves? Regardless of who your Kathy is, we all know she’s there to stay, so you can either murder her in her sleep and go to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison or figure out a way to deal with her.

Learning to deal with difficult people makes life in general a lot easier. Sometimes partners, friends, and children will get on your nerves. Use your difficult coworker as a perspective check. “I love my son so much but in talking to him right now, I feel like I’m dealing with Kathy. Maybe I could cut them both some slack and see if I’m just feeling uptight about something I’m perceiving rather than something that’s actually occurring.” Or “everyone’s going to be annoying sometimes, whether it’s a person I love or a person that I’m forced to be around 8 hours a day. Neither my partner nor my coworkers are going anywhere, so let me take five minutes to {read, write, stretch, go for a walk, take a smoke break, have a shot of tequila, eat some protein} to reset and come back fresh to this situation.”

Tips for dealing with difficult coworkers: Buy headphones and wear them even if you’re not actually playing music. Feel personally empowered to just say “no” or “that sounds ambitious–let me get back to you about that.” Initiate and engage in meaningful dialogue about conversation topics, tone, or perceptions of unprofessional behavior. Decide to not shirk confrontation. Invite the difficult person to lunch and don’t talk about work. Play pranks on the person a la Jim and Dwight.

5. Gumption | Perseverance |  Task Completion. Work is called “work” and not “tv time” or “nap time” or “The 1999 NYE Party” for a reason–because it’s all about doing what you have to do, not what you want to do. Life in general is often filled with similar activities. As much as you love your kid, do you really love changing diapers, listening to beginner violin, or playing Barbie? Probably not. As much as you enjoy the autonomy and individualization of homeownership, do you love scraping mold from the bathroom tiles, shelling out thousands of dollars to fix a seemingly small crack in the foundation, or paying HOA dues or pet rent? Doubtful. As much as you love your spouse’s extended family, do you really enjoy spending the entire week of Christmas at their cramped, rustic cabin in rural Indiana? Nah.

In dealing with perseverance, it’s again helpful to think in “if | then statements.” If you don’t put effort into your marriage, then your spouse may consider exploring other options; if you don’t properly care for your children, Child and Protective Services may come after you; if you don’t take care of your home and your pets, then you may end up jobless, homeless, and living in a van by the river. Thinking in extremes can often be a comic relief, and make you realize, “Ok, dishes suck, but I’ll do them this time if you can do them next time” instead of resigning yourself and your family to live buried under a mountain of toxic-sludge china and cutlery.

*Somebody* just has to suck it up and empty the goddam dryer.

*Somebody* just has to suck it up and empty the goddam dryer.

Honing your skillset on the clock and subsequently performing and modeling responsible, creative, innovative behavior outside of work benefits your social circle, your offspring, and society as a whole. Instead of bringing home stress, anger, and frustration, tonight when you walk in the door, focus on bringing home the beneficial behaviors and skillsets you develop all day at work.

Tip: Make a list of the top five productive skills you practice at work, and each day next week, focus on brining home one of them to your partner, children, friends, pets, social circle, and community.

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