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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to email@example.com. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.
My question is about professionalism at work, but it’s kind of a silly question. I work at an academic institution with strong expectations of professionalism. I work about nine hours a day and commute about an hour each way, much like many people. At my old job, I could exercise at lunch-time with no one batting an eye. Here, I have less time, and more is expected of me. I'd like to take advantage of the location to jog after work, but I'm concerned that leaving the building in running clothes would make me look unprofessional and that it might be looked down upon. I'm having a hard time figuring this one out.
Slave to the Grind
Dear S to the G
It’s not a silly question at all. A silly question would be, “Steve, former Majority Leader Eric Cantor keeps calling the house and trying to sell me a condo. Should I buy?” Or, “I’ve heard that WBUR supplies all of their advice columnists with English butlers. What is yours named?” Your question is quite serious, and it plugs right into the good old American Grid of Capitalist Obedience.
Because here’s the thing: though corporations do their best to try to confuse this basic situation, your job is actually the thing you do for forty hours or so while you are in the office. In your case, this might be stuff like editing academic papers or updating databases or conducting research. You know: work. The term “after work” implies that you are actually no longer working and thus entitled, as a citizen of our great country, to do whatever the hell you want to, provided you are not breaking any laws, or getting caught doing so.
I, for instance, after my arduous six hours of procrastination, and fifteen minutes of pulling advice out of my rear end, tend to head outside to check on my tomato plants. Or I watch my kids ride their bikes. Or I watch my kids ride their bikes over my tomato plants. You get the picture.
The term “after work” implies that you are actually no longer working and thus entitled, as a citizen of our great country, to do whatever the hell you want to, provided you are not breaking any laws, or getting caught doing so.
So if you want to run after work, I can see no rational reason not to change into running gear and do so. If your co-workers look at you funny, that is their problem, not yours. You’re getting your work done, right? It sounds like you’re already giving them more hours than they are paying you for. So why not cut yourself a little slack and go running if you want?
Maintaining an air of professionalism is all fine and well. But you’re a paid employee, not an indentured servant. Like other employees who are off the clock, you are allowed to wear clothing suitable for exercise. The sooner you establish this right—both for you and your co-workers—the happier you’ll be.
I’m sure there’s some wage slave out there who’s going to try to explain to me that certain workplaces frown on employees changing into running gear on the premises. Let me reiterate: you are done working after eight hours. At this point, you magically transition from an employee to a citizen. If people want to use their time as citizens to continue to work, if the prevailing office culture encourages that kind of slavish obeisance, well, so be it. Mitt Romney will let out a little cheer, for the corporations are winning!
I'd run in the other direction.
Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.
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