Fidget, Fiddle and Doodle Etiquette at the Office

Fidget, Fiddle and Doodle Etiquette at the Office
August 8, 2017 David Wiener

When 78.6 million hits occur after you type Fidget Spinner into a search, something tells you there’s more to these toys than meets the eye. Toys or gizmos designed to satisfy our need to fiddle?  Whatever, the market is responding with myriad devices from plastic to gold. And it’s not just for kids; adults are buying into this craze.

Whether you twist a Rubik’s Cube, mangle a paper clip, squeeze a ball, or spin – take heart, there’s a reason behind the madness. While some might view the spinner phenomenon as merely a passing fad, the driving urge behind it is not.

“Russian Spinner” image recently sent to the author – original source unknown

If you find yourself clicking your pen or drumming your fingers, your motor movements are engaging your brain to focus. There’s a reason for doodling. According to a 2017 study, certain types of doodling have a positive effect on a person’s ability to recall information. The body of research on why we fidget and whether our toys help us is emerging.

We might think of fidgeting, fiddling, or doodling as merely an automaton movement, yet scientific analysis is telling us something different. Any of these activities may well modulate our emotional or cognitive states causing us to focus, enhance creativity, or calm. These secondary actions are not necessarily independently beneficial, but they do enhance the primary activity – whether sitting on the phone, attending a meeting, or brainstorming – alone or with a team.

Toys for fiddlers – good for your mental state and calm but what about those around you?

How we fidget or fiddle may be very different from one device to the next, but the underlying necessity to do so may very well be hardwired into our DNA, as it’s been around a very long time (read: Baoding/Chinese balls, worry beads, smooth stones, pigtails, etc.). Maybe a key difference between some gadgets and the new spinners is that while the user might get focused, those around him or her are distracted into chaos. This may explain why doodling has been so enduring – it’s personal, it’s typically tiny – and it’s silent.

Nerdy and noisy – be considerate as you click and spin

We may often say we can’t do two things at once, but in this instant, we can, with one activity aiding the other. The key is recognizing whether your device, while aiding you, is driving your colleagues mad. Sure, in the privacy of your office, you can knock yourself out. But when you’re with others, your fiddling may become a source of irritation. Think of the pen clicking if you’re not the clicker. It’s not much different from having to endure a stranger talking loudly on a cell phone – on a bus, on a plane, or almost anywhere. Blood pressure medicine it’s not.

With all the rage about spinners, perhaps a new etiquette must be born. Rather than assume your co-workers won’t mind, ask. Better still, be thoughtful and have a spare on hand for them.