One aspect of working from home that I’ve come to enjoy is the opportunity to knit during conference calls. I usually have at least one such call every day, each lasting 30 to 90 minutes. During these meetings, I keep pen and paper within easy reach for taking notes, but for the most part, I knit.
I knit simple things: socks, scarves, shawls, stockinette sections of cardigans. Nothing with lace or cables. Nothing that requires concentration. Just a project with enough cognitive load to keep my brain from idling.
Here are some other projects I’ve worked on while on a headset:
- Soft summer t-shirt
- Hitchhiker shawlette (all garter stitch!)
- Linebreak shawl (more garter stitch)
- Honeycomb mesh scarf
I exult in the new-found productivity of these precious minutes. Suddenly, meetings are no longer dead time in my day: they’re a highlight, a wonderful example of work and life in balance.
When something is the highlight of your day you pay more attention to it. At least, that’s my experience. During meetings, the yarn and needles seem to absorb all of my fidgetyness, impatience, and anxiety. The wool seems to wick away my propensity to daydream. The knitting centers me. I am more present, more “in the now.”
I would think more managers would like their employees to be “present” and “in the now” in meetings. It’s too bad that so many coping techniques–like knitting or doodling–are considered unprofessional and a waste of time.
Time Magazine ran a very entertaining article about the benefits of doodling and fidgeting during meetings in 2009. In the article they cited a study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. The study found that participants who were instructed to doodle during a lecture were able to retain more information compared to participants who were instructed not to doodle.
In a 1992 article from NY Times Magazine, Perri Klass wrote about her love of knitting and how she has used it to help her fill time and pay better attention while in medical school and then, later, as a physician. In particular, she talks about the power relationships that help determine those situations where it is acceptable to knit and where it is not.
All of this, of course, is predicated on the notion that you are being *seen* or perceived to be knitting.
In today’s work environment, more and more people, like me, are starting to work remotely. We are heard but not seen. We have more opportunities for self-determination during the work day, including the techniques we use to help us pay attention. Increasingly, professional behavior is a matter of context. If my knitting helps me keep my focus during a conference call and it bothers no one else, it must be an acceptable and professional behavior.
All the same, I’m shy about telling people I knit during phone meetings. Times and attitudes are slowly changing but for now, I still feel that I need to hide my knitting. If people imagine what I am doing on the other end of the line here is what I want them to imagine: me staring at the phone. Society seems to think that’s more professional and productive than knitting a sweater.