For any of you who haven't yet had the fortune of watching Parks and Recreation, here's a brief synopsis: set in the fictional town of Pawnee in Indiana, the mocumentary style filming follows the lives of the employees of the Parks and Recreation Department for the local government. The protagonist is the deputy director named Leslie Knope, played by the amazing Amy Poehler.
Leslie is everything that the stereotypical government isn’t; she’s highly optimistic, an over-achiever, and she cares deeply about her home town and its residents. I’m not saying at all that local government doesn’t care about its residents - in fact, I keep up regularly with my local government and find it to have high quality services for those who access it - how-ev-errrr, what I find most relatable is the variety of attitudes that the other employees have about their work. I guarantee that you'll be able to identify every single character in any (average) workplace.
What makes Parks and Recreation so close to home for me is how optimistic Leslie is, especially as my co-workers can be such such bundles of joy to be around. When I get into work each morning, I’m so chirpy that you’d think a line of animated woodland creatures had followed in behind me. I can’t sing for shit, so it must just be my aura of optimism.
You look around and notice that everyone has that same gormless look about them; there’s the deadpan stare while mindlessly tapping away at their computers; there’s the endless amount of caffeine to stop them falling asleep on the job. Plus there’s always the echoing murmurs of ‘can’t wait for the weekend’… on a Tuesday. Groaaaaaan.
I think the problem all comes down to something I’ve previously spoken about, which is the socially accepted notion that work is work and is just something that we do because we have to, whether we enjoy it or not. True, it does pay our bills, but another thing I've noticed is that it also comes down to work culture. Work culture dictates to us, in most cases, that what has always been, shall be forever, and by signing a contract, you're basically just joining the end of the queue to become one of the zombie hoard. Many places say that they want ‘fresh eyes’ to ‘shake things up’, when in actual fact, they just want another piece of fresh meat to mould into one of their zombie army.
But that’s where I find the Leslie Knope attitude the antidote to the work-zombie virus; it’s time to challenge work-culture norms and make some changes. I will burst in the room and smile at 7 in the morning. I will excitedly make my to-do lists for the day, or have them prepared the day before, with a checklist for my checklist even. I will dance around the office asking everyone if they need support with their workload after I’ve completed mine (in fact I’ve generally already anticipated their need for help and created a plan for myself to do the work). I will even speak to the head of the team - *gasp* - about changes we could make to improve how the team works. I also happen to have a similar resilience towards sickness to that of Leslie, and will leak snot from every orifice until my manager practically begs me to go home (Season 3 Episode 2, get on it).
I am dedicated, hard-working, and love my job, nor am I afraid to say it. If any negative office gossip starts erupting, I switch on the happy radio in my head to block it out. It can be tiring sometimes - don’t get me wrong - I am still human after all. But, as all zombie films go, every human must fight the zombie hoards to get to their destination. My destination just happens to be the land where I have a happy work life, where change is accepted as a norm to constantly improve work culture.
I urge you, if you haven’t already, sit yourself down in front of your TV and watch Parks and Recreation (all seven seasons, I’m giving you three weeks. I believe you can do it). We need more people like Leslie Knope if we’re ever to save office optimism from the grips of the zombie work-world apocalypse. Watch the show, take a page out of her book; boost your work positivity and I promise you that you'll find boosted productivity and an overall happier work life. Besides, it's a perfect excuse to spend all of your waking (non-working) hours binge-watching TV.