Our Top Tips for Navigating the Office Happy Hour

Whether you’re just starting at a new company or you’ve been there for years, it’s important that your coworkers have a favorable impression of you.  Unfortunately, while a favorable impression isn’t so hard to achieve, you can lose it instantly with one overly indulgent work happy hour.  With that in mind, check out our etiquette tips for your next office happy hour:

  • Eat Beforehand.  By the time 5:00 rolls around, chances are good that your stomach is empty.  Rather than heading straight to happy hour and getting a buzz off of your first beer, we suggest that you eat a snack before you go so you don’t get intoxicated.

  • Stay Professional.  While it’s fine to let your hair down a little, you don’t want to push the boundaries of professional behavior.  For instance, happy hour would not be the time to suggest that your coworkers move the party to the local strip club.

  • Don’t Push Alcohol on Others.  You don’t know what someone’s personal relationship is with alcohol.  Some people may abstain for religious reasons, others might be recovering alcoholics, and some of your coworkers might not like the taste.  Be respectful--don’t push to find out why someone isn’t drinking and avoid insisting that someone join you for “just one.”

  • Set Limits.  If you know that within 3 beers, you’re regaling someone with your life story, stick to 2 beers.  You want to avoid becoming the office gossip or the oversharer, and more importantly, you don’t want to say something that is going to result in you slinking in to the office red-faced the next day.  Know what your limits are and stick to them.

  • Go!  You may be inclined to skip your office happy hour because you don’t drink or want to rush home to your family.  While you shouldn’t feel that you need to attend every after-work outing, do make an effort to go to an occasional happy hour so you can get to know your coworkers in a more relaxed setting.  This will help you form better relationships.  You may even find that rather than hounding that guy in IT to get information to you, he does it much quicker since you’ve gotten to know him better.  

Do You Suffer from SAD?

We’re sure that you’re probably looking forward to the end of winter.  The general feeling of malaise so often associated with the months of January through March can be especially difficult for SAD sufferers.  SAD—otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a mood disorder that is characterized by symptoms that include lethargy, depression, difficulty waking up, weight gain, excessive carbohydrate consumption, problems with concentration, social withdrawal, and a decline in productivity.

If these symptoms sound familiar, you’re not alone.  SAD affects approximately 6% of US adults and even more than that—roughly 15%—display a milder form of the disorder.  While scientists don’t know the definitive cause of SAD, it has been suggested that this form of winter depression may be related to circadian rhythm changes, a drop in serotonin due to the reduced sunlight, or a disruption in the body’s level of melatonin.

Whatever the reason, if SAD has you feeling less productive at work and antisocial to boot, we have some ideas to help you get through the final days of winter:

  • Light Therapy – Light therapy is often used to treat SAD patients. Most commonly, people use a fluorescent light box which produces balanced-spectrum light.  The light causes the hypothalamus to normalize the body clock function, improving SAD symptoms.

  • Exercise – Time and time again, exercise has been proven to be an excellent mood enhancer.  While it may seem more difficult to hit the gym during the winter, doing so will do wonders for your outlook.

  • Sunlight – While sunlight may be hard to come by in the wintertime—particularly if you live in the Northern part of the US—it can help with the effects of SAD.  Experts recommend that a vacation to a sunnier part of the country can be beneficial to SAD sufferers.  Can’t get away?  Try to head outdoors for 5-10 minutes a day whenever the sun is shining!   

Object-Oriented Programming: Polymorphism; Virtual Methods (2/2)

Last time we gave a brief introduction on virtual methods and method overriding.  We also mentioned polymorphism and the so-called substitution principle which explains how parent and child objects can be interchanged in a program.  These are things which cannot be learned separately - they all form the very basis of object-oriented programming and the C++ language.  It is important to learn them thoroughly and understand how they are supposed to be used in programs.  This is why we are going to pay special attention to this part of our C++ series.

The first step is a detailed explanation of the concept of virtual methods.
Let's consider this example:

class Base
{
public:

  void print()
  {
      cout << "Base";
  }
};

class Derived: public Base
{
public:

  void print()
  {
      cout << "Derived";
  }
};

 

Now, when we try to call the "correct" print method:

int main()
{
    Base *basePtr;
    Derived d;
    basePtr = &d;
    basePtr->print();

    return 0;
}
we can see that "Base" is printed (which is not what we wanted).

 

What happens is that our basePtr points to the "base" part of the Derived object.  Hence, the compiler has no way to know it should, in fact, call the print method of the derived class.  A way to do this is provided by the virtual method mechanism.

Here is how it works: when a method is declared virtual, its address is written into a so-called v-table.  Internally, this means that a hidden member - an array of pointers to the overriden methods - is added to the base class.  There are some rules concerning method overriding:

  • Once a method is declared virtual, it cannot be redefined as non-virtual.
  • In order for a virtual method to be overriden, the method signature must be the same.
  • If there is at least one virtual method in the class, the destructor must also be declared virtual.

 

There are also situations (quite common) when the method we want to override doesn't even have a definition.  These methods are called pure virtual functions, and this is the syntax of their declaration:

virtual void pureVirtualMethod()=0;
If there is at least one pure virtual function in a class, the class is called abstract.

 

5 Great Apps for Simplifying Your Life

Spring is a great time of year to simplify your life and get off to a fresh start.  To that end, we have suggestions for 5 apps that will help you kick off your spring the right way:

  1. Unroll.Me – There is no better time than the present to clean your email inbox!  That’s where Unroll.Me comes in.  Once you download the app, it scans your inbox to see how many subscriptions you have and allows you to either unsubscribe from them—or consolidate them into 1 email—with just 1 swipe.

  2. Mint - This free app tracks all of your financial information in one place—checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and your 401K.  It helps you to create and manage a budget, keep track of upcoming bills, set up financial goals, and even view your credit score at no cost.

  3. Evernote – Talk about being organized!  Evernote allows you to type in to-do lists, add pictures and videos to your notes, and sync notes between your smartphone and computer.

  4. Scannable – This free Evernote app makes scanning a breeze!  Simply point your phone’s camera at the document you want to scan and Scannable will quickly and automatically scan it.  Then, you have the option to send scanned documents to Evernote, any other place you want to store them, or directly to colleagues.

  5. Duolingo – Planning a trip to Italy and want to know how to ask for directions to the Coliseum?  There’s an app for that!  Duolingo provides language instruction in dozens of languages, offering a fun and effective way to develop foreign language skills.  The free app isn’t just enjoyable to use, it also works.  According to independent research, 34 hours of using the Duolingo app is equivalent to 1 semester of a college-level foreign language course.

Learn a New Skill Quickly with these 3 Tips

Whether you’re trying to learn salsa dancing or a computer program at work, sometimes it can seem hard to develop proficiency at a new skillset.  Yet, rather than get stressed out about it, we have some tips that are going to make it much easier for you to pick up new skills quickly:

  1. Speak Positively.  Sometimes when we’re trying something new, it’s tempting to think, “I’m never going to get this,” or “This requires innate talent that I don’t have."  Yet those types of pessimistic thoughts can prevent us from noticing when we are making progress, and oftentimes, it is this progress that helps us to develop confidence in our new skillset, leading to improvement.  Instead, talk to yourself in much the same way as you would a child by being encouraging, even when your gains are small ones.

  2. Fake It ‘Til You Make It.  There’s a reason that this advice is touted so often—it works!  Confidence helps us to believe that we can succeed at whatever we put our mind to.  And if you aren’t feeling confidence naturally, pretending that you are is the fastest way to develop the real thing.

  3. Visualize.  Research shows that visualization can be almost as useful as practice itself.  Consider a University of Chicago study done on basketball free throws.  The researcher divided study participants into 3 groups and tested each group to see how many free throws the participants could make.  Then, he had the first group practice free throws for an hour each day.  The second group only visualized themselves making free throws, and the third group did nothing at all.  After 30 days, he retested each of the groups and not surprisingly, the group which practiced making free throws each day improved by 24%.  However, almost amazingly, the group that only visualized improved by 23%!  Clearly visualization works.  The next time you’re trying to develop a new skill, imagine yourself doing it successfully—this will help you pick it up much quicker!