Fidget spinners are all the rage in schools — so much so, in fact, that some schools have banned them.
But these handheld devices that spin with the flick of a finger are not just a classroom fad. Executives are purchasing the toys to battle boredom on conference calls and calm commuting-induced traffic stress, the owner of two Learning Express franchises in Atlanta told CNN.
And Forbes named the gadget the must-have office toy for 2017.
But if you pick up this latest craze, could you drive your coworkers crazy? And could spinning a toy during a meeting undermine your professional appearance?
The Case for Fidget Spinners
The toys’ manufacturers, some parents and some health professionals argue that the gadget can ease symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and for people with autism, sensory sensitivity.
There’s truth to that, Pilar Trelles, MD, a psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Health.com. Using a stress ball or fidget spinner is considered a rapid stress management technique that is less harmful then, say, tearing your cuticles out with fidgety fingers. But, Trelles said, the device is best used in conjunction with treatment such as psychotherapy and medications, not as a standalone cure-all.
Other research correlates fidgeting with increased memory and creativity, meaning spinning this toy at work could make you perform better.
In Fidget to Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADHD, authors Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright suggest that fidgeting distracts the bored part of our brain, allowing us to pay attention to the task at hand.
The Case Against Fidget Spinners
But what can distract the bored part of our brain could potentially distract everyone else in the room. The three-pronged plastic or metal discs spin around a central weighted disc, balancing on your fingers. They also can make a slight noise, and people can try to do tricks with the balancing gadget. Get more than one fidget spinner in a classroom, boardroom or cubicle quad, and it can be distracting, some say.
One Brooklyn, New York, school banned them for being distracting and even potentially dangerous to students and staff. The school posted the ban on its Facebook page, explaining: “They are also being thrown around during transition in the hallways to and from class and in the cafeteria and at recess. They are small in size, but can seriously hurt someone.”
You can see the potential downside of a wayward fidget spinner hitting your boss in the forehead like a ninja throwing star. But you’re a professional after all — you could keep your fidgeting under control by not tossing it to a coworker in a meeting, right?
Even so, calmly fidgeting under the table or at your desk could still disturb others. Think of the cubicle mate who clicks her pen mindlessly nonstop. Or the knee-bouncer. Even the doodler’s apparent inattentiveness can draw your attention away from the work at hand and to their annoying habit. (But doodling also has been debated as having benefits such as boosting productivity!)
Think of Others — and Your Career
While some workplaces might welcome fidget spinners, it might be smart to keep your fidgeting — no matter if it’s with a fidget toy or toe-tapping — to a minimum, just out of consideration for others and for your own career. You never know when a coworker could report you for being distracting, so weigh the benefit of spinning with the potential cost of getting called into the boss’ office.
Remember that how you present yourself can influence how others perceive you. And whether you agree with that or not, it can matter in performance evaluations and your advancement. In Inc‘s list of five ways to boost your confidence and credibility, two items on the list mention how you use your hands. Unclench your fists and keep your hands above the table to project authority. And use your hands when you’re talking. Motioning with palms up elicits trust, and placing your fingertips together communicates that you’re in control and thoughtfully considering your next statement. The article states that this “steeple” gesture is not to be confused with wringing your hands or anxiously twisting your fingers. (Or spinning a toy.)
Whether you’re in a meeting or the relative privacy of an office or cubicle, you can employ some other tactics to calm the nerves that might be causing you to fidget. Check out these ways to ease anxiety without ever leaving your desk.