Have you experienced a change of working environment? Are the flexi working patterns creating unexpected stresses?
Working environments have changed dramatically in the last two years. Covid-19 brought with it many challenges; however, it also provided a forcing function for us to reconsider our typical working environment and working patterns.
It is now common to work from home completely or work from a combination of home, shared or professional environments. In addition to this, we have experienced the shift from 9-5pm workday to flexi-time.
These environments and patterns have advantages and disadvantages; regardless of where or how we work, we need to be considering what makes a healthy work environment and adopting patterns that support wellness at our place of work.
Gaining the best of both worlds (home and office) can have massive benefits for our wellbeing as well as our productivity.
The University of Otago recently completed research that showed 73% of NZders felt they were more productive working from home; the study also showed higher levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing were experienced working from the kitchen table rather than the fully equipped office.
A fundamental principle we teach is the art of prioritization. This principle supports our wellbeing by reducing stress levels and decision fatigue. By moving away from traditional time management (scheduling variety of tasks within working day), we instead decide on what tasks have priority and manage our energy based on those priorities – essentially adopting the Pareto Principle – 80 percent of results flow out of 20 percent of the activities – it is a principle that supports effectiveness.
When we feel effective, we feel less stressed. Stress may still be present (and a low level of stress is healthy), but we feel in control and not at the mercy of external drivers. By prioritizing our tasks and where we direct our energy, we also reduce indecisive behavior and feel confident in our decision-making because of clearly predetermined priority.
Managing Energy not Time
Time is a fixed commodity – no matter how we work it, break it down or use it, we all work with 24-hour cycles.
We can, however, decide on how to most effectively use that time in alignment with our own energy flows and then align our tasks to complement our energy.
A simple example: I am a morning person. I prefer to rise early, get my ‘frog’ task (exercise) completed first (refer to book Eat That Frog). I hit my highest groove at 9.30amish for a couple of hours, so knowing my energy is high here, I schedule complex or in-depth thinking tasks during this time. My thinking and energy start to decline at 1.30ish so I will then take a break or schedule meetings as other people’s energy can help to stimulate mine (so ideally not leading a meeting) and then finish the working day, when energy is at my lowest with regular ‘everyday’ tasks that require action, but very little thought/energy.
Draw a Line in the Sand
Flexible working and today’s technology have many advantages; however, one blinding disadvantage is the lack of a clear line of when to ‘switch off’ from work. Leaving your PC open at the kitchen table means it is very easy to ‘just finish off some work’ or ‘check the emails’ or ‘schedule/host a zoom meeting’. These are all activities that intrude into our personal and home life.
Working from home (full-time or flexi) means we need to be more disciplined in our transition from work mindset to home mindset.
Set yourself working hours or working tasks, then plan their completion to possibly coincide with collecting children from school or going for a work out – something that changes your form of thinking. Other strategies:
- Be loud and obvious about your work-life balance.
- In your email signature, clearly share your working hours and don’t include your mobile phone number.
- Be just as explicit in your phone messaging service.
- Mark clearly in on-line schedule or personal diary the work hours and block out home hours or clearly state at-home/hobby/community activities.
You may have responsibility for a team, but firstly we believe you need to take responsibility for yourself. Setting clear boundaries is both beneficial for you and your team:
- Expectations are clear about when you are available for work and when you are not. This is beneficial for you, your family and your team.
- Being clear about your schedule/working patterns avoids misunderstandings.
- Clear boundaries improve team relationships and communication – individuals understand and know the parameters they have to work with, there is no confusion and therefore no ‘overstepping’.
- You feel comfortable about your personal activity time, your team clearly understands the value of your personal activity time. Which in turn, gives them license and confidence to value their personal time.
Rest and Recovery
We are big on the importance of re-energizing, rejuvenating and refreshing habits. It’s what keeps us going and allows us to sustainably produce and be present at a high level.
We’re so invested in this approach that we have created the Kānuka 15:3:1 Rejuvenation Ebook – it’s a framework for personal wellbeing practice. It’s essentially about ‘keeping your cup full’ and mitigating rising levels of stress.
While flexi-working (from home and office) has many benefits, if not managed well it can leave us time poor. Any windows of time we have, we tend to use to disassociate with home/work responsibilities. Does jumping on to watch Netflix as a form of escape sound familiar? Of course, having time out is important, however, we need to balance the entertainment activities with development/production activities – they build our sense of confidence, value, productivity and self-worth.
These are just some ideas on how to manage wellbeing, regardless of your work-place setting. There are many other ideas. For success we suggest you start small by introducing one small change at a time. As you experience success, you will build confidence and be motivated to introduce more.
If work-place wellbeing resonates with you, we are running a one-day seminar in Tauranga, that you are welcome to attend. Details here.