An essay on challenging the norm, lifestyle design and doing stuff that makes you happy.
“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” — this is the single most dangerous sentence in the world today, this thought pattern prevents progression and the opportunity to find happiness.
It seems as a society, we are reaching a turning point in our beliefs on how the world of work should work for us as individuals and not as a basic blueprint that all most follow. What do I mean by this? I’m referring to the archaic principles that every human on the planet works to, the same shift pattern (commonly 9–5) across the same days (again commonly Mon-Fri) as for whatever reason this is deemed as the only times that people can be creative and other people must be able to see you at those times to make sure you’re being productive and creative — seriously, someone actually said that to me.
But let’s be realistic, the framework for a workday that most of us follow in 2018 is complete BS. You can’t tell someone when they need to be creative, nor can you guarantee that every single person will be productive in the same timespan, it just doesn’t work like that, our minds don’t work like that.
It also makes me chuckle when I hear people say that you need to be in an office to do real work and that you can’t do this from other locations as it not as efficient, again total BS. I feel like many people and especially those who sit across senior management and leadership positions are often close minded (not all, but a high number still are) to the ways of being agile, adaptable and embracing technology solutions. Today’s tools allows us to be connected like never before, whether that’s through sharing ideas or communicating, this can all be done in real time without the need to be in a physical space together. Now I’m not saying that you should never come together in a shared space or have physical meetings as many people find this useful and prefer to operate this way, which is fine, yet we do have other options that need to be recognised too.
Being in an office doesn’t = being productive nor does working remotely = not being able to be productive and creative.
In many ways, this framework and the practice of not wanting to evolve from it are a large form of control. It’s the control that mostly insecure people feel they need to have over other people, as of course controlling everyone and everything will guarantee results right? I’ll leave you to ponder that.
A great deal of this archaic style of thinking is based on a parent-child relationship and I feel sadly a lot of corporations still run this way, in which employees view their managers as the parent who they cannot defy or disagree with, it’s a cultural theme that runs through many workplaces.
What we should move to is an adult to adult relationship, which is built on trust and of course repercussions if that trust is broken. We should place trust in each other to deliver the work we’ve been given in the way that suits our personal style and of course you would have structure around this in forms of milestones and deadlines, but not to the hours or locations you spend delivering this.
What works for one doesn’t always mean it will work the same for the other. As an example, you may have one colleague who finds that between 8am — 12pm this is their most creative, productive, innovative (add in another other adjective you wish to use) time and that’s great. On the other side, you have another colleague who finds their time for these activities is between 3pm — 8pm, both produce the same high quality of work, yet the latter example will routinely be labelled as not appropriate and this person will generally be forced to move their time to fit the “core” working hours of the business.
You can once again use similar examples for working locations and compare the output of an employee who spends all week in the office and another who spends it in a cabin on a lakeside. The employee who is office bound can produce the bare minimum in terms of output but they are deemed as productive as they can be seen, yet the employee who resides in the cabin can produce 10x the output, which helps the business performance yet they will be labelled as not productive as their controlling leaders cannot see them in front of their own eyes doing the work. It’s a sad state of affairs really and highlights for all the advancement we’ve had in a number of areas, the workplace has remained stagnant when it comes to workplace design or at the least playing a lot of catch-up.
I can imagine a number of you reading this may have the opportunity to work from home once a week and you feel that’s progression, but really it’s not. It’s still a form of control, you’re told that you can only be away from the office for one day and that day is usually determined by someone else and not you. Don’t even ask to work in another location for one day or have a different working hours pattern for one day in the office because that’s just not right as you’ve already had your one working from elsewhere pass right? Face it, you’re still being controlled.
Here’s some insights from a book I’m currently reading called ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ by Emma Gannon to put some perspective on this:
- Recent research shows that in the UK, we are the least productive workforce in Europe, 27% less than Germany and losing billions to productivity issues.
- We spend 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings (we’ve all been here) and 73% of us do other work during those meetings (guilty!)
- YouGov reported in 2015 that 37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless.
- The Evening Standard’s survey results revealed that 80% of Londoners hate their jobs.
All of this data has roots in our working culture, the opportunity to work flexibly, smarter and trust between people. We should be looking at insights such as these and taking actions to make things better, not chaining ourselves to ancient thinking.
Be the change
So now you’ve read all the context and somewhat moaning about the culture of work in many organisations today, you should ask yourself, what can I do to change this?
It’s simple in theory really, you need to be the change, be an example by designing your own workplace lifestyle and changing the way the game is played.
This doesn’t mean quitting your job, going to a startup or becoming an entrepreneur or any of that — that’s not the answer for those of us that enjoy the work we already do. Everything doesn’t have to be about quitting your corporate job to be successful and happy, I 100% feel you can have these things and more working in a corporate career so let’s not get the essence of this piece twisted.
You want to set out to disrupt the norm and change mindsets and the culture of your business in the right way. This can de done in the style of having adult conversations about the realities of work today and how technology, neuroscience and data can support in a healthier, happy, more productive working life.
Ultimately you have to live this and as cliched as it sounds, you have to be the change that you want to see in the world. Nothing ever changes by watching from the sidelines with a bucket full of ideas and not finding the courage to speak up.
What you can do
Let’s look at some tips to help you design a lifestyle that benefits you and make sure that you deliver performance for your company at the same time.
- Grab a notebook and keep a journal over the coming weeks when you felt most creative, productive or innovative. When were these times? Where were you and what were you doing? This could be as simple as having a coffee with a colleague at 7pm at the office or while hitting a workout at 11am, it’s all personal to your style.
- Review your answers to identify trends and insights so you can see where/when you work best and what supports this.
- Schedule a meet with your manager to open the conversation on a smarter working approach for you and how the company can support this. Use the insights you’ve gathered from your research to show real world data, it’s difficult to argue with data.
- Propose a test period to show how you’re approach could work.
This is not a complete guide to what you should do and nor have I written this piece to be that as that is for you to design. These tips are ideas for you to consider when exploring how to live a more flexible lifestyle.
Change is in the here and now, they way we work is constantly changing due to the brilliance of technology, yet it still seems very taboo to talk about how how we can use the opportunities available to design a better lifestyle for work.
A number of organisations are forward thinking and doing good work in this space, but for many of us, we need to make the conversation bigger. We’ve seen those of my generation aka millennial’s and the upcoming Gen Z challenge more of these stereotypes as they rate benefits of flexible employers more highly than previous generations.
Why should I make the change?
Do you want improved health, relationships, bank balance and maybe even alter the way you view life — then change must happen to reach these.
If we take a look through history, all of those who brought about the frameworks, processes and systems we adhere to today were in the minority. As in some corners of today’s world, those who looked to bring about significant change were labelled as mad at the time, yet we’ve come to accept the use of many of those ideas as the norm today.
If you want to change your work lifestyle, to design your own and lead a healthier, happier life — then you must use your voice, disrupt the norm and change the way the game is played.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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