What is a working week anyway? Is it just me who gets to the end of Tuesday and feels like its Wednesday already? Do you manage to survive through to Thursday, yet still cannot believe there is another day to go? It may be my age and stage of life. It may be a symptom of a busier desk life due to changes in working demands since the beginning of the pandemic. It could be a result of a change of working style driven by fast-paced technology. Whatever, this deserves my and our attention.
My working week is broadly speaking a Monday to Friday, mainly desk-based existence, loosely 9-5, with the occasional trip out and about to meet with clients, deliver training, and attend or speak at events. I must say I am getting out and about a lot less these days, directly as a result of the growth of the use of online and hybrid meetings. There are signs that things are returning to be closer to what they were before. I don’t expect it will fully recoil. That will be a good thing as far as I am concerned, for many reasons, including, productivity, work life balance, and financial and environmental costs. But I realise that travel was what gave me variety in the week, and it recharged my social, interpersonal and interprofessional batteries. There is a wonderful, inspiring, and informative world out there that isn’t all accessible via a webcam. Lesson one: be proactive and get out more.
Going back to that word productivity, things certainly are fast and furious at the keyboard and in the zoom room. It is easy to go from one meeting or topic to another at the touch of a button. This removes any sense of recovery or reflection, preparation or personal time, if we aren’t sufficiently and consciously vigilant, and confident enough to build this in. We need to take ownership of this and be careful to help those around us who fall into this trap and are doing their upmost to make us join them. Technology certainly has given us the potential to be more flexible. But flexibility should be about creativity and balance, not a device to being over-stretched. Lesson two: slow down and build in more downtime for thinking and creativity.
I’ve had many colleagues reach a certain point in their lives and careers and decide to reduce from five to four days a week. I watched from afar and with curiosity. Now I am here myself. Thinking more deeply I realise that it has been typical for me to work four days a week for quite some time. The fifth day has been usually taken up with other endeavours such as studying or writing. Both stimulating activities that broke up the week in different ways, and both things that I am not currently doing. Lesson three: reorganise the week on a 4:1 structure.
Finally, it should be acknowledged there is much to do, and for many of us fewer people around to do it. That can drive a sense of presenteeism and that should not cloud the need to regrow capacity again nor diminish our confidence to do so. Yes, new ways of working have increased our capacity and productivity, but that is not sustainable in itself, especially if others are thinking like me and wanting to reduce the time they are in attendance at work. Lesson four: be bold, grow and take more risks to build again.