How do you work?
There's so much more to flexible working than we think
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Last week, I wrote about the difference between a morning person and a night owl, and how the former is often seen as a target for the latter. When in reality, it’s more about how our brains are wired than us all trying to work in the same way. We’re all different shaped pegs trying to fit into one square hole.
Further to the groundbreaking idea that not all seven billion of us are the same, this week I’m asking whether you have ever taken the time to think about how you work, and do you ever notice negative self-talk when things don’t always fit the societal norm?
Corporate workplaces: where creativity goes to die
I first started thinking about this when I was working in-house as a social media manager. Even before being made redundant (I’ve written extensively about this), I realised I wasn’t ‘fitting in’ with the general workforce and, as a result, I struggled to enjoy work.
This led to a lot of dissatisfaction at work that, ultimately, bled into my personal life. It was easy to think that I was the one at fault. The fact that I couldn’t work all day without music or a podcast, or how I really didn’t care about what diet my co-workers were trying that week… it all made me feel a bit weird. I’ll never forget looking around the office at people typing away, seemingly without a break other than to chat, and wondering how spending 40+ hours in this overly airconditioned, soulless place was even possible.
I want to make it clear that this is no shade on those who work this way. The specific issue here is the assumption that many employers make, particularly in corporate businesses: that all workers have to fit into their way of working.
Some businesses will claim they do provide ‘flexible working’ - but this term has long been associated with conditional rules like “you can work from home one day a week, as long as you provide notice and your manager signs it off” or “come into work whenever you want, as long as it’s between 8am and 10am and you leave exactly eight hours later.”
It may seem obvious, but the way you work doesn’t just mean what time you start or where you are sitting at the time. It could be anything from whether you need music or complete silence, if you take regular breaks or can focus for long periods of time, whether you like to work alone or with others… these are all things we should really know about ourselves but, because of the restrictive nature of the traditional workplace, most of us have no idea.
To add further complication to the topic of how we work, there’s also the notion that no two days are the same. For me, I’ve noticed I am most productive earlier in the week. As a result, I am making an effort to take fewer meetings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings. By the time Thursday comes around, I will turn my attention to meetings, business development and admin. Fridays are usually my least productive days as I start to feel burnt out. In the past, I would have felt disappointed in myself for struggling on Fridays… but now I am starting to realise that it’s simply my brain’s reaction to a busy week and I need to work around this.
Often the harshest critic is you
Have you ever noticed that voice in your head berating you for struggling to focus? Or for “not working hard enough”? This is the negative self-talk I mentioned at the start and, for me, the most difficult part about work in general. The standards that we set for ourselves are often founded upon false expectations and unattainable goals. Perhaps, we compare ourselves to others on social media worry we are less productive than them, or maybe we used to be able to do a lot more than we can now.
Our lives are always changing, so the way we work is, too. The first step is awareness and identifying how we feel during certain scenarios. Hate morning meetings? Book them in the afternoon. Love working near other people? Join a co-working space or visit cafes instead of sitting alone at home. With that in mind, fellow copywriter Penny Brazier discussed her decision to focus on admin on Fridays in this week’s #ContentClubUK:
Getting to know your way of working is an ongoing journey. It changes all the time depending on so many factors - from your mental health to the seasons, your workload and your family life… it’s all in a constant state of flux, so our working lives should reflect this.
Do you know how you work? Let me know over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a chat!
📺 Yellowjackets (NowTV) - This is one of the best shows I’ve watched for ages. A dark, survivalist tale set in the 90s about a high school football team whose plane crashes and they are forced to live in the Canadian woods for 19 months. Yellowjackets is not for the faint-hearted, but if you love suspense and culty stuff, and can stomach the gore, then I highly recommend it.
📽️Spider-Man: No Way Home - We went to the cinema! I’m really not a fan of the Disney/Marvel franchise, but Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is pretty enjoyable and the third instalment made for a fun escape accompanied by a tub of non-dairy Ben & Jerrys 👌
That’s all from me this week - see you next Wednesday for more thoughts on mental health at work in the online world.
✨ People saying nice things about Conversations By The Sea
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
12 January: Being a morning person is overrated
5 January: Treading lightly into 2022
15 December: How do you compare?
8 December: Lessons on mental health from Henry Cavill
1st December: Give the gift of rest this Christmas
24 November: Who are you?
17 November: Christmas comes early