Moving forwards: how to make the most of new working habits
Updated: Jun 30
It’s surprising just how much unexpected events can change our lives.
In February 2014, a tube strike in London caused huge disruption to journeys to work for two days. The strike ended, and people went about their lives as they had before.
Except they didn’t.
Something interesting had happened.
During the tube strike, people were forced to try out different routes to work. Researchers found that even after the strike had ended, many of these commuters continued taking their new journeys to work, rather than returning to their old ones, simply because the new routes people found were often quicker and more efficient.
People’s journeys to work are a habit. Many commuters have been taking the same route for years. Without the tube strikes these people would not have challenged these long-lasting habits, and ultimately improved their lives.
The past few months have been unexpected, and have forced us to break some of our most deep-rooted working habits. But, like with the tube strikes, there have been surprising breakthroughs.
This time has highlighted there are new opportunities for the way we work, and the way we live.
Five new habits to build
1. Take control of your day
The typical working day is not aligned to our productivity peaks and troughs.
People’s productivity is a curve, rather than a straight line. We are most productive and energetic in the mornings, we then dip over lunch time in what’s known as the ‘slump’, and our energy rises again in the late afternoon and early evening.
This ‘circadian rhythm’ is very real (car accidents peak in the UK between 2-4pm on weekdays), but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the way office working is designed.
Instead of taking a longer break over lunchtime to boost productivity for the afternoon, many of us eat lunch at our desks. Shorter breaks throughout the day have been shown to be hugely beneficial for productivity. And yet in an office environment, people are thought to be ‘slacking’ if they are taking an active break.
Working remotely enables you to take control of your day. You can find a schedule that works best for you.
Some of the most effective workers take a 5-minute break every 25 minutes. Others take a 10-minute break after 55 minutes.
Put this into practice. Experiment with your own breaks and find what works for your productivity. You can use this break timer extension to help.
2. See inside someone’s real world
When meeting with colleagues or clients in an office or in some other neutral location, there is a professional boundary that can be difficult to cross.
Although we make small talk, it can be hard to be truly sincere about our actual lives outside of work.
Working remotely has in many ways brought people closer together and we work better with people who we are able to have meaningful conversations with. Joining video meetings from your living room gives colleagues and clients an insight into your life. They may see photos, pictures, books in the background. They may even see partners, children and dogs wandering in and out of the room.
It’s harder to deny real life when it’s right there behind your camera.
These moments make for more sincere connections and conversations, and give us the opportunity to get closer to the people we’re talking to.
Put this into practice. Ask more questions about somebody’s life on a video call, and be more open about yours. You’ll reap the benefits in sales and beyond.
3. Work together there and then
Video calls have advanced the use of technological innovations such as screen sharing, live document sharing and taking remote control of another’s screen.
These tools are game-changing. If somebody rings you up hoping for technical support, in the past you’d have to slowly talk them through what needs to be done. Now, on Zoom, you can request control of their screen and show them what to do there and then.
If you’re working together on any document, you can now share that document and work together live, seamlessly and simultaneously, using Google Drive or Microsoft Teams.
Put this into practice. These tools bring great opportunities for efficiency.
4. Shorten meetings
You may have heard of Zoom Fatigue, the phenomenon of finding video calls much more exhausting than we find face to face meetings, or even phone calls.
While Zoom fatigue has its negatives, it also brings into perspective the right amount of time that should be dedicated to meetings.
To avoid Zoom fatigue, you have to be realistic: does this discussion need a meeting, and does it need to be this long? Time spent in meetings is consistently highlighted as a frustrating part of working life. We are being forced to reduce that time-spend at the moment.
Put this into practice. For all of the video meetings you’re scheduling, ask yourself if the meeting is necessary, and if it needs to be so long.
5. Put your commuting time to use
For many of us, our daily commute was not an enjoyable experience.
In fact, ONS data suggested that with every extra minute spent travelling to work, our happiness and life satisfaction decreases.
Many of us are now in the fortunate position where we do not have to travel to work. Not only will this increase our well-being more generally, but that extra time can also be spent doing something different.
Put your commute to good use. You could start work earlier and finish earlier. You could go for a morning walk or run, or do an exercise video. Be generous with this extra time you’ve gained.
Put these five new habits into practice and make the most of our new working world - if you would like to discuss further how to build really effective and efficient working habits, get in touch with the Higson team.