Having experienced unrivalled levels of change in a stressful and tumultuous year, many employees felt fatigued and drained going into the holiday season. You would be hard pressed to find an end-of-2020 conversation about the holiday period that didn’t include the phrase “I just need a break”.
However, many of the changes that came to light over 2020 are here to stay. Increases in casual/contract workforces, global access to talent, working from home, meetings with colleagues and suppliers over Zoom, Teams, Skype and the pace of innovation and change to name a few.
As these changes aren’t going anywhere, those who shift their work attitude, ditch their old habits and find ways to work effectively in a 24 /7 environment, are those who will thrive.Whether you work at home, work from an office or are a digital nomad, we have 9 tips to help you reach the end of 2021 with as much energy as you started.
From waking to your emails to starting your day with intention
As working from home became more commonplace in 2020, checking emails when we wake is a habit many have fallen into.
Instead of checking your email as soon as you wake up and then continuing to do so throughout the day, begin your day with intention and identify the two or three things you need to accomplish to feel successful at the end of the workday.
Sir Richard Branson famously says, "a day without intention is a day wasted... without intention, there can be no productivity, and in turn no success".
Once you've identified your intention for the day, you can switch to your email, but ensure you don't go back to your inbox too often throughout the day.
The average person will check their email around 15 times a day. However, research from The University of British Columbia found when people are limited to checking their email just three times a day, their stress decreased significantly. They felt as though they were able to complete their most important work. These workers also felt a greater sense of accomplishment at work.
From PJs until the afternoon to establishing routines
If you are working from home, it's not unusual to find yourself working at your desk for hours without realising where the day has gone. You may have woken up, checked your emails and been so caught up in your work that by the time 3pm rolled around, you've realised you're still in your pyjamas.
When it was possible to change into work clothes and commute to work, thus transitioning from your 'home self' into your 'work self', it was much easier to have boundaries between work and home.
While there may no longer be a commute, Harvard Business Review suggests getting yourself ready in the morning and replacing your morning bus or train ride with a walk before sitting down to work can help you maintain your usual work routine.
Establishing routines can help you create boundaries, especially during this strange period where your home is also your workplace. This could also be done with simple things like deciding when you will eat, wake up, go to bed or when you will exercise. If you previously enjoyed going to a gym class before work, you could try to find a way to incorporate that into your new workday setting.
From being available 24/7 to defining your work day
Finishing work on time may not always be possible. You may have busier periods or tight deadlines, making you feel like you must go beyond standard hours. But working longer hours doesn't necessarily equate to being more productive and saying 'no' to certain requests is alright – within reason, of course.
If you are working from home and it has you feeling as though you are constantly 'in the office' and available to clients or colleagues, you may wish to pre-plan activities after work to allow yourself some space away from the desk.
It's easy to feel tempted to respond to emails and calls out of hours; however, people will begin to expect it from you if you start doing so. If the matter doesn't require your attention until the next working day, try to leave the email unread and respond at a more appropriate time.
From not taking time out to self-care
Since many professions began the transition to working from home in 2020, employee burnout became a huge risk to companies.
With the lines between work and non-work blurring and employees struggling to keep boundaries between their professional and personal lives, many have found themselves working harder to prove their productivity and loyalty their companies. Employees are now struggling more than ever before with the feeling of needing to work all the time with very little time off.
While in a normal situation you may book a few weeks away to truly switch off every year, lockdowns and border closures have made travel less likely and thus fewer people are taking the time off that they need in favour of continuing to work through the year.
The hours people are working are increasing; however, their capacity to focus and produce quality work decreases due to burnout, according to HBR.
While self-care can feel daunting, the intention isn't to add to your plate, but to help you stay connected to yourself and your mission.
You may feel as though you constantly need to be 'on' all day, while working, however, when you feel as though everything you do has to be perfect, you should be treating yourself the same way you treat a colleague and keep your internal critic at bay.
You may like to incorporate walking meetings into your day or schedule your lunch away from your desk to recharge during your lunch hour.
Self-care could mean getting a massage, exercising or even spending time with friends and family.
Ensure you're checking in with yourself and understanding when you may need more self-care.
From unrealistic goals to realistic deadlines
Many people believe that if they are working from home, they will get much more done without the distractions of a regular workplace, however, if deadlines aren't realistic, you may feel as though you're underachieving, which may lower morale within the team.
Review your previous projects, were the deadlines achievable? If not, perhaps consider why this was and recognise any issues that came with that goal.
Just because you may want something achieved in a certain timeframe, doesn't mean it's necessarily capable of being done. Look at your resources and the amount of work you believe is required when setting deadlines.
Speak with other team members about how long they believe the project may take, and then define attainable targets at the beginning of your planning.
From being reactive to pausing and taking time to plan strategically
Management teams have been juggling a wide variety of concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic – most importantly they're thinking: How can we make the most out what we have?
When the pandemic began, the world quickly changed. Many companies quickly reacted by having their teams work from home or with mass job or salary cuts.
Now, with 2020 to look back on, management teams can plan more effectively for what could come in the next year by taking some time to pause and think through all the possibilities that could come their way.
Using the analytics from the last 12 months to create a proactive plan that maximises the company's efforts. This will allow you to stay ahead of the curve and allow you to be flexible.
From under-quoting to win new business and putting pressure on your team to doing valued work
Underquoting is an issue across all industries, and it can have dire consequences.
With businesses trying to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, many have resorted to underquoting to win new business; however, this only puts pressure on teams.
While the project may bring some cash flow into the business, there may come a day when you will need to cover that loss, and this could prove to be unsustainable.
Warren Buffet famously said, "Price is what you pay, value is what you get." Remember when quoting for new jobs, your customer is getting the value that your team provides and they should be paid as such.
From a glass of wine at 5pm to ending the day actively
There's always the temptation to reach for a glass of wine or beer after a tough day. While there's no problem doing this in moderation, numerous studies show how exercise can positively impact your workday.
There are many physical benefits to exercise, but according to the HBR, social scientists have found evidence of how working out impacts the way we think.
Incorporating regular exercise can improve your concentration, memory, mental stamina and creativity while also lowering stress and allowing you to learn faster.
Not only this, but your mood will be elevated, which can impact on how successful you are in the workplace.
From letting change define you to taking change by the horns
2020 was a year of change, and it left many workers feeling unsettled, however, having been through all of that and coming out the other end could help you feel empowered to take on whatever change comes your way in 2021.
After this year of change, we are now in the 'new normal', and it's unlikely to change for some time. So, find ways to make the change work for you.
• Instead of checking your email as soon as you wake, write down your intention for the day. This could be two or three goals you wish to achieve by the end of the workday.
• If working from home is your new normal, establish routines to create boundaries around your ‘work self’ and your ‘home self’.
• Define your workday. You do not need to be available every hour of the day, even if you may now live at ‘work’.
• Attempt to find time for self-care throughout the workday. This may be going for a walk, whatever helps keep you refreshed and avoid burn-out.
• Try to set realistic goals, just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have more hours in the day available to work.
• Take time to assess everything that happened in 2020 and strategically plan for the changes that may come in 2021.
• Underquoting may bring in cash in the short-term, but can cost you immensely in the long-term, try to remember the value you and your team provide when quoting.
• Rather than being tempted by a glass of wine at the end of the day, try to incorporate regular exercise as this will also improve your actions during the workday.
• 2020 was a time of change, and we are now experiencing the ‘new normal’, attempt to find ways to make these changes work for you.