In my last article I wrote about how the global COVID pandemic has seen change become the order of the day, along with the realisation that we now have the opportunity to do things differently. Nowhere is this more evident than in how we conduct our working lives, for example, using video conferencing technology like Zoom on a daily basis.

Many of us are working from home, or a mixture of home and office, or indeed not working at all due to the loss of employment. It has been a time of massive re-adjustment as we’ve pivoted to create new structures for our working day.

Office meetings are now held via Zoom or other remote platforms; the in-person connection gone as we sit in our home work spaces and speak to colleagues about our joint projects and delivery schedules. We have a new phenomenon of Zoom meeting fatigue as managers attempt to hold teams together through daily remote connect up times. And you hear people speak of craving face-to-face connection like old times, longing for a chance to share a coffee with a client or work colleague over lunch.

Working from home during the pandemic and often freed from the daily commute, we’ve been offered a period of reflection; an opportunity to re-evaluate how we spend our time and the rituals we have in place to support our daily lives. As a result, attitudes to work, a place that once provided the major sense of connection, achievement, and satisfaction have changed; work no longer has the same focus in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, work still holds an important place in our day. However, the last year has allowed many of us to restructure and reorder our time to fit other things that equally provide a sense of achievement and connection into our daily routine. It has allowed us to work smarter so we can easily include physical activities like going to the gym, gardening or taking a long walk; so we can connect and have more time with family and friends at the end of our working day instead of commuting; so we can read or relax watching our favorite streaming series. We have looked to other things to provide us with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, at other ways of connecting to people.

New rituals have been put in place as we move to create some sort of stability and certainty in uncertain times.  In my community, the first wave of the pandemic and lockdown saw an increased number of us walking in our local park in the morning and grabbing a coffee as we headed home to start our working day. Not a big thing, but a change in the way we started our day as we all tried to maintain a fitness routine and some sense of connection to our neighbours from a distance.

And I am not saying we are working less or slacking off; far from it, as research shows that productivity has increased and people are actually working longer hours when working from home. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the USA in 2020 found that

“Compared to pre-pandemic levels, increases in the number of meetings per person (+12.9 percent) and the number of attendees per meeting (+13.5 percent), but decreases in the average length of meetings (-20.1 percent). Collectively, the net effect is that people spent less time in meetings per day (-11.5 percent) in the post- lockdown period. We also find significant and durable increases in length of the average workday (+8.2 percent, or +48.5 minutes), along with short-term increases in email activity” (DeFilippis et al., 2020).

Which brings me to the issue of work-life balance and how to maintain healthy boundaries between work and home in the ‘new normal’ work environment. I’ll address this in my next post.

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How are you doing work differently in 2021? Have you put healthy boundaries and new rituals for your working day into play? What do you find most enjoyable, and challenging, in your current work structure? Please get in touch if you are looking to do things differently in 2021 and would like to uncover how best to do this.

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REFERENCES:

DeFilippis, E., Impink, S. M., Singell, M., Polzer, J. T., & Raffaella Sadun, R. (2020) NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES. National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.: Collaborating During Coronavirus: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work.

© First published via the Mannaz Journal – reprinted here with permission.