Two years on from the pandemic, writes Amber Coster, it’s become increasingly clear that striving for aggressive business growth simply cannot come at the expense of employee wellbeing.
From the burnout epidemic to the subsequent Great Resignation, relentless productivity at all costs, plus blurred lines between personal and professional lives and multiple other challenges of working in distributed teams; it’s all too easy for there to be disastrous consequences for mental health and morale if ignored.
My view? In the New Normal, the old rules can no longer apply. ‘Productivity’ meant one thing pre-2020 (the familiar culture of ‘at-all-costs’, ‘hustle’, ‘grind’, and toxic positivity now seems mildly absurd in our new circumstances), and today the whole concept has changed – for the better.
So, what are the New Rules of Productivity? Which ‘work hacks’ really work, and which so-called productivity tips are counterproductive? Here are a few of my golden rules of productivity for the post-Covid workplace:
RULE 1: Stop using so many tools
Although accumulating a treasure-trove of productivity apps may have initially seemed like the perfect way to keep on top of all our projects and tasks, evidence shows that using too many different tools can be overwhelming and ultimately distracts us from reaching a state of deep, focused work. It might seem counterintuitive but stripping back the number of apps used daily and instead prioritising software that brings all your work into one place enables you to get work done more efficiently without having to jump around between tools.
RULE 2: Don’t just focus on work - work on yourself too.
Working harder is always better, right? Well, no. Having your office and your home in the same space can encourage unhealthy hours and can be a recipe for burnout. It’s critical you set aside time for self-care, rest, play and whatever activities work best to nourish you. Have fun with it.
Experiment. Read books, meditate, journal, dance, exercise, get outdoors, socialise, have time to yourself; truly invest in things that bring you back into the present and take your mind off your day-to-day work responsibilities. Doing this will keep your mind clear and fresh, helping you return to your desk with an inspired mind and dynamic body. It will give you an energy and motivation boost, improve your cognitive ability and benefit your work!
RULE 3: Make time to go offline
It’s now widely accepted that being bombarded with constant notifications is detrimental to our ability to focus and can often cause anxiety. But hybrid working and the proliferation of tech to collaborate between teams still leans towards the ‘always on’ lifestyle, with emails, instant messaging apps and other alerts coming in a steady stream, even throughout unsociable hours (how many times have you intended on going to sleep and found yourself 20 minutes later still scanning your inbox?). Set distraction-free time in your day to turn off all communication tools and hyperfocus on completing tasks; carve the time out in your calendar and stick to it like you would with any work-related appointments.
RULE 4: Aim for results, not hours at your desk
Similar to how the full time daily commute is near obsolete, presenteeism and the rigid 9-to-5 schedule can now largely be consigned to history. One of the best things about hybrid and remote work is the flexibility it allows to work at our own pace, and during times that suit our own rhythms rather than when the rest of the team are all chained to their desks. Starting every day with a list or a plan for priorities and goals, and working towards them – rather than to the clock – is one of the best ways to boost productivity. Non-traditional work schedules and empowering people to own their digital management is one of the most powerful ways you can maintain a happy and productive team.
RULE 5: Learn how to say ‘no’
When your bandwidth is crunched, many of us tend to instinctively agree to take on more work to appear helpful, keen and capable – and remote work has exacerbated this problem, as not being constantly ‘visible’ to colleagues can drive us to overcompensate by responding instantly to every ask. However, it’s vital to be assertive when setting boundaries. Communicating these boundaries to colleagues can, of course, be done in polite and constructive ways (i.e., nobody likes receiving a blunt, one-word ‘no’ in an email), but it’s important to remember that consistently taking on more than you can comfortably handle is a sure-fire route to burnout, resentment and heightened anxiety. You can count on your quality of work being impacted to!
We’re not machines, and in today’s increasingly tech-led world, acknowledging our humanity and all its vulnerabilities can end up being our greatest source of strength and resilience. Striking that elusive balance between getting the job done faster and better while nurturing mental fitness, wellbeing and sustainability means taking a more ‘human’ approach to productivity.
Amber Coster is VP Operations EMEA at ClickUp