Whether you own your own small business or are currently working more flexibly from home (or an office) post-Covid, it’s worth thinking about whether or not you are making the most of your working day.
If lockdowns have taught us anything, it’s that we need to ensure that we are taking care of our own health and wellbeing and that it is possible to work more flexibly without compromising on the quality or quantity of work completed.
The first thing to think about is – what do I actually want from work? Do you want to work less during the week? Do you want to have more free time in the afternoons and evenings? Do you work more effectively first thing in the morning? I think that 9-5’s days are numbered and that it should be possible to work around your life, rather than live around your work. As long as you ensure that your clients and colleagues are aware of your routine, and you can meet your work-based obligations without compromising on the quality or quantity of the work you complete, then it is realistic to change your schedule relatively simply.
Here are my top tips for more flexible working:
Take regular breaks
If you’ve been sitting at a desk all day, it’s important to get up and move around regularly. Not only will this help to keep your energy levels up, but it will also reduce the risk of developing problems such as backache or neck pain. It can be tempting to try and power through your work without taking a break, but this is not sustainable in the long run. It’s important to take a few minutes out every now and then to rest your eyes, have a drink of water or stretch your legs. Even if you don’t plan on working a four-day week, or shifting working hours to early mornings or afternoon/evenings, simply taking regular, enjoyable breaks (a quick walk round the block, nipping to the coffee shop, etc.) can help you feel as though you are enhancing your work-life balance.
Plan your day in advance
If you know what tasks you need to complete in advance, you can plan your day more effectively and avoid wasting time. This is especially important if you are working from home, as it can be easy to get distracted by household chores or other distractions. In addition, if you want to take every Friday off, or start work at 10AM every day, make sure that this is built into your task list and calendar, and inform clients of this fact too so that they have realistic expectations about when you’ll be at your desk and working on their projects.
Make use of technology
There are many ways in which technology can help you to make the most of your working day. For example, you can use online task management tools like Asana, Trello or Todoist to keep track of your to-do list, or set up automatic reminders for upcoming deadlines. You could also set up an autoresponder on your emails to let people know how long it will be (i.e. 24 hours) before you get back to them, as this can help to manage their expectations and remove the pressure from yourself to respond immediately. Again – this can all help with giving you the additional flexibility you need to work to a schedule that suits you.
Don’t beat yourself up if things change
You know what? Things change. If you start off with the intention of having every Friday off, but circumstances dictate that you work the odd Friday, or perhaps have a different day off entirely, don’t feel guilty about it! The idea of flexible working is that it should be flexible and fit in around you, and surely it’s better to have had a few days or afternoons off (or even a few long and leisurely lunchtime walks) than being stuck to the 9-5, day in, day out?
Why not think about working a little more flexibly in Q4? As the days get shorter in the Autumn and Winter, it could be nice to get out and about in the daylight, whilst everyone else is at school or in work, and enjoy the opportunities that more flexible working could bring to your life!