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You hear plenty of conversations about lifestyle. You may even hear conversations about work/life balance. But how seriously have you thought about the workstyle you really want?
What do you really want from the way that you engage with your workplace? To what extent is the basic framework of how you work, where you work, and when you work suiting what you want out of your working life? Your workstyle?
How do you Want to Work?
Do you have a strong preference for work that enables you to work on your own, head down concentrate and get into the detail? Or are you an individual who thrives on collaboration?
Are you somebody who wants a project-based workstyle? Or do you want to have a workstyle, where mainly you’re leading and managing people?
Are you somebody who wants in your work to be looking at new things, or making the most of the existing things?
How do you want to work? Too often we end up working by default in a way that doesn’t suit us but we feel there is no alternative. But in a post-pandemic world there is much more opportunity to renegotiate how you work. You have an opportunity to rebalance what you do on your own and what you do collaboratively. You may be able to challenge the amount of time you spend in meetings and the amount of time you spend doing activities that don’t really suit you.
I invite you to write down exactly what an ideal balance of activities would be for you in an average working week. Either keep a journal for a month or review your calendar over last month and compare your ideal to reality. Have you ended up buying into a ‘how’ of working that makes you less effective, less motivated and less engaged in what you do?
When do you Want to Work?
The ‘when’ of your workstyle has really two elements to it.
The ‘when’ is partly about the number of hours that you need to be available for your employer. I would include any travel time to and from work and to clients. Consider a job where you are contracted for 35 hours a week. If you take an hour for lunch then you could be at work for 40 hours a week. Now consider the travel time to and from work – perhaps an hour door to door each way: 50 hours a week. How often do you get in early or stay late? Get in an hour early or stay an hour late on an average brings you to 55 hours a week.
Maybe you have to catch up with work at home at the weekend, after your evening meal or before breakfast This can easily take you to 60 hours a week. Now factor in other travel, overnight stays, on-line meetings to suit other time zones. 24 hours away from home on a regular basis quickly takes you up to an average of 85 hours a week when your activity or location is directly related to your commitments to work. There are 168 hours in a week – now more than half of those hours are controlled by your employer.
The second ‘when’ is how much flexibility you have to do those hours at a time that suits you. Do you have an employer who’s relaxed about the fact that you take the afternoon off on Fridays, because that’s the day you like playing golf? Can you take a two-hour lunch break because that’s when you do your exercise? Can you plan that one day a week you don’t get in until 11 o’clock in the morning? Can you take a break between 3pm and 6pm because that’s when you want to be available for your teenage children?
How much flexibility do you have? Are you able to take time off in lieu? Are you able to easily take long weekends and catch up with extra hours? Is there an option of doing a full-time week in 4 days? Is there an option for a flexible workstyle where some weeks you do more, and some weeks you do less? Are there situations in which you could agree to an annualized hours contract, where at certain times of the year, you do fewer hours because that’s the time that you want to go fishing, you pursue your joy of swimming or you’ve got family commitments, and balance this with other times of the year when you do extra hours?
Where do you Want to Work?
The final aspect of negotiating the workstyle you really want is the ‘where’.
How often are you expected to be in the office? How often are you expected to be at client premises? How often are you expected to be overseas, or in regional offices? How much travel is built into your working life, and to what extent does that actually suit you?
Are you relaxed about the fact that one week a month you’re in Berlin or 3 weeks a year you are in the States? How much does the ‘where’ matter to you and are you getting the ‘where’ that you want?
There’s been lots of debate about working from home working in the office. For senior leaders work with their travel commitments presence in the office may only be occasional.
Is there an opportunity for you to work more from home? If you are going to work from home, are you going to have the facilities you need to do that effectively?
Review and Act
Review carefully the ‘how’, the ‘when’, and the ‘where’ of your current workstyle. Benchmark this against what you ideally want. Now consider how you negotiate changes towards what matters most to you and which are easiest for the organization to accommodate.
If you find that actually what you want, and what the organization is prepared to accommodate, are never going to meet in a place that you can live with, then maybe re-evaluate whether the workstyle demanded by your current employer, or even the workstyle demanded in your current employment, the kind of role you’ve got, in the kind of industry you work in, is going to be the future that you really want.
Make your future work; renegotiate the workstyle you really want.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.