The Early Bird Catches the Worm – Three Learnings in Finding My New Workplace Normal

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Article by Vox Financial Partners senior manager, Megan Beukelman.

For many in developed economies, the work environment has changed substantially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – and the effect on the future workplace is still unknown. The disruption has quickly transitioned many from a traditional office setting where face-to-face interaction was key, to entirely working from home, with restrictions on social contact, and expanded use of virtual meetings.

As we have settled into this ‘new normal’, it’s timely to consider how this may impact the future of workplaces. With organisations able to operate with the majority of their workforces working remotely for an extended period, what are the long-term implications of this large-scale behaviour shift?

While it’s too early to make any concrete predictions, here are my reflections on what I’ve experienced and learned over this time.

Uninterrupted Work Time
I am a senior manager at Vox FP and prior to the pandemic had been working on-site for a global banking client in London. Before the disruption, a typical day involved working with my team co-located with me in London, as well as virtually with my colleagues in the United States and Europe.

When my client transitioned to work remotely, I made the decision to return home to Australia to be with my family. While abroad, I have started my work day in the Australian afternoon to allow overlap with the UK and US mornings. This means my day now usually starts with a few hours to progress work autonomously and undisturbed, before I meet with my team when they start their day.

Many of us have likely read articles about the effectiveness of multi-tasking and the cost ‘mental juggling’ has taken when undertaking complex work. These studies have shown that our brains aren’t designed for heavy-duty multitasking, and when doing so, we actually take longer and are likely to make more mistakes. Despite this, many work cultures promote accessibility, with this often being a precursor to enable global working. My recent experience has reinforced the benefits of ‘chunking’ your time to suit your day, and where possible, remain focused on one activity at a time.

The early bird catches the worm, but the night owl gets the mouse
I have long known that I prefer later working hours, and when writing my university thesis, I found some of my most productive hours were after dinner. However, we’ve been trained in the old adage of ‘early bird catches the worm’ and most workplaces prescribe standard working hours, so many of us have assimilated our working days to the norm.

An unexpected outcome of shifting my working hours while in Australia was that I found myself naturally working to my preferred hours and feeling better because of it. Research supports this, showing that when you adhere to your naturally preferred sleep/wake schedules, you feel better, are more productive, and have better mental capacity.

Creating a new routine
I’m sure without conscious effort, we’ve all found the line blurring between our work and personal lives. I’ve definitely experienced this towards the end of the day when I am logging off but finding my brain still ticking. However, by having consistent environments for pre-work (morning exercise and lunch), work time (in the study), and post-work routine (Netflix in the lounge) – I’ve been able to demarcate the day and set better parameters for my working hours.

Like many, I am eager to get back to normal life and routine. While there are some things which I will happily give up after this time (lack of access to a café being one of them!), there are others which have been surprising silver linings — such as having quiet time to complete work without distractions and being able to work according to my preferred schedule.

Overall, I’m fortunate to have been supported by my employer and client to be able to work from Australia and be with my family. I’ve found that the distance and time doesn’t necessarily hinder you from being able to perform your role effectively – and I think many others will have learnt that too – which could mean significant change for the workforce of the future.

Interested in learning more about Vox FP? Visit our website – www.voxfp.com.

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