How can I design my best life?
In the story of our lives, we might be the main character, but work is the dominating theme, our constant motivation. It’s the central thing we do as adults, the primary focus of our mental function for most hours of the day, most days of the week.
“Internalized capitalism is when you really think of yourself only in terms of your ability to work”
— Helen Ann Petersen
The idea that people should care less about their jobs, let alone work less, often causes deep moral outrage. This isn’t all that surprising, considering how much of our identities are defined by work. It’s as if, without work anchoring all of our lives, society itself will disintegrate
How has COVID-19 affected our relationship with work?
COVID has blown open cracks that were already widely present in the workplace even before the pandemic. Poor management decisions, lack of trust in employees, poor communication, poor project planning have all been re-exposed. Many don’t want to get back to normal, because normal was the problem.
“About a quarter of workers say they are less satisfied with their job than they were before the coronavirus outbreak”
— Pew Research
After studying over 2000 employees during COVID Werklabs found during the pandemic, some have adapted more quickly than others, enjoying the lack of commute, office politics and having to “dress” for work. Many others have struggled with the workload, if anything workloads have increased, not decreased, during the pandemic on top of increased responsibilities at home.
Women were more than twice as likely (46%) than men to report they will leave their workplace in the next year
Younger workers and parents have more likely faced challenges, but many of us have been working at 100% capacity for extended periods of time, so it’s no wonder people are feeling scammed by burnout and ready to quit.
Post-pandemic burnout has spurred the “Great Resignation” among workers
Reflecting on work and life post-COVID-19 in our community
Over the past couple of months, we’ve spoken to many of our Members and the stories we’ve heard have been largely consistent. For many, whether we work for ourselves or work for someone else, the pandemic has forever changed how we view our lives and work. With pause and reflection, we have realized that we are always on the go, bouncing from one thing to another without much thought. We compare ourselves to others, anxious that we were not constantly moving forward, achieving goals fast enough. It left us (and others around us) exhausted and frequently burned out.
For the past 18 months, we were forced to shift gears, to go inward and face that reality. In the process, we’ve seen how much our schedules have been affecting our lives and health. It’s given us a better perspective about our work mindset and encouraged us to be strategic about where we want to spend our time. We no longer want our work to define who we are and how we feel about ourselves. We want the personal freedom to show up as our best selves and to be able to create enough space for our wellbeing and other personal interests.
There is also a level of excitement and anticipation about what’s next for our work and lives. We’re looking for something new and to explore and expand this feeling, there is still so much opportunity and so much to learn about ourselves. Life is short and it’s ok to want to feel fulfilled and content both in our work and the other areas of our lives.
What do we need to create our best lives?
Everyone’s ideal path is going to look different but some universal truths are becoming clearer. Numerous studies have been conducted over the last year into what people really want and value. These studies not only confirmed on scale what people have been feeling for some time but also showed us a new path forward. It’s now up to us to take it.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE AND CONTROL OF YOUR SCHEDULE MATTER.
Werklabs found employees’ well-being is significantly impacted by their managers’ level of support in helping them to find the balance between work and home life and also the ability to be able to manage their own schedule around when they get on and offline.
96% of U.S. Professionals Say They Need Flexibility, but Only 47% Have It
CARVE YOUR OWN PATH AND SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO VALUE AND MODEL BALANCE.
Tune into your own needs. Let go of how you think you ‘should’ work, don’t be afraid to get really honest about what balance (or work-life sway) means to you.
Keep an open mind. If you are self-employed and/or have direct reports be open to new ways of working. Listen to and support your team’s needs. Be flexible and willing to try new ways of collaborating and new ways of communicating.
Model balance for others. It starts with you, make sure you are modeling a good balance in your own life. Take your vacations (for all the reasons!) don’t send or respond to emails in the evening. If you have the flexibility, plan to end your day early one or two days a week and end your day on the right note, encourage your team to do the same. Also, set clear communication guidelines and give your team a grace period to respond to messages so they’re not checking their notifications constantly. Set clear boundaries with your clients too. Be transparent with co-workers about what’s on your plate outside of work. Be open about who you are at home and share why you may be away from your computer at times, whether it’s to pick up your dog from the vet, need to get groceries for the week, or you just want to unwind at your yoga class before you head home.
Advocate for what you need. If you are employed, talk to your manager about flexibility in your schedule and why it’s an important factor in you being able to produce your best work. Get into the details around how it can best be managed for success.
If your workplace doesn’t support what you need to thrive, seek out more holistic work environments that think of employees as individuals, take care of them, empower them to find purpose and invest in growing and training them.
Flexibility was the only driver that scores as a top priority for improvement for both men and women and was highest for parents
54% of workers want to work from home after the pandemic ends.
— Pew Research
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A SHORTER WORKWEEK IS POSSIBLE.
8 hours a day 5 days a week is not working for us, if we want more balance we need to decentralize work in our lives and work less. We talk a lot about flexible schedules over the years but now we’re starting to see talk of the need for a shorter workweek, and no, it’s not about jamming the same amount of work into fewer days. A strong case is building for reducing work hours overall. If you lead a team or manage your own schedule then a shorter workweek is absolutely possible and it makes good business sense too.
So, Is the future of work a four-day workweek? Some are even getting even more specific, saying the future of work will be five-hour days, a four-day workweek and flexible staggered schedules. An increasing number of foreign countries are already experimenting with it, and workers are proving they can get the same amount of work done, some companies using this model have seen incredible results. The idea even has a new champion in the US congress.
Wherever we land one thing is true, we’ve been married to the 9-5 for too long, a system built in the 1950s and built for men. We’ve also put work at the center of all things (including our identity); expecting all other things in life to balance against the work we do. What does it take to free yourself from these unhealthy patterns and reach a more sustainable, rewarding work-life balance? What if we decentralized work and reduced the space it takes up in our lives? What does working less look like, how could it benefit our overall well-being and what would we do with our time back?
WE NEED TO FEEL CONNECTED.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public-health experts were concerned about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. The coronavirus has only exacerbated that problem.
While the pandemic has taught us plenty about feeling less lonely, feeling less social connectedness to others was also another key factor in reduced workplace happiness in our work and lives during the pandemic.
Women reported 20% lower than men on socio-emotional well-being measures, such as connectedness
BUILD YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM AND GET HELP. THERE ARE MANY WAYS WE CAN BUILD HIGH-QUALITY CONNECTIONS:
- Build relationships over networking. Focus on slowly building deeper, stronger relationships rather than trying to “network” with as many people as fast as possible.
- Make it a priority. Prioritize building relationships in your calendars, what can you stop doing week to week to make more room for building relationships?
- Take action. Whether online or in-person, join and be active in groups or communities Make the first move when making new connections, make yourself available and put yourself out there more (you only get back what you put in).
- Raise up others. It’s so easy to do and one of the best ways to create connections. It helps people feel seen and supported.
- Collaborate with peers. Seek out womxn with similar values and goals on a broader level, but also those who have had different stories, experiences and complementary skills to you, so you can share skills and learn from one another, or even collaborate together down the road.
- Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from others, ask for feedback and support. Share what you need, where you’re struggling and let others know their input is important to you. Asking for help will strengthen your connection and help them feel invested in your success.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE HOW POWERFUL YOU ARE.
Approximately two-thirds of Americans report that they do not have work-life balance. And they will blame everyone and everything under the sun for it, including bad bosses, incompetent co-workers, inflexible schedules, and technology leaving them checking their work email at all hours.
We tend to hugely underestimate how powerful we really are when it comes to having control over our life. There are many ways to feel less powerless in life, but taking back your power doesn’t have to feel big or overwhelming.
- Be more aware of the choices you make. Are you giving others permission to call, text, or email you at all hours? Do you respond to emails quickly setting the expectation you will do that every time? Do you over-commit or say yes to new projects without really thinking through how much time it will take to do it well? These are all small choices we make every day that have a huge impact on our time, our wellbeing and our bigger life goals. Take responsibility for your actions and how they impact your workload.
- Know your values. There is no one size fits all to designing life that works for you. Take some time and get to know your values and write down all the things in life that are important to you and ask yourself why they are important? What benefit will you receive? What is preventing you from making it a greater part of your experience? What must you limit or give up in order to honor that value?
- Take small steps. It can be hard to give up things like checking your phone in the evening, not responding to emails right away, or taking the afternoon off to do something that gives you joy. Start small and try one new thing and be consistent.
- Keep track. Make sure you write down your new intentions and habits, keep track of how they make you feel each day. After a week, see how the change has impacted your week.
- Give others permission to do the same. Part of the problem is we’re all trapped in the same nightmare game, if someone doesn’t break rank we’re all going to be stuck on the same roller coaster for the rest of our lives. Be open about the changes you’re making and why embrace a life where you hustle less and encourage others to do it with you.
- Commit to making a start. You won’t overhaul your whole life overnight, but you do need to make a commitment to starting. It’s going to feel sticky at first, after all, you’re trying to change lifelong habits. Stay consistent and track the benefits, build new habits on top of each other and before you know it you will have designed a life you love.