Everyone is different. Some people are morning people, some work best at night. Some are more productive together, some prefer to go solo. So why on Earth do we have a culture that says you have to be at your desk at 9am and wrap up at 5pm?
Why do businesses prescribe working patterns that actually hurt their teams productivity? And how can businesses let their teams structure their days without everything dissenting into chaos?
The nine to five work day dates back to the Fair Labour Standards Act, which when revised in 1940 set the work week to 40 hours. Designed around the needs of the American Manufacturing worker, it was adopted globally and has been that way ever since. Irrespective of industry, job role or requirement, employees have started at 9 and finished at 5(is) for 80+ years.
Working 9 to 5 is no way to make a living
The truth is that the working day should be structured to get the best from your team (or yourself). There is no pride in being the first one in and the last to leave. No prizes are given for the person who did the most hours each week. You have to focus on results. What are you getting done? Are you moving your business forward consistently?
That’s not to say we’re advocating a commune-style revolving door and a coming and go as you please working pattern (unless that’s the right set up for your company). We’re saying you need to consider the purpose of your business and the roles of your team when discussing the hours they need to keep.
If you’re working with clients or customers, there will, of course, be hours they expect you to be available. If your team needs to work collaboratively, you’ll need to ensure there are times of day when everyone is available but it’s unlikely that’s 8 hours, 5 days a week.
Know yourself and know your team
It’s not just about the hours you keep, way more important is how you use those hours. The first thing you need to do as a business owner is know yourself. Consider the times of day you are most productive. Are there times you feel like you absolutely crush it, but then times you feel like it's a bit of a slog to get anything done. Think about the times you face most distraction or interruptions.
Also think about the times you naturally tend to do ‘work’ outside of ‘office hours’. Do you check your social feeds first thing when you wake up in the morning? Do you box off some admin in the evening with a glass of wine? If that’s familiar, own it. Build it into your official day.
The same applies to your team. Are there times they tend to be more productive than others? Have them ask themselves the same questions and review their own behaviour to help you build a better picture of how your business should structure it’s working pattern.
A working day that works
Once you have this understanding, you are well equipped to design a working day that really works for you. This could be an early start, a late finish, a chunky break in the middle of the day, it’s up to you. Speaking personally, I have always enjoyed starting work early, getting a few hours work done uninterrupted before everyone else arrives, then allowing space to work with the team, before finishing a little earlier to spend time with my kids after school. There were as many people who loved to have a lie in, start work a little later, then wrap up later in the evening (before heading out on the town!).
Once you’ve established when you will be working, the next (and most) important thing to set is WHAT you’ll be doing when. This is absolutely vital and will have a massive impact on the productivity of your day and the quality of your work.
If you know you have a bit of a dip after lunch, save a task you really enjoy. Something you can properly get your teeth into that will guide you through the slump into the and of your day. If you know your mornings are super-productive, power through that list of admin tasks. If you have creative or ‘thinking’ tasks, make sure you do them when you are at your most focussed, energised and free from distractions.
Once you have this understanding of your style of working, you’ll be able to plan your time properly, delivering considerably better work, in way less time, clearing that to-do list, getting a chance to think deeper about challenges and ultimately making your day (and your business) more successful.
For the past eight weeks we’ve been talking all about organisation and efficiency in our Ruthlessly Efficient Marketing Podcast.
If you’d like to hear more on the subject and find other ways to make your time at work, work harder, we’d love you to give it a listen.