Larking about or about larking?
Dr AMANTHA IMBER busts common workplace myths for a better workday.
Most workplaces are structured around the hours of 9am to 5pm. And while workplaces are increasingly claiming to have flexible working policies, working hours still default to nine to five.
The problem with these hours is that they may not align to the natural peaks and troughs of energy that individuals in your team run on, otherwise known as their chronotype.
According to chronobiologists Martha Merrow and Till Roenneberg, approximately 14 percent of people are larks – their optimal time for work is in the morning. At the other end of the spectrum are owls, around 21 percent of the population, who come to life at night. Everyone else falls into the ‘middle birds’ category with a range of peak energy fluctuations.
Let people work to their chronotype
It’s critical that leaders know each team member’s chronotype. Once you have this information, you can encourage individuals to structure their workday accordingly. Let your larks start work in the wee hours of the morning. But remember, this means letting them leave early too. Owls do best with the opposite schedule.
By structuring the workday around people’s chronotype, performance will lift and people will also experience less stress.
Stop expecting immediate responses to emails
The average worker checks email or instant messenger every six minutes. But the incessant checking of email means it’s practically impossible for people to sink their teeth into the meaty projects that actually form the basis of their job – work that requires chunks of undistracted time and focused concentration.
While email is addictive, many workers feel pressure to check their inbox regularly and respond immediately to anything from their manager. Often, this is due to a mismatch in expectations.
As a leader, you need to be clear on how quickly (or not) you expect a response to emails, and recognise that if you want a fast response, you are compromising other activities in your team’s work. By setting clear expectations, your staff should feel less pressure to constantly be checking their inbox and instead be able to carve out uninterrupted chunks of time to make real progress on projects that matter.
Stop setting 30- or 60-minute meetings
Parkinson’s Law suggests that the time it takes to complete a task will take whatever time you have allocated for it. This law has big implications for meetings.
Most online calendars default to 30 or 60 minutes. However, if meetings were run as effectively as possible, many would finish early.
Given leaders are responsible for setting the majority of meetings set in any workplace, they have an opportunity to think deliberately about how much time a discussion should take or how much time it deserves.
When booking your next meeting, avoid the temptation to default to 30 or 60 minutes and instead consider the true length of time each meeting deserves. This approach should shave hours off the time your time spends in meetings, which of course can then be reallocated to actually getting things done.
Encourage people to eat lunch away from their desk
With the average daily sedentary time of adults at eight to ten hours, it’s vital we consider our lunchtime behaviour.
Research from the University of Mannheim found that workers who used their lunch break to relax or to spend time with others felt significantly more rejuvenated compared to those who spent time alone or don’t engage in relaxing activities.
Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that over an eight-week period, workers who went for a 10-minute walk during their lunch break felt more energetic and resilient in the afternoon.
Leaders need to lead by example and avoid eating lunch at their desk and encourage their team to do the same. Go for a short walk and find a space other than your desk to eat.
Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful innovators.
Image: Unsplash’s Melissa Walker Horn ©unsplash.com