The pandemic caused a global shift in the way we work. While for many this resulted in more flexibility and a reduction in commuting costs, for others it also adversely affected work-life balance, with office workers reporting a feeling of constantly being online.
While going into the office more frequently allows for some pressure release, the realities of the new working world – tighter meeting slots, an increased focus on mentoring juniors and making the most of in-person time – mean some professionals have to get creative with the way they divide their time.
Despite the recent introduction of the four-day work week as a concept to give people more personal time, could some people be moving towards a seven-day work week instead?
There are significant benefits of reducing the working week for the individual, but some early reports also point to people feeling more pressure to be productive in those four days – the condensing of work means the hours are long, resulting in an increase in anxiety levels.
As a solution, some employees are turning the traditional ‘9-5’ on its head, opting to separate the working week into smaller chunks and perhaps doing some transactional tasks during quiet periods on the weekend. By managing their workload in this way, it allows them to fit things into their schedule that the four- or five- day working week does not.
Take for example a senior associate at a law firm – weekend working can be part of the job, particularly for transactional attorneys. We are seeing increasing numbers of senior associates actively clearing their calendars on Friday afternoons and instead committing to working on Sunday morning during ‘dead time’ –time that they may usually spend waiting for their partner to get up, or when the kids are at a sports club and there’s not much else to do to fill the gap.
By utilising these ‘dead hour’ blocks, it allows a new level of flexibility previously unrealised pre-pandemic. There are more spaces to work outside of the home or office, so with a good set up and personal discipline, dipping in and out of work is achievable.
A key aspect to making this work effectively, however, is setting clear boundaries. Knowing your relationships at work both internally and externally, how deadlines are tracked and managed, and how hours are billed, all factor into this. It is not about working harder or more hours, but making smarter use of time.
Embracing new post-pandemic trends and setting the goal of work-life balance is for some, the route to avoid burnout. We are adjusting to the new normal, which for some has given rise to a new and more constant intensity. Working smarter, not harder, seems to be the way to win.