A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by London-based writer Gemma Askham about the perfect work day schedule.
I enjoyed the questions that she asked and thought that you might want to know what those were – along with the answers that I gave. You can read Part 1 here.
And now, here are her final two interview questions, along with my answers:
- When is the best time/s to have a break/gossip with colleagues, and why? What are the benefits of this break? Can it ever be unhelpful?
Break times are absolutely necessary. The brain is not designed to function at 100% capacity for an entire work day. Break time allows the brain to recharge for at least few minutes before hitting the grind again. Brains love hydration and walking, so drinking water and going for a walk make for great break time activities. For extroverts, if you can do this with a colleague or two, you can also feed your need for socialization. If you’re an introvert, you’ll probably want to be on your own during your break.
Forward-thinking companies offer both group and individual break areas. Employees can choose to gather together to horse around and cut loose, or head to a quiet room for meditation, reading or napping.
As for the best times, since everyone has a different work style, there is no perfect time. There are pros and cons to scheduling company-wide breaks. If you schedule a break for the last 10 minutes of each hour, some people might be right in the groove of a workflow, and that would completely interrupt their productivity. On the other hand, having that set time gives everyone a goal to work toward. You can cut back on procrastination and interruptions because everyone knows they need to finish the next set of work by break time, and they can ask so-and-so a question during that break. If your company does not schedule company-wide breaks, you have the option of deciding on your break times individually or with your group of peeps, so you can still reap the same break time benefits.
- Is there a time of day when you should mentally impose a complete work cut-off? So, from that point onwards, no looking at work emails etc. What are the advantages of this?
The advantage of setting your work hours is that you allow yourself to focus on work during work time and your personal life during personal time. If your brain is in work mode around the clock, it becomes difficult to focus on other priorities, such as your spouse or children or other family members and friends. That will definitely put cracks in relationships. During my client sessions, we figure out their optimal work times – which may or may not be in long blocks. Some folks have no choice in their schedule, so we optimize their work habits during that time frame. For those with flexibility, we look at whether working during the “standard work day” is best, or if their work hours should be divided up throughout the day, for example from 9:00 – 12:00, 1:00 – 4:00, and 8:00 – 10:00.
No matter what your work schedule is, it’s important to set your cut-off time so that you can rejuvenate on a daily basis. This helps prevent burnout and also allows for more creativity and better problem-solving with a fresh brain. Additionally, you’ll want to share your work hours with your clients and colleagues so that you’ve clarified your response times, and you won’t have to worry about answering emails around the clock.
In conclusion, does a perfect work day schedule exist? Nope.
The only schedule that’s perfect is the one that works for you. And even that will need to morph on an almost-daily basis if you work with technology or humans or both.
If you need guidance on how to figure out what your perfect work day schedule might look like – and how to adjust is as necessary – check out Part 2, “Implement Structure and Flow,” in my book, The Inefficiency Assassin.