What the ideal workday looks like is different for everyone, but most of us want to be able to control our work environment. Some people thrive on nontraditional hours or shift work. Others are most productive at home where they don’t have to deal with a stressful commute. And many people enjoy the traditional office environment where they get to interact with their colleagues face-to-face.
The pandemic affected most of us in the financial planning community. We built home offices, learned new communication tools, and met with clients remotely. Even though things are slowly returning to “normal,” many people are embracing new workplace norms like WFH and flexible scheduling. Whether you are planning to return to the office or not, it’s worth taking the time to figure out how to build an environment where you do your best work.
Reassessing Your Needs
In a lot of ways, we have more freedom to control our work days than ever before. Between Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other internet communication tools, it’s easier for many of us to work from home, set nontraditional hours, and meet with clients outside of our geographical location. Of course, we all know that some of our firms and employers have been slow to adapt to these changes — or the transition during the pandemic lockdowns led to a remote work mess.
But I think we’re all seeing a shift in how we work after the last two years, and I think it’s a good idea to reassess your work schedule to see what actually works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes life forces that reassessment — my workdays have changed significantly since I had my second kid, for example. But having a baby isn’t the only reason to make a change to your workday.
Building Your Ideal Workday
Maybe you’re studying for the CFP® Board exam and need to cut back your hours temporarily. Or you have a family commitment that rules out a strict 8:00 to 5:00 workday.
You might have realized that you’re much more productive when working from home. Or maybe it’s the opposite and you can’t wait to get back to the office! The key is to figure out what your ideal workday looks like.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
- What are the big things I want to accomplish?
- How much time do I have to accomplish them?
- What work environment helps me be most productive?
- When during the day do I do my best work?
Of course, there are other questions you can ask yourself, too. The point is to really think about how you can optimize your work schedule and environment to give yourself the right conditions to accomplish your goals.
Making It Happen
It’s easier to customize your workday if you are self-employed. But what about if you work for someone else? How do you go about making the changes you need to optimize your work environment?
I find that it’s always best to start with a conversation. Schedule a meeting with your boss so that you have time to prepare first. Then, think about how to make your case in a persuasive way. Frame your request to show your boss why it would be better for them.
For example, you might want to focus on productivity — something that’s a top concern for most managers. You know what conditions are best for you to be most productive, so start the conversation there. Work together to find a solution that satisfies you and your boss. If you’re willing to compromise on a few things, know what they are before you start negotiating.
Finally, be honest with yourself. Know what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do. Are you willing to agree to one day a week in the office instead of full-time WFH? Or do you need complete flexibility so much that you’re willing to look for a new job? Make sure you have this figured out before you start talking with your boss.
Putting Yourself First
It may not always be possible for us to have completely ideal work conditions. Unexpected things derail the best-laid plans, and we need to be able to roll with the punches sometimes. But we should also be willing to reassess our workdays and make changes to be happier and more productive.
The details of your ideal workday will probably change throughout your career. Taking the time to figure out a better plan can turn a frustrating work environment into a pleasant and productive one. And less stress at work can improve your mental and physical health outside the office too. It’s always worth it to advocate for yourself.
What does your ideal workday look like? Do you have tips for talking to your boss about making changes? I’d love to hear your stories and tips in the comments!
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