Flexible working: the five core principles to help you master ‘work-life blend’

Flexible working: the 5 core principles to help you master a ‘work-life blend’

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The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we work, possibly forever. Entrepreneur, marketing expert and podcast host, Amanda Perry shares her five core principles for mastering a ‘work-life blend’ that actually works for you.

According to data from business support platform Rovva, only 5% of us worked from home before the pandemic, compared to over 50% now. And it felt like a steep learning curve for most at the time.

However, over 18 months after we first went into lockdown, many people have discovered new, better and more productive routines which have changed the ways they want to work in the future.

Rovva’s research found that being able to fit a role around their lifestyle is the top priority for the UK workforce, whether that’s having the option to run an extra side hustle or head to the gym when it’s less crowded.

Interestingly, 34% of people also said the flexibility to choose their working hours makes them more productive because they can specify the times of the day and week that best fit with their concentration levels and workload.

But what does the future of flexible working actually look like? And how can we make sure that we’re getting the best out of it?

Should we ditch work-life balance?

Entrepreneur, marketing expert and podcast host Amanda Perry says the answer actually lies in ditching the popular concept of ‘work-life balance’.

“The term ‘work-life balance’ was introduced in the 1980s, at a time when the expectation of many employers was that you should be at your desk until 10pm, and the term ‘last man standing’ was often used to celebrate work ethic and commitment to the role. Then along came ‘work-life balance’ as a way to encourage more people out of the door at 5pm,” she tells Stylist.

While this might sound positive, Perry says that the expectation became that you’d be “happy, healthy and fulfilled with just 5pm to 9pm Monday to Friday and the weekends to yourself.” And she doesn’t believe that this scheduled restpite is enough for the modern worker.

“I believe change is needed,” she says. “Hustle culture has promoted a toxic approach to work and inspired a whole generation to spend every waking minute being ‘productive’ or risking the chance of missing out on the mythical rewards that await them somewhere along the path to burnout.”

Instead, she posits the idea of “work-life blend”, which she describes as a more intentional integration between life and work.

Here, she shares with us her five core principles to mastering a work-life blend – and how to make your work schedule really work for you. 

Five core principles of work-life blend

1. Start with the end in mind

Perry advises taking time to think about what you want your life to look like. “Starting with the vision and purpose for your life means that you always have a filter to run decisions through. Ask yourself questions like: “Do I want to start this business? Should I take the promotion at work? Am I going to relocate for that opportunity?”

Consider the decisions that you make in line with your overall vision and the answer becomes so much clearer. This will then help you through the days that feel chaotic and that you’re less in control. It’s not realistic to think that you can find a happy blend every day, but when you know the destination, the journey becomes much easier to navigate.”

2. Prioritise the important stuff

“This is a really crucial lesson – learn the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent, what’s for you and what’s for someone else,” Perry explains.

“There’s no doubting that sometimes you have to pick up an urgent task and know that it’s ok to do that, but make sure that you try and lead with the important things the rest of the time. This will look different to every person, but it might be time with your family and friends or just some alone time and self-care; know the importance of leading with these things and making everything else fit around.”

3. Plan your week ahead

You’ve probably heard this before, but planning really is everything. Perry says that this doesn’t make you boring or mean that you can’t be spontaneous. “Taking time out to plan your week ahead makes it so much easier to find the blend.

Get those important things booked in and then you can fit work commitments, tasks and goals around it. It’s amazing what you can fit into a week when you challenge the typical structure. Don’t assume that you can only do work in that 9 to 5 window but, equally, don’t beat yourself up assuming that working past 5pm means that you’re pulling an all-nighter. When you’ve highlighted those important things to you and made time for them, you’re going to be much happier and way more fulfilled when it comes to making the rest work too.”

4. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is extremely important, but has become increasingly difficult throughout lockdown where the line between work and home has blurred.

“We all know how easy it is to give ourselves a hard time or push ourselves that little bit further, but set some boundaries that force you out of these habits,” Perry advises.

“Unless you’ve planned a late-night writing session because that’s when you’re most creative, don’t allow work to creep into your 10-11pm timeslot. Ask someone to keep you accountable, whether a friend, partner or family member, and get them to help you gain that consistency with boundary setting.”

You’ll actually become more productive that way, and less likely to exhaust yourself and burn out. 

5. Practise, practise, practise

“We’ve been conditioned to work 9-5 for decades so it’s going to take a bit of time to re-adjust,” says Perry. She advises starting with small changes that make your life a little bit easier, and building from there.

“If you run your own business, exercise your freedom and work out how little changes here and there can ease the pressure that you put on yourself every day. If you’re employed, explore how a change in working patterns might realistically work for you and your team.”

However, she stresses that there’s no one-size-fits all. “This is a practice and needs to be constantly tweaked and reassessed so take time to acknowledge what is working for you, and what isn’t – and tweak it accordingly. But that’s the beauty of it; having a more intentional integration of work and life is going to help you get more out of your every day.”

Amanda Perry runs SOUP agency, a digital marketing agency that helps ecommerce brands supercharge their budgets. She shares daily business tips and insight over on her Instagram account @amandaperry, and delves into her 15 years’ digital marketing experience on The Amanda Perry Podcast. She’s also recently launched the Work Life Blend podcast, where she speaks to leading entrepreneurs about creating a life they love. 

If adapting to the new world of work is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues while working from home and the stress of relying on technology to struggles with concentration, confidence and setting boundaries, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.

So, what can we do about it? We’ve got a plan.

Stylist’s Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health at work. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of work-related wellbeing, whether you’re working from home, adopting a hybrid arrangement or planning on going back to the office full-time.

For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.

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