Do you find that – no matter how many years it is since you left school – there’s still a bit of that Back to School feeling in September? Perhaps it’s something that is too deeply ingrained in our psyche to ignore, or maybe it’s related to the sense of the changing seasons.
The net result of this is that many of us feel restless at this time of year, as if we need to make a few changes. And in many ways, September might be a better time to make New Year resolutions than, well, New Year! We hopefully still feel energised from the summer sunshine and maybe a holiday. And the weather is still light and bright enough to enable us to get out and about a bit when not working.
But what about work? Once the dust settles, will it revert back to the same old same old? Or is it worth treating it like a completely new school year and trying to do things differently?
Here are five things that we suggest considering as ways to improve your work life this new “term”.
Connect with other people
Aa we are all aware, the last two years of pandemic restrictions have had a major impact on the way we work. Many people now work remotely for at least part of the time, and consider this to be the new normal. And remote working has many advantages. But one of the downsides is that it can reduce meaningful connection with others. First and foremost, colleagues. But also – particularly important for a digital marketing agency – is that it can reduce the quality of communication you have with clients.
Research shows that human connection improves both productivity and happiness. Which sounds like win-win! So make it a goal to have regular meet ups with both colleagues and clients. Some of these should ideally be face to face, but online is better than nothing at all. The ability to speak to someone in real time, and being able to see their facial and body language reactions, is much more powerful and effective than a constant stream of emails.
As well as strengthening general relationships with colleagues and clients, look out for one special person who you can trust to give you honest feedback and advice. Mentoring is not just for the fiercely ambitious : we all need someone to have our back and help us to see things clearly when we are unable to do so. Even just a listening ear when you are having a bad day can make everything feel better.
Actively look for opportunities to learn
Once you get to the stage where you know your job and are confident you can do it well, there is a tendency to think you don’t need any further training. But make it your mission never to stop learning.
There is always something you can learn to help you improve the way you do your current job. Most people struggle with one or two aspects of their job, for example perhaps a technical or IT skill. It’s easy to get into the frame of mind of just having to put up with this : but what if you could really get to grips with how to do it? How much better would that make your job. Even if you spend a bit of your own time or money to do this, it could be worth it..
But learning should not just be limited to work. If there are things you’ve always wanted to learn – whether it’s to speak another language, play a musical instrument, salsa dancing or a type of cookery – why not just do it? Learning something new can stimulate your mind and this can reap dividends in your work life as well as the actual skill you are learning.
So this September, make time to learn. Many courses and classes are just about to start, so it’s a really good time to seize the day and get enrolled.
Be the change you want to see
Be an enabler not a complainer! There will be things in your company that you think could be better, as well as some you simply don’t like. But just sitting there grumbling about them is not going to change a thing.
Whatever your rank and responsibility in the company, you are just as important as anyone else in helping to change the culture for the better. A few quick examples of this are:
Encourage open communication
Everyone needs to be given the opportunity to speak up. Whether it’s to share new ideas, suggest how things could be done better, or discuss a recent experience they have not been happy with, there needs to be open communication for everyone in order to continue to improve.
Be proud of your life outside work
What is important to you outside work? Perhaps it’s family, a hobby, volunteering or anything else. Some companies have a culture of leaving all traces of life outside work at the door. So perhaps you will be part of the sea change that needs to happen to enable your company to benefit from the amazing wealth of life experience and talent of its employees.
Always celebrate the positive
Whether it’s meeting a target or deadline, a particularly excellent example of work or a personal milestone – celebrate everything and give praise where it’s due.
De-stress not distress
There are times when we all feel busy and stressed at work, and this is to be expected in any thriving digital marketing agency. In fact, there can be something almost exhilarating when your team is up against a deadline and the adrenaline is buzzing.
But it is neither healthy nor productive to operate permanently in this state. So if this is the case, it needs to be addressed.
In our article Work Smarter not Harder we explored ways to organise your time to make your working day as productive as possible. Definitely worth a read, to see what you could do differently from this point forward.
To deal with stress long-term, you need to understand what kind of things stress you, and find ways to tackle the causes rather than just the symptoms. Easier said than done, we know, but it is possible to change things at both work and home, and will be worth it in the long term.
Meanwhile, learn to recognise how your body responds to stress. For some people stress can manifest itself as feelings, for example anxiety, low mood or racing mind; others may have physical symptoms such as pounding heart or buzzing head, nausea or stomach pains, joint pains, skin rashes.
When you feel yourself getting stressed, look for ways to calm things down. For example walking in the fresh air, other forms of exercise, breathing or mindfulness exercises, or a chat with a good friend. Take a look at the NHS website for other useful tips on how to deal with stress.
Take time out
Last but not least, one of the key ways to improve your work life is to set boundaries and take time out from it. Our recent article Is there such a thing as a holiday any more? explored the increasing expectation that employees will be available 24/7, even on holiday, and ways that you can begin to counter this. And it’s just as important to take time out on a regular basis, not just holiday time.
So as from now, start subtly setting boundaries so that you make opportunities to truly escape from work. For example:
- If you are office-based, fight the tyranny of presenteeism. If you need to leave earlier than usual for family or social reasons, and there is no major work emergency happening, don’t feel obliged to stay just because everyone else is. Go when you need to, don’t feel guilty about that, and don’t make excuses.
- Turn your work phone off and stop checking emails between hours of your choice. Not only will this temporary disconnection give you a break, but will also help colleagues to realise they don’t need to be in touch with you all the time; sometimes things can wait.
- Schedule essential personal appointments into your work calendar. Life happens, so tell it like it is. Medical and dental appointments, school events, visits to the vets etc all need to be done. As long as you are delivering your goals, are there for important meetings, keep on top of the daily noise, and regularly make up any time taken during working hours, then why not?
So this September, if you have that Back to School feeling, why not harness it into making some positive changes in your working life. Not only will they help you to enjoy work more, but they could also be a catalyst for changing the culture of your digital marketing agency.