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Tech expert reveals nine ways to make your work-life better

Louise Hall
Data from the Office of National Statistics this week showed we were as a society less well connected with each other: iStock

Do you feel yourself dreading the stress of the next workday before the current one is even over?

A 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association showing that 61% of respondents chose work as their top source of anxiety and more and more of us are becoming more anxious about, and less fulfilled by, our working week.

But don't worry, as nine tips from a brand new book by former tech executive Bruce Daisley Eat Sleep Work Repeat detailed in a post by the Wall Street Journal and supported by experts, is on the market to help you alleviate the stresses of work.

Engage your ‘Monk Mode’

Ever sit down at your desk ready to crack on with work only to be interrupted by an email, pop up or colleague that distracts you from the task at hand? If this is the case implementing a new “deep work” regimen could be the answer.

Writer Cal Newport calls this mental flow “Deep Work,” and says he is seeing more entrepreneurs—especially CEOs of small start-ups—use an hour or two at the start of the day for depth work.

To make the most of the beginning of your day, turn off alerts until mid-morning or set an automatic response to say you won’t be reachable until a certain time so that you can really focus on your work and get a head start on the morning.

Plug yourself in

The ‘headphones in the office’ debate has often been a marmite-like divider between different generations, with older bosses quick to blame younger workers for the normalisation of headphones in working hours.

Critics view them as a distraction from tasks and a barrier to workplace communication. However, Daisley writes that in reality, offices that allow headphones can be considerably more productive—and workers feel happier when they’re able to tune out and get work done.

So if you find yourself having trouble concentrating at work, it’s a perfect excuse to buy those air pods you’ve been eyeing up for the last few months in the name of workplace productivity.

Walk and Talk

Sitting behind desks or in meetings for hours is a proven cause of workplace stagnation. Strategies to get workers on their feet and avoid prolonged sitting have become the norm in recent years, with standing-meetings and desks becoming a regular feature of hip offices.

Eat Sleep Work Repeat advises scrapping the office environment altogether in favor of a “walking meeting” outside to re-energize your body and get creative synapses pinging.

He cites research from Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz from Stanford University, who studied the effect of walking on creativity, and found that 81% of participants saw their scores for giving creative suggestions go up when they were walking rather than sitting.

Schedule ‘Meeting Free’ Days

Research by Alex “Sandy” Pentland, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed actions in offices genuinely lead to breakthroughs in creativity—and even lead to increases in output.

One of Pentland’s discoveries exposes that while meetings contributed about 2% of what got done at work, face-to-face conversation contributed almost 20 times as much.

Pointless meetings can sap energy and destroy productivity, so why not try blocking out a day of your calendar or even a more widespread meeting-free day of the week in your office to minimise time-wasting and maximise creativity.

Ditch PowerPoints

By now we’re all aware of how little your colleagues will read anything you put in front of them if it’s made in one of Microsoft Office’s boring PowerPoint templates, with some having branded it the worst business tool ever created.

The research puts forward the idea of throwing PowerPoints out the window altogether and replacing them with physical resources.

At Amazon, meetings start in silence as each attendee reads a document prepared for subsequent discussion. “We don’t do PowerPoint…presentations at Amazon,” Jeff Bezos proclaimed in a letter to shareholders. “Instead we write narratively structured six-page memos.”

Hit Do Not Disturb on Weekends

We are more connected to the world of work than ever at any given moment thanks to a forever-updating range of modern technology and it can be more than tempting to sign in on the go at weekends to make sure everything’s running ship-shape.

But, the evidence for benefits of being constantly connected isn’t good: Half of all workers who check their email outside work hours show signs of being highly stressed.

Setting strict boundaries with your email in your downtime could be the key to shifting some of your work anxiety.

Stanford Professor John Pencavel found that workers produced more in a 48-hour week than they did in a 56-hour week. By taking more breaks, workers were more productive. So ditching your email for the weekend could actually be better for your output in the long run.

Implement No-phone Zones

While we feel that smartphones allow us to be better connected at all times, if you’re finding yourself distracted at work, the small screen sitting on your desk could be the route of the problem.

One experiment referenced involved getting respondents about to do a test to either place their phones face down in front of them, keep it in their bag, or leave it in a different room. Those who left their devices in another room performed substantially better on the test.

According to the book, having your phone ever-present can cause "brain drain", using up your cognitive function even when you’re trying to convince yourself to ignore that it’s there. Zipping your phone in a bag or a drawer till lunch can help workers overcome the constant mental burden of personal devices.

Grab Coffees with Colleagues

Making connections with colleagues can not only make your workday pass faster but can cause you to feel more fulfilled and happy to be in the office. There has been a greater focus in modern workplaces based on the idea that socialising boosts productivity with a renewed focus on hot-desking and employee satisfaction.

Workplace analytics firm Humanyze found that when colleagues took 15-minute coffee breaks together, team cohesion went up by 18% and the collective productivity of the team rose by almost a quarter.

So why not try getting the kettle on and offering your colleagues a brew: at the end of the day you could learn they are feeling exactly the same about the stresses of work.

Make Light of your Plight

The Wall Street Journal points out Daisley's research on Mark de Rond, an ethnographer who spent six weeks embedded in a field hospital in Afghanistan, saying that despite an onslaught of casualties, there was a morbid humour to the surgery-team dynamic.

Through research, they detail how laughter is a quintessential human signal, and that we can all benefit from trying to make light of our bleak situations in the workplace. By trying to build humorous relationships with colleagues, employees can find themselves feeling more positive and a little less alone.