The Importance of Unstructured Work

Many of us are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Reports state that employees are working longer hours than ever before. Before the pandemic, burn out was a buzz word to describe anything from work-related stress to serious mental health issues. Now, a new burn out trend has emerged that’s tied directly to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to FlexJobs, 75 percent of employees have reported feelings of burn out at work, while 40 percent say they’ve experienced these feelings specifically during the pandemic.

It’s no secret that feeling stressed and overwhelmed can have negative impacts on your health and job performance. One of the best ways to relieve those feelings? Unstructured worktime. According to Workfront, this term describes the work that occurs between scheduled meetings and other reoccurring events.

In an unstructured work environment, creativity and innovation reign supreme. During this time, you have the ability to figure out which method of working works best. Just as people have different learning styles, people have different ways of working too. By figuring out what works for you, you can boost your productivity, accomplish more, and alleviate feelings of stress and burnout.

If you’re working from home, every day can feel like an unstructured workday. The trick is to act like you’re in a regular office, having some unstructured time. Here are our “work hacks” for making the most of your time.

  • Schedule it. It seems counter-productive to schedule what is supposed to be unstructured worktime, you’ll be more productive during it knowing you have a whole hour (or however long) to work on whatever you want. The longer the amount of time you have, the greater chance you’ll have of entering a flow state which can boost productivity, create a sense of clarity, and leave you feeling happy.

  • Ask a teammate to join you, virtually or in-person. If you strive on being able to bounce ideas of another person, or being able to talk out your problems, this is key. During the pandemic, many workers are now remote, making it extremely difficult (and unsafe) to work with other people. Setting up a virtual meeting where you and your co-workers can focus on individual work can be a great solution. Having another person there will keep you accountable, and help you form important and necessary bonds, alleviating feelings of isolation.

  • Set mini-goals. Again, it seems counter-intuitive to create tasks for what is supposed to be unstructured time. But if you outline things you would like to accomplish, you will be more likely to stay on task. Instead of trying to finish an entire project, set a goal for yourself to research five sources. You will feel more accomplished by finishing these easy tasks and may feel motivated to continue working on the same project, getting more done than you originally intended.

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