We were so sure that over a decade of sitting at a classroom desk from 8am to 2pm, five days a week, would prepare us for a full-time job. Boy, were we wrong.
Transitioning into a full-fledged 9-to-6 job is a huge leap. From here on out, we're officially adults. Honestly, it's frightening, and being written off as lazy, unfocused and disrespectful isn't very helpful. We don't want to end up like the 45% of Singaporeans unhappy at work.
From one millennial to another, here are three neat tricks on how to make your five-day week at work more manageable and enjoyable.
1. Staying awake at work is possible.
Dragging ourselves away from the comfort of soft sheets is undoubtedly the most difficult task of the day. We all hate it. We wish we could hit snooze for the sixth time, but know that another 5 minutes in bed would result in an earful from the boss for being tardy. Even after reaching the office, it normally takes an additional hour for our brains to boot up.
Clocking in an average of 6 hours and 32 minutes of sleep a night, Singapore is one of the most sleep-deprived nations in the world. 4 out of 10 Singaporeans admit to not getting enough sleep on weekdays. It’s no wonder we feel so sluggish throughout the week.
But that’s fine. We’ll just make up for the lost hours over the weekend. Easy fix.
Think again. Experts have found that crashing on weekends after continuously working late nights only conditions our bodies to sleep late and wake up late. From this comes ‘social jet lag’ – decreased mental clarity and increased reliance on substances like caffeine and nicotine to stay awake.
By setting a fixed bedtime, you can wake up to your alarm without feeling like a zombie.
Funnily, although we claim to crave sleep, we don’t actually like to do it. Even if we can go to bed early, most of us opt to spend that additional hour on YouTube or Facebook instead. We’ve grown up not realising the full harm of sleep deprivation.
The solution is simple – and yes, it can be done without nixing your social life completely. All it takes is a change in mindset, and recognising the importance of getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
By setting a fixed bedtime, you can wake up to your alarm without feeling like a zombie. You can function better at work, remaining alert and energised. You can make the most of your 8-hour workday and leave on time with peace of mind.
Wanting to sleep doesn't make you weak. On the contrary, it can only help to improve your week.
2. Turn your multitasking into productivity.
Most of us spend the workday at a desk in close proximity to our colleagues – and sometimes the boss. To us millennials, whose attention span has shrunk to a meagre 8 seconds, being confined in a box with eyes constantly on you is like modern-day torture.
Moreover, resisting the urge to open another browser tab or unlock our smartphones is tough when devices have become such an integral part of the way we work. All the distractions are right there, and you haven’t even left your desk yet.
Having grown up in the digital age where everything is so fast-paced, multitasking has become so natural to us millennials. This might be why older generations sometimes accuse us of being ‘unfocused’ and, hence, ‘unproductive’.
Yes, you can listen to your favourite Spotify playlist while writing a report. But playing Tetris while on a client call? Don’t do that.
Is it true that, in order to have purpose and be productive, we have to resign ourselves to the same, mundane routine every day for the rest of our lives?
Now, hold your horses. While concentrating on one task at a time is ideal, multitasking isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, when handled right, certain distractions can actually increase your productivity.
Multitasking gets a bad rap because studies have shown that task-switching lowers productivity by 40%. However, this only applies to tasks that tax the same parts of your brain. So yes, you can brainstorm ideas while filing documents. You can listen to your favourite Spotify playlist while writing a report. But playing Tetris while on a client call? That’s not advised. Don’t do that.
In fact, switching tasks after hours of ‘monotasking’ can lead to positive results. Eventually, the part of your brain you’ve been pulling ideas from is going to be empty. Breaking away from the same line of thinking opens you up to new solutions you haven't considered.
The next time your manager catches you scrolling through Instagram, tell them: "I'm sourcing for inspiration!"
3. Build valuable relationships at the workplace.
Entering the workforce and encountering lots of unfamiliar faces can be daunting. If we’re going to spend the majority of our week at work, we want to feel at ease. We don’t want to dread coming to work because we’d rather be hanging out with our friends.
Would having friends at work make things more bearable? Nearly three quarters of millennials hope to find a ‘second family’ in their workplaces. Our very empathetic generation wants to be able to freely tell colleagues about our weekend or last night’s family reunion. It has been noted that connected workplaces are more efficient, more productive and happier overall.
Building a good relationship with senior colleagues can also make work less stressful.
But getting to this point is easier said than done. Engaging with a colleague around your age might be easy enough. However, when you’re a small fry, connecting with someone more senior in age and status can be intimidating. Just where do you start?
Perhaps your older coworkers come across as cold and aloof because they grew up on a different set of acceptable workplace practices. Maybe they believe that oversharing blurs the lines between personal and professional, and creates unnecessary distractions that stifle productivity. Whatever the reason, you won’t know unless you try engaging them. Despite the differences in age, there’s bound to be some common ground.
Building a good relationship with senior colleagues can also make work less stressful. Their wealth of knowledge is a lifeboat that can save you from drowning in problems you can't yet solve because of your inexperience.
To all you fresh beans setting foot into the working world: it really isn't as bleak as you think. Your first job may not be perfect, but with the right mindset and a few new habits, you might find yourself growing faster than you ever imagined.