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Book Summary: Workstyle – A revolution for wellbeing, productivity and society

Workstyle: A revolution for wellbeing, productivity and society (2022) introduces the concept of workstyle: the freedom to choose when and where we work. By examining the outdated history of the standard 9 to 5 working week in the light of the modern digital age, the authors lay the foundation for an individualized and autonomous way of working.

Book Summary: Workstyle - A revolution for wellbeing, productivity and society

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction: Join the workstyle revolution and create a brighter future.
Workstyle – the idea
Workstyle helps you be well
Workstyle helps you work better
Workstyle helps you do good
Final summary: Workstyle can change the world
About the author
Overview
Video and Podcast

Genres

Productivity, Corporate Culture, Career Success, Vocational Guidance, Career Guides

Introduction: Join the workstyle revolution and create a brighter future.

Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst created the word workstyle in 2015. They wanted to give everyone the freedom to choose when and where they work, and they started a company called Hoxby to make it happen. Hoxby delivers projects for some of the biggest businesses in the world and has helped more than 2,500 people to set, project and respect their own workstyles. Later, after the pandemic, people wanted to learn about how the authors worked. Seeing the opportunity, Penny and Hirst decided to write Workstyle. A revolution for wellbeing, productivity and society.

It starts with the assumption that the 9 to 5 working day is a relic of the industrial revolution – now more than 200 years old. Even the more recent so-called “flexible” working hours are based around this archaic working structure. In this digital age, with changing global attitudes to work and an aging demographic, we need to move past these centuries-old habits. It’s time for a change.

Workstyle rewards workers for the output they produce – not the hours they record at their desk. It’s grounded in the principles of asynchronous work, a digital-first focus, and trust-based working environments. The autonomy of workstyle can be transformative for many people, but in particular for those groups excluded by the traditional way of working: older workers, parents, carers, those living with a disability, suffering from a chronic illness or mental health challenges, or those who are neurodivergent.

Workstyle – the idea

Work is an integral part of life. For most of us, it takes up about a third of our time, and forms a pretty significant part of our identity. But the way most of us work – sitting in an office morning ’til evening, interacting with the same coworkers – is based on an age-old tradition. It came into existence with the industrial revolution about 200 years ago. The truth is, this way of working is outdated and unnecessary.

An aging workforce, recent technological advances, and a shift towards more independent working has set the scene for us to fundamentally change the way we think about work. This is where workstyle comes in.

Just like your lifestyle refers to the way you live your life, your workstyle is the freedom to choose when and where you work. It’s based on three principles.

  • Firstly, asynchronous working. This basically means that you do not have to be working at the same time as your colleagues. Maybe you stop working just as your colleague on the other side of the planet wakes up to pick up where you left off.
  • This is made possible by the second principle: digital-first. Everybody works with a computer these days, Wi-Fi is ubiquitous, and recent events have shown that a lot of our work can exist in a digital space. Software like Slack can be our office space. Let’s embrace it.
  • Finally, workstyle relies on a trust-based environment. You need to believe that your coworkers are going to deliver without a boss looking over their shoulder.

Working the workstyle way results in an exciting shift in focus when compared to traditional work. It takes the power to dictate the working day away from the companies and puts it in the hands of the people.

Instead of measuring an employee’s value by the hours they spend in their seat, in front of their computer, it becomes about the outputs they produce, regardless of when or where they do the work. Without the need to share hours and locations with coworkers, people have the freedom to work in the ways that work for them. This idea of autonomy has huge implications for the nature and impact of the work we do.

In the following sections you will see just how much workstyle can improve your wellbeing, and in turn your productivity. But first you need to prepare for the fundamental shift in understanding that workstyle requires.

Say the word “workstyle” out loud to yourself, or perhaps the cat. How does it feel? Let yourself imagine a world where that word is commonly understood by those around you. Then, describe your current workstyle, starting with “my workstyle is …”. Think about the days and hours you work, when you take breaks and holidays, and the aspects of your life that you fit your work around – picking up kids, chores, hobbies. Chances are you don’t have much control over the specifics of your current workstyle. That’s why it’s time to take a look at the benefits of a world where you do.

Workstyle helps you be well

Imagine you are visited by a curious alien who asks you to explain your average workday. If you are like a large portion of the working populations, you would tell them that you force yourself awake with a loud beeping before the sun has come up, then leave your warm house and loved ones to sit on a crowded train which will take you to an artificially lit office building where you will sit relatively still for the next ten hours while using your phone and laptop to interact with others who aren’t even in the same location as you. When the natural light outside is nearly gone, you leave this building, return home to spend a few short hours with your family, then go to bed so you can wake up and do it all again.

Shocked, and maybe a little confused, the alien may ask you: is it good for you? Take a moment to think about your answer.

The research shows that work has a huge influence on our wellbeing. There are nearly one billion people living with mental health disorders, and work is a major contributor. What can workstyle do to change this?

Quite a lot, actually. The freedom to customize and fit your work to your needs removes the pressure to conform. This leaves you to live and work as your authentic self, improving both confidence and satisfaction.

Creating your own workstyle allows you to set boundaries in your life, which lets you focus on letting in the aspects of work that give you positive energy. The beauty of this is that it allows you to shape your schedule around things that are important for you. This means you can live a healthier lifestyle. Maybe you want to prepare a nice meal instead of grabbing a sandwich on the run. Or perhaps you’d prefer to go for a morning jog before getting down to work. Workstyle lets you work in the way that is best for you.

Workstyle puts you in charge of your own life. Because you aren’t trapped by the conventional “when” and “where” of a 9 to 5 job, you are free to do more of the things you love. You can choose to work in a way which fulfills your own sense of purpose.

An example of this is the ability to change your work to fit the different phases of your life. Whether you’re moving house, recovering from an illness, or having a child, workstyle will always protect your ability to stick to your purpose in life. And this means that you can live a life full of work that you can be proud of. You can stop living your life to fill out a CV, focusing on achievements and promotions. You can start thinking of the legacy you will leave behind.

A key part of living your life the way you want is having the freedom to develop and grow in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling. The opportunity to learn is a huge factor in work satisfaction, and the lack of it is a major factor in leaving a job. But even so, companies usually only offer learning opportunities related to the values of the business. What if we had the freedom to choose how and what we learn?

Being confined to an office severely limits the variety of perspectives we’re exposed to. The digital-first nature of workstyle means you don’t have to be restricted to only connecting with those who are physically there. It opens up the opportunity to interact with and learn from people all over the world, on topics that are meaningful to you.

Just like we work in different ways, we also learn in different ways. Do you take in more information in a crowded lecture hall, studying quietly by yourself, or simply watching a 15-minute TED talk? Workstyle lets you build your schedule around fitting in whatever method of learning works for you.

But it is important to remember that workstyle is built on accountability. It is up to the individual workstyler to decide when and how they work, and this freedom extends to learning. If no one is going to be telling you what you need to do, you have to be purposeful in designing and enabling your own growth.

Being in charge of your own work, life, and learning means the burden is on you to set and meet goals, book classes, and plan the direction of your development. Like a sunflower that knows to face the sun, you can grow in a way that is purposeful and meaningful to you.

You can start using these workstyle principles to improve your physical and mental health right now! First, identify areas where you think work is getting in the way of your wellbeing. Then ask yourself, does it have to be this way? Book yourself a mid-morning exercise class during a working day, and see what effect it has on your mood and energy levels. Try scheduling more activities throughout the day which fill you with positivity. You’d be surprised what adding a little variety to your working day can do for your health.

Now that it’s clear that workstyle can greatly improve your wellbeing, it’s time to have a look at how it can improve what is essentially at the core of any successful career: productivity.

Workstyle helps you work better

When are you most productive? Maybe you’re a morning person who gets everything done before the rest of the house is awake. Or maybe you can’t really get going until you’ve done a morning exercise and finished some small tasks, getting in front of your computer a bit before lunch. Productivity is a personal thing. Everyone works differently. So, why should we be content with a system of work that lumps everybody in together?

Being productive is all about energy – where you get it from and where you channel it. Over a 24-hour period, our energy levels naturally rise and fall. This is a result of our personal circadian rhythm which regulates our body temperature – and consequently when we are most productive.

Having predefined work hours places importance on being present rather than productive. What’s the point of working from 9 to 5 if you’re only doing your best work for the first or last couple of hours? Workstyle lets the night owls and early birds do their thing when their energy levels are at their optimum, resulting in increased productivity across the board.

Being in control of how and when you deliver your work allows for a level of clarity and dedication that the traditional working week just doesn’t permit. When you know what works best for you, you can do the best for your work.

Do you do your best work around other people, bouncing ideas back and forth? Great! Or do you prefer to get into the zone by putting on your favorite playlist and hunkering down in your room? Also great. Workstyle gives you the freedom to find your groove and focus on the task at hand.

Finding this clarity also means giving yourself the space to tune out and let your mind wander. A lot of people find themselves coming up with new ideas or solving problems while doing household chores like folding the laundry. It’s said that over 70% of people have their most creative ideas in the shower. By controlling your environment and incorporating these kinds of activities into your workstyle, you can optimize your productivity.

Another way workstyle improves productivity is through trust. The truth is, we are more trusting than ever these days. Twenty years ago, it would have been unimaginable to let a stranger stay in your house, or jump into a car with a man you’ve never met, but this is exactly what companies like Airbnb and Uber allow and encourage us to do.

There’s no reason to think that this same level of trust can’t exist between coworkers. This heightened sense of trust actually empowers workers and increases productivity. Because with workstyle, accountability is key. If there is an expected output due at a certain time, it’s the responsibility of everyone involved to make sure that it is delivered. This puts the focus on the work produced rather than the hours recorded.

This implicit trust increases the opportunity for collaboration and cooperation. Different workstyles can mesh, complimenting each other. Imagine finishing your part of a project at the end of your workstyle day, and sending it to a colleague on the other side of the world just as she is starting her day. Now that’s efficiency!

You can already start bringing this kind of trust into your working life. Reflect on how trust and accountability exist in your company. Next time you find yourself introducing a new project, or managing a team, try giving some freedom for when and where the work is delivered. You may be surprised to find how much this increases productivity, by empowering workers to think for themselves and focus on the outputs. Just make sure you lead by example, and take accountability for your own work.

Now that you see the benefits workstyle has for productivity, it’s time to think bigger. Can workstyle improve society as a whole, and change the world?

Workstyle helps you do good

Let yourself imagine a world where workstyle is the norm. You set up your computer at the local café after completing your exercise and chores for the morning, knowing that the next few hours will be your most productive. Maybe you schedule a meeting with your colleague from Australia, who’s just put their kids to bed. You reply to a few messages from your Argentinian colleague for them to read in a couple of hours.

Hopefully you can already see how this kind of workstyle can benefit your wellbeing, and consequently your productivity. But it’s important to realize that the implications don’t stop at the individual. Workstyle can have a lasting positive impact on society as a whole.

At the moment, there are many groups of people who are excluded from the traditional 9 to 5 working day. These could be individuals living with physical or mental disabilities, those with chronic illness, the aging population, or busy parents.

Think of the autistic person who has trouble working in a crowded office, or the wheelchair user who finds the daily commute a battle. Imagine the amount of talent that could be accessed if these meaningless barriers were removed.

Discrimination at work is also a major problem that can be addressed by workstyle. Despite recent social progress, discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexuality and much more is tragically common. The asynchronous, individualized nature of workstyle means that workers are empowered to keep or share details of themselves as they see fit. When we’re not in the same room, it’s easier to talk to people as individuals, rather than making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. This would go a long way to eliminating descrimination in the workforce, and making sure everyone can work together.

Finally, working in a workstyle way creates a collective intelligence that could potentially solve the world’s most complex problems. It’s no secret that humanity is facing some major challenges, on a global scale. Humans have a tendency to group into like-minded tribes, which is seen pretty clearly in current recruitment processes – organizations value “fitting” with the company culture over diversity.

Workstyle enables and encourages more diversity, and creates an environment where these diverse minds can work together. In these conditions, it is safe for individuals to challenge the status quo, and take more risks when solving complex problems. It’s been shown that arguing about how to solve a problem in a cooperative team leads to greater work outcomes and financial performance for companies.

And the benefits of this extend beyond helping organizations. Large-scale human collaboration is already solving some of the world’s most common problems. For example, the navigation app Waze is crowdsourcing information on road accidents, hazards or speed traps to reduce traffic; and the Breadline app lets people report leftover bread at bakeries, helping food be redistributed to those who need it.

Workstyle brings more people together, and gives them the opportunity to solve problems in ways that traditional work structures just don’t allow. By opening things up to more of the world’s brains, workstyle can have a huge impact on areas such as health and wellbeing, gender equality, and economic growth.

Final summary: Workstyle can change the world

What we think of as “normal” for our work doesn’t have to be like this. We are currently in a better position than ever to improve our well-being and productivity by embracing the digital-first, asynchronous, trust-based principles of workstyle.

Workstyle can give us the opportunity and attitude to work together and become more than the sum of our parts. But just like any revolution, it needs support and momentum. That’s where you come in. Just by listening to this Blink you have taken the first step towards changing the world. Now you need to keep it going.

Be aware of your own workstyle. Let people know about it, and make sure it is respected. Encourage others to create their own, and get conversations going amongst your friends and in your workplace. Workstyle improves your wellbeing. Wellbeing improves productivity. And the inclusion Workstyle creates can change the world.

And here’s some more actionable advice: Create your own workstyle plan.

Create a document clearly and specifically outlining your personal workstyle. Take into account when you are at your highest and lowest energy throughout the day. Note what kinds of people and environments you are most productive and happy around. Dedicate space for non work related activities, such as exercise and family time and then fit your workstyle around them. When you have your completed workstyle document, compare it to what your actual working week looks like. What can you do to make it more in-line with your ideal workstyle? Encourage your friends and coworkers to do the same, and help build the momentum of the workstyle revolution.

About the author

Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst are friends, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. Lizzie has three young children, lives in Bristol, and has recently recovered from breast cancer. Alex suffered from debilitating burnout, before starting a family and leaving London for a village in rural Oxfordshire. Together they came up with the concept of workstyle (in the pub) in response to their negative experiences of a 9-5 traditional working week. Workstyle is a new word to describe the complete freedom to choose when and where you work.

They co-founded now multi-million pound social enterprise Hoxby in 2014 to test and prove the concept of workstyle and have since helped thousands of workstylers around the world to set, project and respect their own workstyles. They have set up their own longitudinal research study into the link between autonomy, productivity and wellbeing and have delivered projects for some of the biggest businesses in the world including Unilever, Amazon, AIA, and Merck. Forbes.com have described them as ‘creating the freelance revolution 3.0’ and they have been featured in the FT, Times, Telegraph, Stylist, Marie Claire, Metro and The Guardian, among others.

Between them they have been shortlisted for awards by the Institute of Directors, Social Enterprise UK, the RSA and the National Business Women’s Awards as well as being awarded ‘Top 50 advocates for equality in Marketing & Media’ by DIMA, and the #WorkThatWorks Award at the Women In Marketing awards. Everything they do is in pursuit of having a positive impact on the world through changing the way people work.

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Workstyle Revolution: Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst

Overview

Workstyle is the freedom to choose when and where you work. It is only now, after centuries of formal and inflexible working hours, that such an opportunity is on the horizon. It is an opportunity that will have far reaching and profoundly positive implications, levelling the playing field and helping to create true inclusivity and accessibility in our society.

This inspiring book will explain the history of work, where the 9-5 came from, and why the time is right for change. You’ll learn how workstyle differs from flexible, hybrid, or remote working, and why it matters. Most importantly, you’ll explore and design your own workstyle, by reflecting on the things that matter to you, acting to change your life and inspiring others to do the same, all underpinned by research that proves that this is a better way to work for us all.

This book is for everyone who has had to take a day off work to receive a delivery or go to a doctor’s appointment. It is for anyone who has caring responsibilities, for parents, for those with illnesses, with mental health issues, who feel burnt out, or who are living with disabilities. It is for those who are older, who identify as neurodiverse or who consider themselves different in any way. It is for people who feel disenchanted with work and want to live a meaningful, fulfilled life. It is for anyone who questions why they need to commute to an office to be productive. It is for every person who has a life outside of work.

This book is for everyone. This book is for you!

Video and Podcast