Human Behaviour: Social Norms

The modern workplace has an old and obsolete indicator that is still followed: time-based work measurement. Longer hours still means better work and more dedication.

Work From Home has introduced flexi-hours for many of us, and people are working close to 14 hours a day over the laptop or phone.

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Time Management

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We are biased towards the present moment, even though we don’t like being in the present. We will prefer 100 dollars right now than 200 dollars after a year. In our work environment, present work (like a phone call) seems urgent, even though it may not be important.

To escape from the present bias, we need to commit to our future self and set up devices that force us somehow to complete important work, not getting caught up in overdoing the present moment.

The Myth Of  Work-Life Balance

We are too flawed to manage our own schedule, predictably irrational and consistently bad at making good decisions.

There are three reasons why we behave this way:

  1. Present Bias
  2. The Planning Fallacy
  3. Social Norms.

In our pursuit of balancing our personal life and work, we often feel guilty about working past the Monday to Friday routine, but technology and Work From Home policies have made it more prevalent. Many studies show that knowledge workers who are provided flexible schedules are more productive simply because they work more hours.

With a flexible schedule, there is always more to do and nothing to signal that you’re done, because of a lack of visual cues. Sending an email at ungodly hours only adds to the cognitive load of the recipients.

For a potential solution, perhaps a good place to start is creating a work culture that discourages work email and communication in the evenings and on weekends so that even flexible work has some boundaries.

We are bad at estimating the time it will take to accomplish a task, as we don’t take into account our distractions, procrastination, emergencies or delays.

To counter the planning fallacy, we need to assign blocks of time which are called ‘slacks’ by behavioural scientists that act as buffer time between the scheduled tasks. Several hours of slack time added will ensure that the work is done even if it spills over the scheduled time.

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