Get to know the managing director of PEP Worldwide
How to take back control of your time and life, according to PEP’s Mike Burke
The topic of work-life balance has been an ongoing debate for the last decade. However, with the onset of the pandemic around three years ago, the discussion moved mainstream. As millions were cooped inside, conducting work meetings on Zoom in pyjamas – the line between work and life blurred further. Against the backdrop, the global economy faced uncertainties unprecedented in this lifetime, and the mental health crisis worsened.
No one was more aware of these existing trends than Mike Burke.
Managing director of PEPworldwide: NZ, Burke has over 20 years of professional experience under his belt, from strategy, management, sales, marketing, value creation, delivery and financial operations. He has gathered experience and expertise, working with some of New Zealand’s most prominent businesses, and has gained most of his understanding of businesses and most promising practices through experience.
For Burke, there are quite a number of themes affecting our workplace today – an obvious one being the pandemic.
“The worldwide pandemic has been a significant transition, but what we need to understand is that these macro trends were happening. What COVID did was that it really accelerated the adoption of these trends.”
When speaking on other major themes affecting our workspace, Burke points to the younger generation and technology. “By 2025, 75% of the workplace will be millennial or younger, and that’s two years away,” explains Burke. “So you've got this generational shift with the majority of the workplace, of people who went to school with the internet and have a fundamentally different way of looking at loyalty and community.”
A PwC report published in July of 2020 coined the dramatic shift the “Millennial moment,” stating that “Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation ever seen in the western world. The oldest of the group are nearing 40 and beginning to progress into leadership roles. Their presence is ubiquitous: Since 2016, there have been more Millennials in the workforce than any other generation ….”
With this, it will and already has huge implications for organisations. “How millennials view purpose over a paycheck is vastly different,” explains Burke. “When they're looking for organizations they want to work for, they've got to be purpose-driven versus something that is just going to be a job. How people communicate and how they like to be shown value as radically different,” he adds.
Indeed, with the rise of what’s now termed as “quiet quitting” and “the great resignation,” views and attitudes toward work and the role in which younger generations want work to play in their lives are being transformed. And organisations on the lookout for a limited pool of talent are being forced to reckon with these shifts.
“Another macro trend that we're finding is technological,” continues Burke.
“In the 70s, 80s and 90s, how you resource your work was someone would drop off an envelope with his paper and put it into your tray. Once you were done, you would then take it out of your tray for the next person to work on that document. In the late 90s early 2000s, those trays got replaced by boxes, you would receive your document via your inbox. And then, you would work on your document. Now, we're in an evolutionary period where cloud is king. You don't receive documents, you receive links.”
A double-edged sword
Despite the rise of software, features and tools that have all been designed to maximise our productivity and help us organise every aspect of our lives, many of us are feeling more out of control than ever before.
“We've got all these things that are supposed to make us more productive. So with all these tools, why are we so stressed? Why do I feel less in control? Why am I feeling more frustrated that people aren't coming back to me faster – as technology increases, people are getting more out of touch,” explains Burke
Ultimately “the environment you surround yourself with determines the default actions that you take on a day-to-day basis, which is good news because you can design your environment for success,” writes the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, and Burke’s business and team coaching company PEP makes it its mission to educate modern humans on just how true this is.
Citing what he calls the “V3,” Burke explains, “With every evolution of work from paper to boxes to the cloud, what those evolutions did was they radically changed the volume, variability and the velocity of material came to you. But despite these changes, we still work the same way."
“Let’s say you've got 20 minutes before your next meeting. And you're like, ‘right, I've got 20 minutes what I'm going to do with this?’ What most people will do is open up their laptops and go to their inboxes. And there are like 500 emails in the inbox, you know half of them are unread, and you think, ‘I'll do that later.’ The average person reads the same email 3.7 times before action. What most people do is spend about 12 to 15 minutes looking for something to do, meaning that that person will only be in flow for four or five minutes, before their meeting notification pops up again.”
But citing a PEP teaching, the group recommends setting up your system so that the default application that appears is your calendar or task list. By making this slight adjustment to your digital environment, the brain hasn’t been given the opportunity to find novelty but hasn’t been overstimulated either, allowing us to be intentional with the task we choose to tackle, thus increasing the odds of going into flow for longer.
Other productivity tips mentioned include:
Batching: Many of us have communication flying in and out, some of which could very well be the same person over the course of a day. Instead of disrupting one another’s flow multiple times a day, Burke recommends batching everything that needs to be discussed and, from there, tackling all the items you want to talk to someone about in one go.
Channel categorisation: If you think about all the tools and software you use at work at the moment, chances are every channel and software evokes the same sort of inner panic within. With that, Burke recommends having different channel tiers in terms of urgency. “This way, you can have these channel agreements so everyone knows the right level of importance and the level of urgency, so you're choosing the right channel to get the right reaction."
Even with these productivity hacks and tips provided by Burke and his team, he asserts that for any true and meaningful change to take place, paradigm shifts at both an individual as well as organisational level must take place.
At the individual level, Burke states that the need to be constantly busy and in control is actually less beneficial to people than they may realise.
“I call it the ‘busy’ badge of honour,” begins Burke, “and many people think that if I'm ‘busy,’ I’m valuable. And, it’s quite part of the mainstream now. If you ask someone, ‘How's work?’ the default answer is, ‘I'm really busy.’ But there needs to be a separation between busy and true value added.”
Within teams, “the need for control is another thing that I find holds a lot of teams back from becoming high-performing teams. That need to be able to control things, have an influence on an outcome, be involved, make a decision … it not only slows the organisation down, but it also leads to you really bottlenecking yourself."
“If you can empower other people rather than make it a competition about ‘who achieved more?’ It’s much healthier because now you don’t have 15 different individuals trying to prove value to one another; instead, everyone is getting together and working toward one common and larger objective.”
Speaking on this at an organisational level, Burke explains that through witnessing both startups and large corporates at his growth consultancy Point16, he started to notice that “there was a lot of burnout. Let’s say a tech startup, and they go from raise to raise, and it's extremely unsustainable. The staff need to meet their KPIs to raise more capital, and so what a lot of C-suites will do is work the people to the bone."
At a corporate level, people get bonuses, and a significant part of people's income is predicated on very specific outcomes at specific dates – profits, share prices, and so on. So because so much emphasis was put on the outcomes and decisions were made for a short period in mind, we were finding that there wasn’t a lot of long-term thinking or behaviours being put in place.
And so what our team started working on was how, instead of looking for those peaks and troughs, if you look for a sustainable, very solid strategy and implementation of that with your people – it’s a lot more sustainable.
We call it capitalism 2.0.”
If you are interested in learning more about Point16 or PEP Worldwide, check out the company’s website here. Learn more and connect with Mike Burke here.
Click here to download the presentation from the recent webinar titled, 'How to own your time better in a post COVID world'
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