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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Lees

Work Environment: Do You Prefer Structure or Flexibility?

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

When my work schedule changed, I really made it a point to change the structure of my personal schedule. I went to the gym at 6 a.m. instead of later in the day. I prepared most of my food for the work week on the weekend. I ran a lot of errands on the weekend that I might normally do during the day and during the week.

Things change and you adjust. Most of the time, these are all accommodations you can make easily.

If you live in St. Louis, you probably know that we were hit with a lot of snow this week. Wednesday and Thursday, there was no school (and I don’t work Friday.) Again, my schedule was thrown off. I couldn’t go to the gym. My fridge was full of food that I’d normally be eating on the run. The structure of my lesson plans would have to be adjusted. (Monday is for vocabulary and Tuesday is for reading the newspaper, which we had already done… Wednesday and Thursday are for grammar and pair work/listening.)

In hindsight, these are all little things that can be easily adjusted. But adjustments in our schedule can alter our mood and the entire course of our day or week. Maybe even longer… which brings me to an important question. What do you personally prefer? More structure or flexibility in your work schedule? Or even in your life? It’s a difficult question and only you can determine what works best for you.

Below are some tips that might help.

Why Choose Structure?

Some people might choose structure over flexibility. This doesn’t mean that you’re not spontaneous or you can’t handle new situations. It just means that you prefer a set schedule to your work routine.

For your personal routine, particularly during unpredictable times of stress (like Covid or anything that life may throw at you), having structure in your routine can provide a sense of control.

“Having a routine can be helpful at any time, particularly if you are trying to establish healthy habits, but these routines can be particularly important when aspects of your life feel uncertain,” according to the VeryWellMind Podcast, which is hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW.

I personally like having structure in my work and personal schedule, but with a little room for flexibility.

Why Choose Flexibility?

Structure can be stifling. Who wants to do the same thing at the same time every day of their life? While some people may love that, or for lack of a better phrase, simply get used to it (especially if they don't love their jobs anyway), a lot of people don't.

Having flexibility in your job also allows for more adaptability. People who are more open to flexibility may be better to take on different types of work or work in different environments more quickly than those who prefer structure. They're not hunkered down by routine.

Having flexibility in your personal routine is also a good thing. Again, that doesn't mean that structure isn't important. It just simply means that you're willing to adapt your day to whatever changes may come. (And I find that most people are.)

Both Are Equally Important

Certain jobs aside (where a rigid work routine is extremely essential to the role, etc.), I believe that structure and flexibility are equally important. Why? Because being flexible and working in a structured environment or working in a flexible environment that has some structure are not necessarily opposing ideas.

What's essentially important is that you get your work done (including what you need to do in your personal schedule) and are flexible to whatever comes.

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