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“I’m doing OK, I just have a lot going on right now.” 

“All my projects are going so well that I don’t have time for myself!” 

“I love my job so much it’s hard to mentally check out.” 

Many of us have probably heard similar responses to “How are you?” Isn’t our vision of success influenced by this ideal of being a super-performer? Endless to-do lists, agendas booked to the max and concurrent projects have, for way too long, been glorified. Being constantly busy has become an indicator of social status. Unfortunately, it often leads to generalized exhaustion.  

Isn’t slowing down the logical solution in this situation? 

The birth of the slow working movement in the 1980s 

Slow working, a work method inspired by the slow movement trend, was initiated by Carlo Petrini in the 1980s following the opening of the first McDonald’s in Rome. This trend was Mr. Petrini’s way of protesting the fast-food industry by highlighting the benefits of slow food: eating habits based on simple and local ingredients. 

Little did Mr. Petrini know that 40 years later, his initiative would expand and morph into a movement against our fast-paced lifestyle. Today, the slow movement permeates many aspects of our lives, from digital tools to fashion, urbanization, sports, and work.  

Backing up to sprint forward 

According to the Association de la santé publique du Québec,i 54% of adults living in Quebec would like a slower pace in their life. This is good news. Work less, work smarter is the motto of slow working. 

Autumn presents the perfect opportunity to take care of our mental (and physical) health. Why not seize it to explore this new way of working? 

To get you started, set attainable and measurable objectives over time. Draw up a simple list of tasks, plan for regular breaks and most importantly, establish your limits and communicate them to your team members. Even those colleagues who are the most passionate about their work will find something in it for them! They will leverage slow working to hone their skills, reexamine their professional goals and take stock of past projects. Slowing down is not a sign of failure – on the contrary! It allows for deeper reflection and helps us focus on quality vs. quantity in our work.  

Saying goodbye to the “9 to 5” 

The pandemic has proven that there is no limit to flexibility. It is possible to juggle our schedules and still achieve our professional objectives. Indeed, according to Statistics Canada,ii in April 2022, 30.3% of employees aged 15 to 69 enjoyed the flexibility of choosing their work schedules. Of these, 64.7% indicated that a flexible schedule was an important job factor. The wide-spread popularity of this trend is a testament to its numerous benefits, among them, increased productivity, employee retention and reduced stress levels. 

If you have never tried a flexible work schedule and you are able to do it, now might be the right time. Whether it’s to enjoy the beauty of fall colours during an early morning walk or to spend more time with your family, set up a schedule that fits your lifestyle. 

Reconnecting with nature  

Are you familiar with flex office? This work method allows employees to work at a location that is convenient to them. This might sound like a new term, but the concept took root in the 1990s in larger organizations. At the time, many consultants opted out of renting an office space since they spent so much time on the road to meet with their clients. This got them working from various locations. 

Although this work method was restricted to certain industries until recently, the pandemic and the evolution of mobile technology gave legions of employees the opportunity to benefit from it. A 2023 study by the Observatoire de la qualité de vie au travailiii (ACTINEO) revealed that flex office has grown from 6% in 2017 to 21% in 2023 – a 15% increase.   

If you are serious about adopting slow working, why not take advantage of the fall season to discover new work places? Work does not have to be done inside four walls, eight hours a day, five days a week. Get creative and explore new spaces, perhaps in a nature setting. A Harvard Business Review articleiv concluded that being in contact with nature at work, even in small ways, could increase not only job performance, but also boost creativity.  

The Pareto Principle: an echo from management training 

It’s the 80–20 rule: 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. It proves that we do not have to move mountains to reach our goals! 

The key is to direct our energies in the right places. If you have not yet identified the 20% of “essential tasks” that need to be done to finish your projects without running out of steam, it is time to declutter your task list and to optimize your work routine. 

Tidying up your list with the Eisenhower Matrix 

The Eisenhower Matrix is a management tool that helps you organize and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, thereby optimizing your energy levels to focus on what is most important. Once you have prioritized your tasks, consider which ones you can postpone or delegate, and direct your efforts on projects that will contribute to your growth and learning. 

Matrix anglais - Slow working: The cure for professional burn-out?

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. If you wish to reach your goals and keep going for the long run, you must manage your energy output. There is no benefit to race against the clock if it is going to negatively affect your mental health and work-life balance. The time has come for you to reconsider the notion of performance and your definition of career success. Slowing down is a good starting point to dismantle these widespread notions. We hope that this article will inspire you to improve your day-to-day work life.