A friend of mine recently remarked that remote work was the “new normal.” Between us, it’s a term I abhor. I replied flatly, “It’s not new at all. I’ve been working remotely [on and off] since 1996!” However, for many people, this was a rapid change for them this past March.
Now, given that my life is largely status-quo, I recognize that it’s not for others. In March, I was thrown into it along with several of my, then, colleagues. It was frenetic, people were having trouble with VPN, using the collaborative applications, having a dedicated and quiet place to work. As a work-from-home veteran, I was set up with a designated office and multiple monitors. I admit that I was fortunate.
I recently did a some research on effective working from home strategies. Google—you’ll find a TON of articles on the topic. However, they largely all say the same thing. In summary:
- Block out time
- Remain professional as if you’re going to the office
- Remove distractions
- Take some person time for yourself
- Stay connected to others as much as possible
Okay, here’s what I think about that list.
Yes, it makes sense to block out your workday as if you were in the office. There is a lot of flexibility when you’re working from home and there is a huge potential for slacking off, OR, work creep. For example, you sleep in a little longer because hey, there’s no commute. I agree with this to a point. I had a position that was far from home for a while and I was up every day at 5:00am. Now I get up at a more civilized time of 6:00am. My hours are usually blocked for when everyone is normally at the office. You want to be available when they are available. So, if you’re normal schedule is 9 to 5, still keep your day 9 to 5. Make sense?
I go either way on this one. I like to wear comfortable clothes when I work. If I am comfortable, I am more productive. Also, it allows me to take a lunch break and go for a brisk walk before the afternoon. Or, as soon as I log out for the day I can go directly to my workout before making my family dinner. No wasted time. However, I do keep myself business casual from the waist up in case there needs to be a video call. No one wants to see you in your Snoopy pajamas and bed head.
This is kind of a simple concept but sometimes it’s impossible. Not everyone has dedicated office space and if your kids are home because of the hybrid schooling—well, chances are they’re coming into your office in the middle of a call and asking you to please open something. Look, when it comes to stuff like that? It happens—are we supposed to pretend we no longer have families? I think you do the best you can and we should all unclench and realize that we have lives outside of work. I saw Alanis Morrissette singing from her home studio for Jimmy Fallon. While she sang, she held her toddler, who shockingly, asked mom lots of questions. Jimmy Fallon seemed okay with it.
I learned this the hard way. I would wake up and think, “eh.. I’m up.. I may as well get started on x, y, z.” I assumed that if I started earlier, I would be able to finish on time or maybe earlier. But, that is rarely the reality as meetings would pop up at the end of day. Now, I very rarely work earlier in the day unless I need to take time away for personal appointments. I also made a commitment to myself years ago, for my family and for myself, that I would not work on the weekends. Take time for yourself or you’ll burn out fast.
This is something that is important to me. I stay connected with the people I work with as well as outside people. Not just about work either. Imagine you’re at the office and you want a cup of coffee. Think of the time spent in the kitchen while you are getting coffee, who you run into, and discussions had. Sometimes they’re “what did you do this weekend” but sometimes they’re “hey, I had an idea I wanted to run by you…” They both provide value. So, keep that up. Reach out to people either by IM or call them. Don’t let people forget you’re there, don’t let them forget what you’re doing, you need to stay relevant and if everyone’s holed up it’s harder to do.
Working from home was a drastic shift for the mass majority and some were not fans. Most people don’t like change. I invite you to embrace the change and see how it can work for you. I take pride in my work, but I work to live—not live to work. Add up those hours you’ve saved from no longer commuting, the fuel saved, the traffic and aggravation avoided, and realize that it might provide the work/life balance you have always wanted.