What used to be a rare benefit, is nowadays a near certainty in any company that doesn’t need round-the-clock staff, e.g. in production or distribution. Home office comes handy to everyone from time to time. But what if the occasional situation becomes permanent for weeks or even months? Do we have a tried and tested recipe for effective “home-officing”?
I have worked as a consultant since 2008. I founded my “one-man-show” company (at the time) with a virtual office only — so I have pretty good practice when it comes to working from home. That’s why I try to skip the office at least once a week and stay home — it always turns out to be the most productive day for me. I don’t get distracted by external influence like meetings, conference calls, lunches, afternoon coffees, and so on.
However, I noticed that some of my colleagues and friends are not as productive at home. I think there are various different reasons behind it and would like to take a closer look at a few.
Rituals and Stereotypes
Though it may be hard to admit, many of us treat the home office as a weekend or vacation. People get up later, have breakfast later (preferably at their computer), don’t change out of their pyjamas… If you truly want to be efficient, it’s better to keep yourself from falling into a relaxed mode. Set your alarm for a time you would normally get up for the office. Enjoy breakfast, brush your teeth and get dressed, even just casually. And most of all, don’t get tempted by dangerous attractions, such as your PlayStation, Netflix, TV, garden, swimming pool, and so on.
Plan your daily agenda like you would a regular business day. Try not to fall behind schedule just because you “must” cook or catch your favourite show. Of course, this gets much harder if you have to look after children or other household members at the same time. If you have to cook lunch, try to do it the day before. Then you can enjoy a comfortable one-hour lunch break followed by the obligatory cup of coffee. Layout your day so that you have time for breakfast, lunch and an evening program. Fill the rest with work.
Not everyone is lucky enough to work from their own office surrounded with all necessary comfort and equipment. That being said, working from bed is not the best idea either. After a while, it gets very uncomfortable, unhygienic and demotivating. If possible, find yourself a table and good-quality chair to avoid back and neck pain. Most companies will be happy to provide you with a full keyboard, mouse, webcam or even a chair — just ask!
Feel free to pimp your workspace up. Don’t forget that little things can make a big difference, so if you place your favourite plant or statuette on your desk, it will certainly make you feel better about working. Following my own advice, I have decorated my desk with a pen holder in the shape of a golf bag and a hydroponic plant called Rudolf. Both of these items have travelled with me from office to office for over 10 years. Having them around is a clear symbol of “work mode” for me.
The Art of Resting
From what I have written so far, it looks like I’m a slaver, or worse — workaholic. Both may be partially true, but resting is as important as hard work. There’s no way around it. If possible, get some fresh air at least twice a day for 5–10 minutes. If you live in a smoggy city centre, try to do a stretching exercise. It’s the same as with long-haul flights — ideally, walk and stretch for at least a few minutes every 4 hours. You are bound to notice how much more productive you are. At the same time, try not to mix the weekend and working days together. Don’t spend your Saturday and Sunday with a laptop on your knees. Do completely different activities. Not only will it clear your head, but it’ll refresh the bonds with your family, too.
We Only Live Once
No pain, no gain — and no money, no funny! Though I still secretly think there is no fun in life without work, either. But don’t forget about your private life. Commit yourself to a specific time when you call it a day. Go make dinner, go play with the kids, or walk the dog. Just learn to leave less important things for the next day. Especially now, at home. The smaller apartment you have, the more important it is to separate the work environment from a leisure space. When I started working from home, my future wife and I lived together in a flat of less than 50 square meters, both finishing our studies and both working, so I know what I’m talking about… Today, I can appreciate that we both have our own separate offices even more. But where there is a will, there is always away!
Happy Home Office!