My business Partner and PlusPoint Consulting CEO Kari Minton and I were chatting the other evening about people and businesses adapting to a work-from-home environment that may extend, albeit sporadically, for some time to come. The topic of ‘what’s it’s like to work from home’ now comes up in virtually every conversation I have with professional and client colleagues. One consistent theme that carries through all of those conversation is the challenge of separating work life from home/personal life when going to the company office is no longer an option. PlusPoint has had a remote workforce structure since I founded the firm ten years ago. Consequently, I have over a decade of experience working from a home office, including sometimes working from home offices in two different locations. I thought it might be helpful to share what has worked for me to make that experience successful.
Create a separate, and professional workspace
I found that it’s difficult to establish a ‘work day’ cadence if I don’t have a defined space, to go to when I start my work day, and to return from when my work day is over. Also, I learned that the ergonomics of working at the kitchen or dining room table quickly took a heavy toll on my body.
Equip your office properly
This is all about both comfort and productivity, and about making my home office a space that I look forward to using. I’ve taken the trouble to make sure I have a good computer-work-height desk, an ergonomic office chair, high resolution wide-screen monitors (no working from a laptop screen), a high quality mobile headset, a high resolution webcam, reliable internet connectivity, plenty office supplies, etc.
Establish a regular, workday cadence
One of the advantages of working from home is that, within reason and the constraints of client and colleague expectations, I can be flexible in setting my workday schedule cadence. What I’ve learned is that keeping that schedule consistent from day-to-day enforces good work habits, and also helps separate time at work from time at home. Just as I would if working in a shared office, I keep a discipline of being in the office at about the same time each day, and of leaving the office at about the same time each day. While I often answer texts or emails on my phone or tablet outside of work hours, I generally avoid going to my office space outside of work hours, and especially on the weekends. This has the dual benefits of reducing the likelihood of chronic work and burnout, and also of signaling to my family when I’m ‘home from work’ and fully available for home/family things.
I’ve seen a lot written about this already, so I won’t belabor it. Spending 8-9 hours a day at my desk if not healthy for me, and not good for my sharpness and productivity. Taking regular breaks that involve walking around and clearing my head are really important to me.
This is a habit that I adopted when I was CFO at Airship. We had a number of locations, and made it a practice to always open up video when on calls. I’ve kept that practice, and brought it with me when I rejoined the PlusPoint practice several years ago. While I don’t believe video is ever a substitute for face-to-face communication, it is certainly several levels more effective than a voice-only conference call. Also, in this time of mandatory physical distancing, video conferencing provides at least a little of the constructive human interaction that helps keep me sane.
Dress like you mean it
There has been a lot of humor about how working from home means the opportunity to work in pajamas, or in my clean-out-the-garage clothes. I’ve found that following the same morning routine in preparing for my work day at home (e.g. shaving every day), and dressing the same as I would if I was going to a company office (casually, but professionally), is important to separating work life from home life in a combined work/personal environment. I also make a point of changing out of my work attire with I finish in the office for the day.
Everyone’s life and home circumstances are different, so I’ve purposely couched this as practices and life habits that work for me. Hopefully, one or two of these ideas will be helpful to others as they sort out how to minimize entangling work and home life in this new environment that’s suddenly been thrust upon all of us.
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