Write that report or have a beer on the deck

Working from home has become somewhat of a standard these days and for many people it is a stark new reality. The discipline required to work from home is not normally something that many people are born with. The idea of waking in the morning and beginning the 1-2 hour craziness that we call “getting ready for work” has essentially acted as a switch that causes us to leave the comfort of home and enter work mode.

Once at work, everything around you fosters and screams, in the eloquent words of Bill Belichick, “DO YOUR JOB”. On the other hand when working from home, you are afforded many luxuries not available at the office like working in your underwear or your inviting deck on a beautiful afternoon. This environment is the antithesis of the office and fosters relaxation and/or a chore list. The question is how to combine the motivation that the office has with the relaxation of your home and still be productive AND relaxed.

From Business News Daily:

Many employees and business owners alike have been working from home for years, thanks to developments in tech that make remote work possible. For a growing number of Americans, this is the norm. Now, amid the recent COVID-19 outbreak, most companies and their workers are following suit, raising the question: Is this working arrangement a productive one?

A 2019 survey by Airtasker says yes. Researchers polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely. The study found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. It’s a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility – but often at the cost of their work-life balance.

Take a look at the following statistics from Inc. Magazine:

  • As reported in 2020, 5 million employees (making up 3.6% of the entire U.S. workforce) work from home for at least half the time.
  • The number of regular telecommuting employees (excluding the self-employed population) has grown by 173% since 2005.
  • The number of employers offering a work from home option has grown by 40% in the past 5 years. However, only 7% of all employers in the United States offer work from home flexibility.
  • By 2028, one study estimates that 73% of all departments will have remote workers.
  • Two-thirds of managers who offer telecommuting flexibility report that employees who work from home are overall more productive.
  • Larger companies are more likely to offer telecommuting flexibility than smaller ones are.
  • Employers offering at least part-time telecommuting flexibility collectively save $44 billion each year.
  • According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
  • 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance, and 31% said they have needed to take a day off for their mental health.
  • One of the most effective ways workers can stay productive is by taking breaks throughout the day. The Pomodoro Technique is one such method for employees to decompress for a moment and come back refreshed and ready to focus.

As you can see, working from home tends to allow for more flexibility and relaxation. But here’s the rub – Many people working from home tend to find themselves falling into the “work-a-holic” mode and never find an exit strategy for the day. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, the morning craziness acts as a switch that tends to indoctrinate you for your work day. Conversely that ride home and end of day activities helps decompress and allows you to enter the home mode.

When working at home, you do not have these “switches”. the day blends together and creates a very confusing brain pattern. You hear the children playing or your wife talking on the phone but yet you are in the middle of writing a financial summary and you’re brain is caught between two worlds.

Here are some tips for working at home and getting the most efficiency from your workday at home:

Allot a portion of your home for work. Perhaps a spare room or space in the basement or garage. When I started in business almost 30 years ago, I had a very small home with young children and actually converted a 6×10 shed into an office.

If at all possible, do not make your bedroom a part office. This is your sanctuary and you place of rest. If the last thing you see before climbing into bed is your desk filled with incomplete projects, you will tend to have a very unsettled night.

Taking breaks is critical. You are at home, enjoy that freedom and your space. This is your castle and your office is borrowing space from it not the other way around. Enjoy it, push away from the desk at least once an hour and go get a glass of water or refill your coffee and while you are away, enjoy and take in what’s around you – your castle. It doesn’t matter how big or small your castle is, it’s your place of rest and refuge and a spot that you and your family come together.

Be sure to make a distinction between home and office. When you walk away, whether for a break or for the day, be sure to leave it in the office. Conversely, if you are struggling with a challenge in the “office”, many times by walking away and clearing your head you may gain more clarity of mind an be able to solve that problem better because it’s far easier to find peace and clear your mind at home than at the office.

Don’t deny yourself. If the lawn needs to be mowed, go and mow it. If you come out for a refill of coffee and the kids are playing in the yard and you are yearning to participate, go and play with them. If your wife is sitting on the deck taking a break, join her. You have flexibility now and the opportunity to make up the time away. Don’t let your time away become too plentiful but just make sure that you don’t build up a resentment to all that’s going on around you.

Be very attentive and respectful to superiors and co-workers. Understand that during the workday your job is your job and when things are a bit quieter, you can also be quiet. When there are time lines and deadlines make sure that you are not operating on the Pain versus Pleasure principal that I spoke of in a previous post. Like most things in life, working from home required a balance but also a discipline to get the things done that are necessary to complete and do them in a timely manner. If someone is waiting for you to complete something before they can move to their next step, accommodate them and move things along.

All in all there is no secret to effectively working from home. Your efficiency and productivity should increase and your piece of mind should increase exponentially. If this is not the case, re-read this post several times until it clicks.

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