I’ve started this post more than once and abandoned it more than once. It’s nothing sinister, but it is contentious. This is a post about working from home. This may be familiar to you, but I used to get (jokingly) accused of ‘shirking from home’ when I chose not to come into the office. Now this has the same sting as ‘oh, you’ve just got man-‘flu’, by the way, an accusation that has had me returning to the office far too soon on many occasion, infecting others with my real ‘flu, and thereby decreasing the productivity of OUP just a little bit more than if I had stayed at home and recovered properly.
But I digress. Well, sort of. It’s all about the office, you see. That’s the link that’s going on in this head thing of mine.
I’ve started this post a number of times, but have always put it away. The fear is that someone from work will read this and then get all iffy about the concept of working from home and put a stop to it. I contend that this would be a bad idea all round.
When I work from home, the following things happen:
- I get up at a different time than on ‘office days’ – not necessarily later, before you ask
- I don’t sit at a desk and stare at a screen
- I’ll probably sit on the floor, possibly with a laptop, probably fighting a cat off, and with papers spread across the rug
- I may wander to a coffee bar with a pad and pen
- I may stop whatever I’m doing for a little while and listen to Radio 4
- I might read a (normally business-focussed) book
- I may keep Twitter open or read the odd blog post (often work- or productivity-related)
- I always get more done than I would have done at the office…
And so, like so many others before me, I started thinking about why this is the case and whether I could do it everyday. How cool would that be?
The truth is, it wouldn’t be. I like meeting up with other people, and I get a lot out of sparking off other people – I have the sort of mind that needs that quite often.
But why is working from home so much better (sometimes)? At least, why is it for me?
No email. I get to choose when to read it – my ‘out of office’ note tells people that I won’t necessarily answer straight away. That is incredibly liberating, and sometimes whatever the issue is gets dealt with without my intervention at all. Sometimes I think that other people bounce stuff my way because it’s easier than doing a bit of thinking and problem-solving themselves. Honestly, I think that’s the truth.
No meetings. Despite what I said above about needing to be with people, meetings are rubbish. Mostly. I have often asked myself – during a meeting, sadly – why I am at this meeting. What value am I adding? What value is it adding to my working life? Some years back, while working with an author on a course, we hit a problem and my natural reaction was to call a meeting. Same author asked me if it was really necessary “…because, Carl, when you’re in a meeting, you’re still getting paid. When I’m in a meeting, I’m not doing any work. And I’m freelance…”. Good call. Made me think ever since.
Some meetings are useful, granted, but I think we do default to the ‘have-a-meeting’ approach to work rather than ‘have-a-think-and-maybe-a-couple-of-us-can-resolve-this-quickly’ approach. Of course, the latter approach requires that the other potential attendees of the meeting trust you to deal with it without them…
The key issue about meetings is that they interrupt my working day at the office. At home, no meetings, my choice, I can get my head down.
No ‘can I just ask…’ people. You know the sort I mean. Pop in for to ‘just ask’ a ‘quick question’ (this happens by email too…). Another interruption in the flow that I might be in. Again, I have less choice or control over this when I am at the office.
Longer bunches of consecutive minutes to work. If I look at my calendar when I am in the office I think it’s a rare occasion when I can find more than 60 minutes next to each other that I could use to focus on a single project, task, document or piece of thinking.
Think about that for a minute – that means for every (larger) project I tackle I can rarely devote more than an hour at a time to working through it. When I’m at the office, that is.
If I can devote an hour, then it’s still in danger of being derailed by one of the above situations. This is, in fact, one of the reasons I became a devotee of GTD, by the way, in order to have a methodology of dealing with only having moments of work, rather than time to work.
So why do I work at home/in a quiet cafe/in a library? Because there I have control over my environment. I choose what interruptions I’ll entertain and when I entertain them. I can remain on a roll when I’m on a roll. I am in charge.
Isn’t it ironic, though, that spaces created for work are rarely the places we do our best work? Office are bad for you.
I’ve been thinking about this post for sometime, I said, but what prompted me to write it/finish writing it was the following video. 15 minutes is too short to really explore what’s being said, but it was enough to make me put my digital pen to my digital paper and post this. Thanks for reading.
Did you do it at the office?