Since we are a remote company, everyone is free to choose wherever they want to work from. In my case, that’s mostly my home office. I’ll share some tips which help me getting work done, while balancing the whole life-part.
tldr; Dress for the office, focus, take breaks, eat lunch, meet friends.
My home office situation
I have a dedicated room which serves as my office, see my desk in the picture above (yes, the floor is a little crooked). My home office provides a desk, a chair, a big screen for my laptop and even a small cabinet with files. OK, these files in the cabinet aren’t related to our company. Those are personal files like tax returns, bills and insurance related letters. Still, pretty office-y.
I’m often asked how I could possibly work from home without drifting off doing something else. I have some rules/tips which I’ll share here.
There was this piece in the New Yorker: I WORK FROM HOME
This article is funny, a bit over the top and overall a very entertaining read. But there are parts in it, which I’d like to address from my own perspective, because I’ve seen people fall into some of the traps.
I’ll quote some of the statements from the fictional conversation and provide some tips how I avoid these situations.
ROBERT: I’m walking over there. (Pause.) O.K., I’m here. I’m in the bathroom. I see my towel . . . .
ROBERT: It’s dry.
Tip: Take a shower before work, just as you probably would if you’d go to an office.
OPERATOR: Outside clothes or inside clothes?
ROBERT: Hold on, I’ll check. (Pause.) Pajamas. I’m wearing my pajamas. I could swear I’d changed into regular . . . I thought these were jeans!
Tip: Always dress like you go to a real office.
OPERATOR: I’m afraid not. (Pause.) I’m going to ask you to open the blinds, O.K.? Let’s go ahead and let some light in.
ROBERT: How much light??
Tip: Take breaks outside. Get a coffee, take a walk. Even before you start working.
OPERATOR: Now, Robert, did you eat anything today?
ROBERT: Yes. Many times.
OPERATOR: Are you eating now, Robert?
ROBERT: I keep putting things in my mouth a lot.
Tip: Eat lunch. Take your time to cook something or go to a restaurant (with other people).
ROBERT: The Internet has fun things for me to do . . . so I did them. (Pause.) I think I played some guitar, too . . . oh, and I separated all the dimes from my change jar, which took a while.
OPERATOR: Why did you do that?
ROBERT: I have four hundred and seventy-nine dimes.
Tip: Focus. Define time blocks where you want to work and do just that.
Side-tip: Use your work breaks for errands. Take a 15 minute break from work and get groceries.
Sometimes, I even clean or dust off my apartment, while on a (internal) call. This only works, if I don’t have to be in front of computer. Most of the times, I’m even more attentive to the call, because I’m not distracted working on something else.
Now, what does my day look like?
My usual work day
Early Morning Routine
I keep a strict routine. Especially in the morning. There are exceptions, of course. Mainly, if I have some appointments or meetings that involve travel.
But for most days, this is my morning routine:
- I get up.
This time of the year, my alarm goes off around 07:00. Sleepcycle has proven to be a great app for me.
- I take a shower, brush my teeth and get dressed.
- I put on my shoes and step outside.
- I walk to one of my cafés of choice. This usually involves a 10 minute walk or a short bike ride.
Sometimes a friend is around and we get coffee together.
- I drink my coffee and read the news. On paper.
- If the newspaper isn’t that interesting – or I’ve already read everything the other night, I’ll check messages/emails on my phone.
- I go to the grocery store to get some fresh fruits + vegetables.
And a butter croissant, I don’t want to be too healthy.
- I get back home and make myself a smoothie with those fruits + vegetables.
- Now, I move to my office and start working.
During the day
I try to define one main focus topic each day.
That’s mostly a client project which will keep me busy during the time before lunch. I usually work from 08:00 to around 11:30.
Just after lunch, I usually take on small tasks to keep me going and get over lunch fatigue.
Often, I’ll move my office to a cafe and focus on another task or project. At least once a week, I spend some working from our main office in Lucerne.
At some point, it’s a wrap. I officially stop working. Mostly at around 17:00. I’ll go out again, meet some friends, run errands, maybe excercise – or not, only if someone is around for a game involving some kind of racket. Once I get back, I usually don’t go back into the office.
I’ll probably check Slack and my e-mails at some point, but don’t expect an answer from me. That’s for tomorrow.
- Take a shower before work, just as you probably would if you’d go to an office.
- Always dress like you go to a real office.
- Take breaks outside. Get a coffee, take a walk. Bonus points for going outside before you start working.
- Eat lunch. Take your time to cook something or go to a restaurant (with other people).
- Focus. Define time blocks where you want to work and do just that.
One more important advice I can give:
Your home office should be a separate room.
Working on the couch or the kitchen table might be possible, but separating living & working will get more difficult and you’re not doing your back any favors.
On avoiding distractions
Since this post is just about working from home, I didn’t cover dealing with notifications, Slack messages, phone calls, et al. This is worth another blog post.