002 - "Everything is better in pajamas"
What was once a dream in working from home, has now become a forced reality. Throughout my lifetime, there have been so many digital tools developed (most notably the internet), that remote productivity has inched closer to the same efficiency rating as the traditional office setting. 2020, however, hit the 'warp speed' button on that development.
Remote workplace integration is generally a gradual transition. It allows for both the workplace setting and workers to adapt to this new way of conducting the same business. The gradual transition allows for pieces to become more and more remote over time without interrupting the operational flow of the day-to-day business. When it is forced overnight...that's where things tend to run into problems.
Let's think back to March of 2020...when the unthinkable happened...and we were "told" to stay home. Whether you are a business owner, in management, or an employee, this almost felt like a forced stay-cation. It felt that the only certain thing that we had to worry about was stocking up on toilet paper and hunting down disinfectant wipes. But what about the workload of the business? The supply chains for those businesses?
Most office settings quickly attempted to make the move to remote settings. Fairly simple in theory, but as always, without practical application...a theory remains a theory. So let's talk about the practical application. Since the workers were separated from the workplace, there are two sides to view this transition. This post focuses on one of the sides...the workers.
"Everything is better in pajamas" - Unknown
Workers. Referring back to the first sentence of this post, working from home was once thought of as a 'dream job'. In theory, it allowed for a certain sense of freedom that is not available at the traditional workplace. But as so many have found out since March of 2020...it's not that simple. Humans fall into very specific routines. These routines create a sense of responsibility and oddly a sense of comfort. When you MUST be at a place by a certain time and CANNOT leave before a certain time and ONLY get to eat during a certain period of the day...your schedule is created and maintained for you. In this alternative home-workplace, there is no structure nor guidance to force you into this routine...in fact, you're first responsibility becomes creating your own routine! Again, sounds easy in theory...but ask yourself...how many conference calls have you done in your pajamas? Do you bother putting on pants? Makeup? Shower? When you feel that you have the freedom and flexibility to work at your own pace, the trend is to drop of other items from the traditional routine.
So how do you set up this new environment to maintain productivity? First things first, you need to designate a 'workspace' somewhere in your home. A place where you can mentally be at work and separate that from your 'home life'. Parroting the comment yet again...easy in theory. Maybe you don't have a free space for an office...maybe listening to your wife about cleaning out the garage for a workspace makes sense now...maybe you have multiple people trying to work from home (including kids, which we'll get to later on). The trick is to find a corner, room, or area that allows you to focus and shut out the distractions that come with a home life. It takes adjusting, and there are factors that the business must adjust to as well (we'll touch on that in the next post). So you find your spot, you set up your work station...I guess you're ready to dive right in, right? ...almost, but beware of the Wortex!
What the hell is a wortex? Something I just made up...but follow me here. A wortex is a workplace vortex...an unescapable force that constantly pulls you into your work. If you have a strong work ethic and are constantly checking your phone for emails, texts, and messages related to work...this section is specific for you! If you're a clock-puncher who saves that 5:01pm email for 9:00am the next morning, I suggest you still read this in the event that your new home workspace morphs you into a work-junkie.
If you poll workers about the #1 benefit of working from home, the most common answer given is that they don't have to deal with the grueling, stress-filled commute both in the morning and evening. Whether it is a simple 20 minute drive or 1.5hrs, NO ONE likes the rush hour commute. However, when comparing it to work life at home, the commute is actually a way for you to shift your mind-state from 'home mode' to 'work mode', and visa-versa . Sounds silly, but it is true. Think of your own experiences. While singing to yourself in the car is entertaining, you are subconsciously planning your work day. It's almost therapeutic.
I know...I know...you're still wondering how that plays into this made up term "wortex". Now that you eliminated this meditation period known as a 'commute', you have no buffer zone between home and work life. It is easy to get caught up in the paradox of "living where you work" vs. "working where you live"...hence the wortex. Think back since March of last year...how many times have you been watching TV in the evening, and decided to just go quickly check your email and find yourself right back at work? How many times have you sacrificed a workout to spend a few more minutes on a project only to have the need for completing it? How many times have you logged in on a Sunday only to realize hours later that you voluntarily added an extra workday to your week?
When you lose the structure of the traditional routine, it is easy to get caught up in this wortex. When presented with the option to work from home, most workers actually agree to work 1-2 additional hours in the work day to offset the time spent commuting. The cost/benefit analysis also allows for them to be home when their kids get back from school, or to take the dog out, or take that 15 min break and run a quick errand. But as we'll find out in the next post...this extra effort indirectly sets the expectation bar at a different level.
So let's cut through my banter and get to the Cliff's Notes version. What do you need to focus on (besides the actual work).
Find your designated work area.
Set up your new routine and schedule...stick to it.
Separate home-life from work-life...thus avoiding the dreaded wortex.
Maintain productivity but be careful not to over-exert yourself to undervalue your production output.
Read my next post on the other side of this transition...the business!