I won’t divulge how many years I spent working in offices, but rest assured there aren’t many incarnations of the office layout, philosophy and operation that I haven’t experienced.
These include open plan, closed plan, booths and bays, desks arranged into squares, circles and triangles, room dividers that people kept knocking over and chill-out zones that no one ever used for fear of being considered too chilled for their own good, let alone that of the company.
Though well-intentioned, each office plan lasted about as long as every plan preceding it, with an extremely committed HR officer there to oversee the process, lead the staff orientation, extol the concept’s eventual introduction and then, a few months later, wonder what on earth went wrong.
I suppose the effort to establish the paperless office is the most notable workplace failure, especially for larger offices. At one of my previous employers, one memo about the paperless office ran to 17 pages, so there was actually more paper in the office than ever.
All of which brings me to the home office.
Wonderful as it is to work from home, there are issues – distraction and procrastination being the main ones. Others arise from being one’s own boss and one’s own employee at the same time. Frankly, me the boss and me the employee don’t always get along.
There’s plenty of advice out there on how to make a success of working from home, including:
And here are a few observations from my own experience that may inform your own workplace/work status transition.
One of the great joys of working from home is playing your favourite music loudly, constantly and with impunity. Any music is better than the tripe piped through the office PA, right?
(My pet peeve was always with workmates listening to music through headphones. You have to yell to get their attention, they never answer the phone and, worst of all, they’re forever saying “listen to this” while brandishing a warm, wax-coated, apostrophe-shaped bit of plastic fresh from their own ears and which they hope you’ll be only too happy and hygiene-ambivalent to bung in your own).
But whatever music you listen to at home, the most important point to remember is this: never let it distract you from the task at hand. Music is there to complement the work environment; never to circumvent it.
I could never be accused of being a fashion leader. That’s why initially the thought of working from home had me excited about spending the days in my PJs, running gear, the occasional toga or anything other than what might be deemed conventional office attire.
Ironically, I discovered that I work more efficiently when at least some effort has gone into what I’m wearing. And while this may not mean a suit, tie and shoes buffed to within an inch of their lives, I do make the effort to dress for work. It works for me and it works for the work.
With the refrigerator and pantry in such close proximity, the temptation is always there to snack. The thing is, if I ate as often as I thought about eating I wouldn’t be able to fit in my home office, let alone work in there. As with all things, restraint and moderation are better for the waistline and more conducive to productive working.
Take a break:
I’m a runner and one of the pleasures of working from home is being able to get out of the home office and go for a run most days of the week. For you it might be swimming, cycling, the gym or whatever, but all exercise rejuvenates the brain, body and motivation.
As for an actual working schedule, my guide is that doyen of workplace efficiency and contract deadlines, Larry the Cable Guy, whose slogan is straightforward and wise, albeit in questionable English: “Git ’r done.”
Working from home is a privilege and I’m thankful for it every day. Still, when it’s so easy to be distracted and to procrastinate, it’s good to be reminded that working from home means exactly that.
So, enjoy your home sweet home office, but when it comes to the reason you’re there, listen to Larry and always “git ’r done”.
Written by Michael Jacobson, Editorial Director, Very Media.
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