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My #1 Work-at-home Tip: Know Yourself

by Craig Roth  |  March 30, 2020  |  Comments Off on My #1 Work-at-home Tip: Know Yourself

I’ve seen many tips lately for new remote workers. But what works for some people may not for others.  Creating a strict schedule, designating a workspace, keeping out kids and pets, and locking the fridge are great advice … for some people.  For others working throughout the day when its most conducive, changing work locations to suit moods or tasks, keeping spirits up with visits from kids and pets, and grazing to keep energy up would work best.

Tips that promote one side of the argument usually ignore the other side, probably to avoid sounding wishy-washy.  I’m not going to be wishy-washy and say anything goes. Rather, I propose going “meta” and looking more at the categories these tips fall into than the “best answer” they provide.

Read these “tips” articles from one level of abstraction higher than presented.  Without accepting specific advice, you can take a mindful approach to the issues they present: scheduling, workspace, interaction, and food.  Some answers will require enforcing self-discipline.  You can probably only pick a few areas to self-discipline yourself if you’re going to stick with it.

Begin by considering which freedom and constraints your home and job requirements allow.  Maybe the scheduling isn’t a choice for you – it’s dictated by your job.  Maybe your home doesn’t offer a variety of workable spaces to choose from.  But understanding where you have options and where you don’t can help you apply common sense to zero in on creating the best work environment within your means.

Create Your Work-at-home Plan By Addressing These Issues

Now you can think about – or ask others who know you well about – your needs for the issues that will affect your work-life:

  • Breaks: Is it better to force you to take breaks at set times (to force yourself to make it happen) or at varied times (based on when you complete tasks or get mentally fatigued)? Personally, I don’t respond well to forcing myself to focus.  Whenever I feel myself losing focus I switch it up and come back to the task later. That works for me since I’m good at actually finishing tasks I’ve set aside.
  • Interruptions: Are interruptions derailing your thought process, too tempting, or too common?  Then it might be worth enforcing boundaries to the point of inconveniencing or disciplining others. If occasional interruptions are fine or even required to be helpful to others in your job then you won’t want to enact heavy interruption shielding. I may be lucky since I don’t get interrupted that often. Also I’ve turned off email “toasts” that flash up a bit of each email as it arrives.
  • Exercise: I’m sure exercise is a good idea for everyone, but exactly how and when is a very personal preference.  Of course standing up frequently is important.  A few people I know swear by stand-up desks, but I have foot problems that would be aggravated by that.  I like to do exercises during listen-only meetings.
  • Food: Do you need self-discipline to avoid snacking during the day or do you feel better when grazing on small amounts of food throughout the day?  I used to have a rule about not eating between lunch and 5pm, although I’ve fallen off that particular wagon lately.
  • Start/stop times: Will you be better served by closing the office door to end each day or by spreading pockets of work throughout a longer day to do personal projects such as visiting an aging relative or shopping when they are easiest to do?  Since I’m not inclined to procrastination I tend to do non-work tasks when they make the most sense and catch up on work outside of normal work hours.
  • Environment: What temperature, pictures, music, sunlight, plants, or other elements of your work environment make you feel positive, energized (or relaxed), and productive?  How do the ergonomics of your workspace (desk height, angle of wrist and elbow to keyboard and mouse, etc) fit your physical needs?  I have set up a nice office, but find that moving to different spots in my home can reinvigorate me or help me focus on a task.
  • Interaction: Do you want interaction with pets, kids, significant others during your day or to be left alone?  This isn’t usually an issue for me, but with coronavirus everyone is home and I’ve had to make some decisions here on the fly.
  • Dress: Hygiene and dress codes are a common source of humor about stay-at-home workers.  But find what works best, whether comfort helps you think or dressing sharply puts you in a work frame of mind. Video conferencing has impacted my choices more in the past few years.
  • Technology: Phone, internet, screens, and other devices are certainly worth some planning. Gartner provides some of this, but I have supplemented with items I wanted to purchase myself.

The key is evaluating which answers work for you to maximize your well being (first!) and productivity.  Articles with tips can give you ideas, but ultimately addressing your work-at-home situation in a mindful and self-informed way will produce the best fit for your needs and environment.

Now, I’m off to the fridge!

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Category: digital-workplace  digital-workplace-applications  digital-workplace-program  employee-experience  

Tags: remote-work  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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