It’s well documented how important it is to have a work life balance, and that people should work to live rather than the other way around. However, in this new world of greater flexibility and transient working, I have found it increasingly important to get the Office Home balance right.
Change the way you work
Many large organisations are still very much locked into their traditional ways of working, where working one day a week at home is seen as a perk of a job but is still constrained by company culture and more importantly technology limiting people’s ability to be relatively footloose. These companies are consciously making changes but, like any fundamental change in a business with scale, it is like turning the titanic.
In smaller, more agile businesses it is the complete opposite – they are not constrained by legacy IT systems, HR policies and the stigma associated with not being visible in the office every day of the week and people saying “working from home again”. They have also swung the pendulum in terms of the environment trying to create a “third space” between home and work with different soft furnishings, collaboration zones, silent pods, mood lighting, foosball tables, modern art, graffitied walls…. the list is endless.
Striking the balance
My working environment and how I go about completing my job have changed significantly over the course of the last ten years. While I welcome not having to be working in a central London office five days a week; striking the balance between always working remotely versus having face to face interactions, collaboration and meetings with my fellow colleagues is essential in successfully getting the job done and team projects delivered. We all know as humans the importance of social interaction; and the varying requirement of that interaction depends on individual needs and goals.
For me becoming a hermit, and dealing with everything remotely, is not a personal aspiration. Nor is it productive in engaging with the right people to support the project in hand, there is a still a requirement for face to face interaction. These different work environments have also made me more productive and I organise my time & workload depending on where I am geographically, and the number of people around me. When I work from home I can focus on more complex analysis and reports in the mornings, and schedule time for calls in the afternoons. Days in the office are very much focused on meetings and creative tasks where I need to pull together various stakeholders, provide leadership updates, present findings etc.
A healthy mix
I always try to avoid five days a week at home or five days a week in the office. It’s the healthy mix of different environments, and changes to the space and people you are working with, which I believe delivers better results more efficiently. I love having my office in my backpack and literally having the ability to fire things up and start working anywhere. Office 365 is one of the game changers with One Notes and One Drive synced to my phone and laptop.
Flexible working is the future, but home working can blur the lines of when you are in work, and when you are not, so here are a few tips for a healthy home working environment:
Establish a work area– which can either be easily cleared away or the door shut at the end of the day.
Get ready for work as if you were heading to the office – Don’t sit in your PJ’s all day and make sure you throw a towel over the Xbox.
Switch the location – maybe head to the library or coffee shop in the afternoon for some background noise and human interaction.
Take regular breaks– Just as you will move around and have different engagements in the office every 90 minutes’ or so walk away from the screen and reset. It’s ok to put washing in the machine.
Interact with others – Either through Skype, phone calls etc. so you are not completely away from the outside world for eight hours. Personally I prefer the afternoons for this.
Make use of Airplane mode and/or close Outlook – don’t get distracted by constant notifications. Switch it off for a while.
Accept the fact you are more productive & focused at home (& don’t feel guilty) – don’t work longer hours due to the fact you are at home.
If I have had three days in a row working from home I am itching to get into the office, likewise after a few days in the office I look forward to an environment change, getting my head down, avoiding distractions and ticking things off the list. A good home office balance can create the ideal working situation.