Archive for the ‘For Your Comfort’ Category
Fast Company magazine published an interesting article with advice for telecommuters. You can read the full article here, but in summary, here are the three things the author, Kevin Purdy, advises:
- Look the Part, Be the Part (dress up as if you’re going to the office)
- Schedule offline social time, batch your online social time (schedule your breaks, just like you’d do in the office)
- Realize when the problem is motivation, not space (do stuff that motivates you)
I have no argument with the second point, and in fact we endorse that in the book “Out of Office” when talking about personal productivity. But the other two points are more controversial.
First, I don’t believe it’s necessary to “suit up” if you’re working from home. Of course, I’m not suggesting you dress and act like a slob in your home office! But that’s just an extreme, and dressing up for the office is the other extreme. For many Out of Office workers, one of the biggest benefits is that every day is Casual Friday, and it’s good enough to dress comfortably. If you do find it helps to dress slightly better, then do so, but it’s certainly not necessary.
The other point – about working on stuff that motivates you – makes sense, but the advice isn’t always practical. We might all wish for more inspiring work, but that’s true whether or not we work in an office. Purdy doesn’t offer anything useful to improve the situation (other than a vague suggestion to “plan your next move”). Of course, if you can arrange to do something more meaningful and interesting, that helps. But sometimes you really do need to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done. In that latter situation, it’s far better to focus on being more productive rather than wishing for something better.
When you’re working Out of Office, you often don’t get the natural distractions that come from working with others. Although some of these distractions can be annoying and harmful to your productivity, they also have some positive side effects. In particular, they prevent you from spending excessively long intervals working at your desk. This means you have to be disciplined enough to create your own management plan to prevent stress, poor posture, and overwork.
The Workshifting team has five suggestions to help:
- Take frequent breathers.
- Walk at lunch.
- Play some of your favorite tunes.
- Don’t be afraid to say No.
One of the biggest advantages of telecommuting is of course the opportunity to have better balance in your life. But this doesn’t always work in practice. Lea Green suggests these five tips for telecommuters in order to increase your balance:
- Empower yourself to power down.
- Compartmentalize to create and recreate.
- Experiment with your creative cycles.
- Daydream to dream big.
- Train your mind to focus.
Many organisations are facing the issue of employees wanting to use their own phones, tablets and other devices at work. This is called “BYOD”, or Bring Your Own Device.
Most of the discussion around BYOD is about how organisations can manage security, access and privacy (One of my friends, who works in IT for a large organisation, calls it “Bring Your Own Disaster”). But it goes beyond that, and perhaps users think these devices are more powerful and more productive than is actually the case.
One of the most important things you’ll do as an Out of Office worker is to set up your workspace for comfort and convenience. The Smashing Apps blog has a wonderful collection of 40 such workspaces from real Out of Office workers.
Your own workspace will be unique, of course, but I hope you can use this collection for ideas, insights and inspiration!
Most of our book is about Out of Office work styles for workers, but much of this work style depends on how their managers treat them. If you’re managing Out of Office workers, one of the most important things to do is help them understand your needs and expectations regarding time. Now that work doesn’t stop when the office door closes at 5pm, it’s important to set boundaries that suit you and your team.
An article in Fast Company magazine recommends these four steps to set your expectations for your team members:
- Recognize that you have to initiate the conversation with your direct reports.
- Decide what you really expect in terms of response and connection.
- Have a meeting, state the parameters clearly, and then be consistent.
- Keep the lines of communication open and encourage ongoing clarification.
Some Out of Office workers enjoy the opportunity to incorporate health and fitness into their work style (for example, by working for a couple of hours before going to the gym, cycling to a favourite cafe for a few hours’ work, or stocking the refrigerator with healthy foods). But many more Out of Office workers face the opposite problem: their work style negatively affects their health (for example, they eat more junk food, they sit at a desk all day, or they don’t have to walk to catch public transport).
Tim Ferriss, author of the bestseller The Four Hour Workweek, has some advice on healthier and fitter offices. His advice includes tips on the kind of desk you use, what shoes you wear, fitness equipment you can keep handy in your office, and healthy snacks.
His article is written for in-office workers rather than Out of Office workers. But you can easily adapt most of the ideas for an Out of Office work environment.
It’s not surprising that we’re big fans of the Out of Office work style. But it also shouldn’t be a surprise that it doesn’t automatically suit everybody.
First, as we said in the book, this is better for you if you’re a knowledge worker, who manipulates bits, electrons and documents rather than bricks, electron microscopes and door frames. But even for knowledge workers, the same rules and results don’t apply across the board.
One large Chinese company ran a pilot program to allow some of its customer service employees to work from home, and it resulted in all good things: higher productivity, more hours worked, and happier employees. But not so fast! The company, heartened by the results, decided to roll out the work-from-home option throughout the company. To their surprise, only about half the employees took up the offer, and some of the original group even chose to return to the office.
Does this make the Out of Office concept a failure or a success? Neither. It just goes to show that flexibility is important. The more options an organisation can make available to its people, the better it is for everybody.
I’m biased, of course, but I was encouraged to read about a Telework Research Network report that suggested employees can be up to 27% more productive when they work from home – either part-time or full-time. Even if you don’t believe the numbers – or if you don’t think they apply to you – isn’t it worth an experiment? If an employee asks for an opportunity to work from home part-time, offer it on a trial basis with an evaluation afterwards. Of course, it won’t be a perfect experiment, because the employee might not have the best environment at home, so this will skew the results. However, that’s balanced by their extra motivation and enthusiasm to make it work. Whatever the result, it’s worth a short experiment!
Many people choose the Out of Office workstyle to improve their “work/life balance”. Not everybody agrees on exactly what that term means, but there’s a general understanding that it’s about ensuring your professional life doesn’t encroach too much into your personal life.
But is this really about “balance”, like balancing a set of scales? Craig Chappelow doesn’t think so, and says it in his blog post Work/Life Balance Is A Myth; Here’s What You Can Do About It. Broadly, his point is that the key is taking control, not trying to constantly find a perfect balance between wildly swinging extremes.
I agree, in principle. Switching to an Out of Office workstyle won’t automatically give you more balance in your life. In fact, when you’re starting out, it can create a lot of pain, stress and imbalance as you come to terms with a new way of work. But if you do it right, it can give you more control, and that’s the first step to creating the work life of your choice.
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