Working From Home: Look Who's All Grown Up
While I am still a bit of an ‘old schooler’ and predisposed and preconditioned to being in the traditional office setting, I recently learned from a short stint needing to Work From Home (WFH - for the hip remote folks); this employment model can actually WORK.
Here is my story.
"In my day"
In 1998 I accepted an entry level job at a tech company in Boston. This was only my second “real” job, and, like most entry level jobs, I really had no clue about their products, services, people and business in general. I was 24 years old and simply excited to be gainfully employed (and not living with Mommy and Daddy). We had the multi-floor, palatial, high rise office space nuzzled in the Back Bay of Beantown. After the first few awkward opening days of getting situated, meeting colleagues, human resources, “Where is the bathroom?” etc., I quickly came to like the new gig.
While I was tucked away in a little cubicle on the 9th floor, it was a good set up. This was the first time I was provided a computer (believe it or not, this was the first time I used EMAIL - ever. Yes, color me old.). Fast-growth company, casual attire, great cafeteria, and seemingly a LOT of flexibility, which was most intriguing to me.
Staff worked flexible schedules and it appeared – from my inexperienced perch – they were given carte blanche on how, when, and WHERE (stay with me on this point) they fulfilled their job responsibilities. What world am I in? No hard start or finish times? No clock punching? No overbearing bosses looking at their watches (people actually wore watches in the olden days). This was my very first taste of such freedom in any type of job I had ever experienced. Perhaps I stumbled across professional Xanadu?
It got even better for me.
Inside of my first 2 months, my boss went out on maternity leave for a minimum of 3 months (it evolved to a year). “The Frankie Freedom Trail” was open for business. With very, very few eyes over me, I began to take some liberties. Arriving late, leaving early, long – pathetically long – lunches. It was unreal, and at that age I had basically zero personal responsibilities but yours truly.
I even perfected an office escape to ensure your co-workers were clueless to your whereabouts.
I penned an article and covered this technique many years back.
Here is the excerpt…a move I dubbed “The Commuter”
"For those of you with a less than exciting office job with even less responsibility, here is a dangerous but extremely rewarding exit I invented in the early, post-college days. You will need the following items: a jacket (be sure it is seasonally appropriate), a spare set of keys and, if applicable, a pair of glasses. Strategically place these items around your workstation. Be sure your computer is turned on and open to some type of work-related file. That's pretty much it. Gracefully walk out the door and head for home. Co-workers will see the litany of personal items strewn on your desk and simply assume you are elsewhere in the building. By the time anyone realizes you are gone, it's quitting time anyway! "
And it worked like a charm! I had a perfect record as I slithered around the streets of Boston and boarded a subway toward home hours before quitting time. How could this get better?
It did, and I promise my story is going somewhere.
As time wore on, I noticed that many folks were often “Working From Home” on occasion. Wait? What? How does this work? More important, how do I get aboard this train? I paused. I pondered. Is this a possibility for me as well? Welp, only one way to find out.
So, one night, I had brought my computer home (who knew they had these little computers you could fit in a bag called 'laptops'! WOW!) and hatched my simple plan for the next morning.
RE: WFH (Those magical little letters were my gateway to even more fantastic freedom)
“I will be working from home today. I will be reachable via email.
Inside of 30 minutes I got a polite acceptance to my proposal! Touchdown!
Following the Happy Dance that I performed in my sub-terrain, dank Malden, MA apartment, I logged my brain out thinking I had hit the jackpot. Stay in the PJs, have an extra bowl of Frosted Flakes….and look, PRICE IS RIGHT coming up! Come on, man!
Sure, I made a point to check in every few hours to be safe but at that stage of my “career” my responsibilities more or less mirrored by those of the night watchman at an abandoned book depository.
In those days, WFH was somewhat of a joke. With only basic dial-up internet capabilities and, he gads, an even more basic cell phone in your hand, your ability to effectively work out of the homestead was pretty limited.
OK, enough of “back in my day” speech, flash forward.
Then and Now
Almost a quarter century later, this is not your father’s WFH. Clearly accelerated by the pandemic, the ability to EFFECTIVILY operate from your place of residence has jumped light years ahead of those pre-Internet bubble days I lived through.
Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime and the like technologies have made the once rare phenomenon a completely acceptable and useful business practice and allow meaningful communication with customers and colleagues.
The Facts & Stats
Some highlights from the study include…
· A study by Standford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increase productivity by 13%.
· A survey from March this 2020 by Airtasker shows work from home employees spent less time avoiding work (15% difference), spent 1.4 more days working each month, and took more breaks.
· No commute. Whether it takes 10 minutes to drive to work or 1 hour, it saves this time when working from home. Employees can start the workday earlier if they don’t have to take the time to drive into the office. The Airtasker survey reports that, on average, a worker saves 8.5 hours a week of free time by not commuting to work. For a year, this adds up to 408 hours.
Some Tips & Tricks
(Apollo continues with) some tips to help you or your employees be more successful working at home:
· Create a comfortable workspace. Working in an office caters to keeping you focused and on track. Try to recreate this working space in your home, whether it’s turning an extra room into your office or putting a desk behind the couch. The space should be comfortable, away from added screens (TV, Xbox, etc.), and have everything you need to complete your work.
· Stay organized. You might need to adopt a new organizing system or start using a day planner to make sure you stay on schedule. It’s recommended to create a weekly work schedule and list the tasks you need to complete. Staying committed to the schedule will help you create consistency and a routine.
· Commit to smaller, but intense work intervals. You can be more productive when you focus intently for smaller periods of time. Spend a couple of hours timing how long you can work before getting distracted. For example, if you can work for 30 minutes before getting distracted, then continue this pace throughout the whole day. After each break, set a online timer and work for the next 30 minutes uninterrupted.
· Take a break. Taking regular breaks allows your brain to refocus and relax. In the Airtasker survey, 37% of the remote workers say taking regular breaks is the best way to stay productive. Use your break to get a snack, drink water, get fresh air, or check on your family. The average break time for a remote worker is 22 minutes spread out across the day.
· Schedule a virtual commute. According to the New York Times, the hardest part of working from home is the loneliness and lack of social interaction. Taking your regular commute time to check in with co-workers can help support social interaction and focus your brain on the day’s work.
The bottom line is the results produced and the trust you have in your people. If they prove productive, constructive, effective (and some other “ive” words) in managing their job functions from home then I say ‘What is the problem?”
Thank you technology! You’ve helped a dinosaur evolve.