When you switch up the working week, with changes to the environment and working hours, it holds the difference between warming a seat and getting things done. Working from home with an office day (or two) means that I am far more productive than when I sit at a desk for a specific number of hours.
I mentioned that I have a new job and that it is technically only a 32 hr week (four days)*. This job is already splendid and varied enough to keep me interested and engaged, but it is even better because I can work from home 3/4 days out of five. The difference it has made to my life is astounding. And I think many people would agree.
I don’t have between a 1.5 and 2.5-hour commute in a morning (and on the way home). That means I have gained between nine and fifteen hours back per week.
Just think for a moment about how much you can get done in 9 or even 15 hours. It’s a lot.
How much of your weekly cleaning or going to the gym or meditating or doing something for yourself can you do with that time?
More time… for everything
I still get up between 05:00 and 5:30 every weekday morning. My husband still has to commute and get the portable hurricane to nursery every morning. So when they disappear at 06:30 every morning, I have 1.5 hours before starting work.
What can I do with that time?
I empty and refill the dishwasher, wipe down the kitchen worktops, and pick up the detritus from the morning preparations. If there is any, I’ll do a washload of laundry. It takes about 15-20 minutes. I start the day with a tidy home, and it stays that way until the Taz impressionist comes home.
So what do I do with the rest of that time?
I get to do something for myself. Starting my day with a ‘morning pages’ drain dump – where I write for three pages of A4 (or more) and let the words flow. For preference, I like to do this by hand, away from my computer screen and the distractions that it holds. I get to do a short yoga routine followed by a 15-20 minute meditation. The length of the meditation depends on how I’m feeling and where my mind wanders.
Let’s get to work (home days)
I usually start work at 08:00, but if my morning pages run long It might be 8:30. I’m already set up for the day. My laptop and monitor are ready to start work as soon as I am. I have a library of information on the bookcase to my left, along with many notes from seminars, workshops and training courses.
I have no distractions, my house is quiet, or I can have music playing that greases the gears of my brain.
It’s not healthy to sit at a desk for an entire day, but when you have nothing to do on your breaks, it feels like wasted time. When I’m working at home, I can take out the laundry and hang it, make a drink, and if necessary, I can put another load of laundry through the wash. I’ve had a break from my desk and my screen, but I haven’t wasted my time.
I go back to my desk, feeling somewhat refreshed by a break that isn’t a break, merely a change.
When I get to the middle of my day, I have the freedom to make lunch that I want. Rather than paying for lunch from the cafés and takeouts near the office, I get to eat food that I want.
The rest of the day, I work with a break or two away from my desk.
I’m a writer – we have good days and bad days. So when I’m having a bad day, I can break it up with doing something else and allocate those lost hours to the end of the day. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m struggling to get my words down on the page, even when I’ve finished, I’m never happy with the finished product. The days when the words flow freely are the times when I feel like I have done well. Working from home gives me the option to break up my day and write when I’m most productive. As long as I can stick to my deadlines, I’m on track.
I finish my workday (depending on my schedule) between 16:00 and 19:00.
I “get home” (read finish work) to a clean and tidy house. All I have to do is start dinner, before my hubby and my son come home. Then we can eat, prepare the toddler for bed and quiet time, and have a short amount of time as a couple before we go to sleep.
Let’s GO to work (office day)
On the days I go into the office. As before, we get up at 05:00 (it has to be the earlier of the two so that I can shower and make my face look presentable) and prep everyone for the day ahead. We leave the house at 6:30.
The house is still untidy, the dishes are still in the dishwasher, the worktops are a mess, and there are pyjamas and toys still littering the floor. I haven’t made the beds.
We travel 1.5 hrs (including dropping the small one at nursery and battling morning traffic) to the next city.
I set up my laptop, empty work bag onto my desk. No time for morning pages, yoga or meditation, it’s straight into work.
So far, I’m not selling the idea that having an office day is a great idea. However, you might not realise how much time we spend communicating via messengers and slack. The time it takes to write the conversations, we could have done in a third of the time by having a simple conversation over the watercooler in the kitchen. Scheduling meetings and discussions for the days when we’re all in the office cuts down on the amount of time we spend typing our conversations.
There’s also the social aspect of having work outside of the home. I have worked as a remote worker fulltime, and I have no interaction outside of my family. I’m don’t make friends with work colleagues, and I don’t get to exchange pleasantries with my coworkers. I go a little bit strange and reclusive, with stilted social skills. The office day keeps me more or less socially capable.
How Home & Office Work Creates Balance
Worklife balance is important. I have a family, many people do. When salaried work and housework take up all of your time, where do you find time to spend with family?
When I finish my workday and begin dinner from a blank slate of a home, I have time to spend with my son. We get to play with cars and fake food, legos and wooden blocks, and I don’t have to leave him to play while I cook, clean and do laundry. I get to spend time with my husband because I know I can get other things done when he isn’t in the house.
On the other hand, having an office day or two allows me an external stimulus. Social interaction, and time-saving meetings and discussions mean that I stay sane.
I don’t think I would ever go back to working entirely from home again. Even if I manage to freelance or start my own business, I’ll still make the effort to work from a social place.
I suppose that splitting time between home days and office days doesn’t work for everyone. However, this is the closest I have ever come to the perfect working arrangement.
A work environment tailored to my needs and requirements at home makes me more productive. An office day or two, while less productive, is more efficient.
*Updated. I’ve gone full time because of the workload. But at least I’m actually getting paid for it now