This article was written in April 2020 initially but stands the test of time. In a week of fear, uncertainty and new working conditions for many I thought I would share my advice on home working and what NOT to do, hopefully a bit of light relief on a LinkedIn post/article in uncertain times.
The first time that I worked from home was in January 2016. I had just created and delivered my first business improvement week in an office in the North of England. To put this in context I had planned the whole programme with one element missing, and that was how to score all of my findings and put them into a report to look at the successes and development areas of that particular office. I thought on that Friday night on the train home that I’ll have plenty of time the following Monday and Tuesday to figure that out and to write a report that was due to be delivered to senior stakeholders on the Wednesday, so I can now relax and enjoy my weekend.
Monday morning arrived, I woke up at 6am which is my normal time – I was advised to stick to a routine by someone I knew who worked from home all of the time. I had set up my home office properly so it wasn’t going to be laptop on the knee watching Quincy M.E (why do I always reference, Quincy??). My wife was up and getting ready before her drive up to Aberdeen, so I did the gentlemanly thing of making her breakfasts and tidying a few things up so she could get away on time. It was ONLY 6:30am after all. he left just after 7am I made myself some breakfast and watched the last episode of “King of Queens”. I would begin work at 7:30am, a lot earlier than my normal hours (if there is such a thing).
It was an epic episode of “KOQ” and I was in such a good mood that I decided that I would start at 8am, so I messed about with the cats for a while and made another vat of coffee, 8am came and went as did 9am. This was a crisp January day, mild for the North of Scotland. I thought, I could go and sit in the garden and have my cuppa and think about the scoring, so I did as it’s not many days in January that you could do such a thing. I lost track of time and lost focus on how I was going to score anything. By the time I came back into the house it was almost 11am, you have to ask yourself what person starts their day then? not me! So I decided to have an early lunch and crack on afterwards.
I enjoyed a leisurely lunch of salad, boiled chicken and quinoa (aka a Pie and a Tandoori Chicken Baguette), and by 2pm I was ready to go. There was one issue, I had made roughly 60 pages of notes from observations, interviews and analysis some on paper some electronically. PANIC!! I started sifting through them, looking at my scribbles, my official notes and all of the numbers and letters which seemed to have merged into ancient Greek.
I composed myself and started to work methodically. In what felt like 15 minutes after I had started I heard my front door, it was my wife, it was 6pm and I hadn’t even begun to think about making her dinner ( I had said to her earlier that by starting at 7:30am, I would finish at 5pm and cook dinner). She came upstairs to what looked like a protest against a paper mill or someone that had re-enacted Neville Chamberlain’s iconic letter in the hand approximately 1 million times and had thrown the letter on the floor each time. She was pretty angry as when I took on the new role I had said to her that the hours I had done in my previous role would decrease during my home week and would be roughly 8am-5pm.
After the anger had subsided, roughly 2 minutes later my dinner was underway as I continued to work. My dinner arrived and I wolfed it down before getting back to my papermill and 62 million online notes. By 11:30pm I had scored a lot of the work and started to form some sort of semblance of a report. Before I stopped that evening, I decided to write out a timetable for the Tuesday. And this timetable was something that I stuck to throughout the whole time that I worked in business improvement, it went as follows:
6am – out of bed
6:05am – coffee and start working
9am – shower and breakfast
9:30am – work
12:30 – lunch
1pm – work
5pm – finish
I quickly realised that the first three hours of my day were key. I did more work then than anytime in an office. I had no one to speak to about football, cricket, rugby, tennis, darts, synchronised swimming, men’s beach volleyball, The Archers and Quincy M.E!!. I had no commute time. I did have the phone, Skype and email to stay connected to the world.
Home working is about process and structure. Employers need to trust employees not to do what Brian did on his first day but to do what he did every other day. For employees its about having clear metrics to show your company what you have achieved. The whole planet is in a very strange and unknown state at the moment so if this gave you a little bit of switching off from reality then I’m glad. More importantly if you are working from home, stay connected to your teams, work with little distraction (Quincy has a loud voice), take breaks and stay safe.