Once again, a beautiful double-meaning word, "remote" can mean, among other definitions, "far away, removed," as in the photo above of a remote island (for sale!), or it could mean that device you use to turn on your TV; you know, the one that can hide itself, sometimes remotely! We usually want our remotes close by, not remote!
Today let's take our first intimate look at working remotely. Now that much of the industrialized world is working from home, I want you to avoid falling prey to the prediction Tom Peters made over 25 years ago, when he wrote something like, "Digitization will be a professional dream and a personal nightmare." Yes, it's now possible to work from just about anywhere, but how effective will you be from home?
Let's get into it, with three main topics: Setting, Scheduling, and Streamlining (or is it going to be "Slacking?")
Every stage play starts out with the "Setting." This often includes both the physical setting, (i.e., "Where is this taking place?" "What items can the audience see when the curtain goes up?") as well as some intangibles ("Where are we in history?" "What's the emotional tenor?"). When it comes to working remotely, I'd like to begin with the latter: What is your predisposition to working from home? Do you have a visceral positive or negative feeling towards it? How is your current set-up at home? Is it conducive to work? Do you have (or can you create) a dedicated space that you use exclusively, or nearly exclusively, for work?
I write this blog on an old laptop. I don't use this laptop for other purposes. I don't access email on it, don't surf the internet, don't read the news. It's in another part of the apartment (actually, just the other side of my bedroom), so I am training myself to know: "When you sit down at this table, with this laptop, it's time to write. To create. Slacking is done elsewhere."
Back to that question about your feelings toward remote work. I ask because for some people, working from home is a godsend...an escape from the bustling office and its constant interruptions. But as the Spanish saying goes, "The best part of the sunshine is the shade." When there's not even the option of a hustle-and-bustle to escape from, remote can, for some anyway, bring on feelings of loneliness, and you may become less productive. And then there are others who prefer the camaraderie of the office. So review your own values: What is important to you? At least check in on your feelings and thoughts about working from home, as those thoughts can effect the type of setting you want to create.
One of my favorite business writers is Dan Pink. Author of Drive, an excellent book on what really motivates us, he wrote When in 2018. In When, Pink expounds on the importance of timing. Most important for home working is to find out your own "chronotype." Are you naturally an early bird, a night owl, or what he calls a "third bird," which is someone who is most alert in the middle of the day (quite rare, actually). Once you know your chronotype, you can set (and stick to!) a work schedule that makes the most sense for you and the most dollars, yen or euros for your company. Pink's work is worth reading, and finding out your chronotype is a straight-forward exercise. You'll also to find out what kind of work you do at the best time of day to do it. Here's a CNBC article that summarizes his main points.
Steamlining or Slacking
I have a client who says that if he can get 5 solid, focused hours of work from his staff it's a big win. And, he adds, almost no one can actually put in 5 solid, focused hours in a given work day. From home, you just might be able to. Ask yourself if the activity you are engaged truly contributes to the bottom line. "The bottom line" is an expression, and it comes directly from business: The bottom line of the Income Statement, the document that tallies up all a company's or a division's revenues, subtracts all its expenses, and leaves you with "the bottom line." The answer to this question may lead you to cut a lot of busywork out of your workday.
This is worthy of a whole book (and some good ones are out there), but I want to touch on it briefly. If you have gone through a "What's important to me" exercise, if you're like me and most people, "health" will come near the top of the list of priorities. With so many working (and some shuttered) at home, physical and psychological health can take a hit. I am making sure to get exercise (a good book to check out is Your Body Is Your Gym by Peter Paulson), meditate, practice my Qigong, and connect with friends and family, just not during those 5-6 hours of focused work.
The odds of this situation lasting for several days or even weeks are not "remote," so let's learn and implement a few better practices and get along the best we can. "When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade" works, as long as you've got water and stocked upon sugar.