Crash course in flexible working from home

All my adult life I have worked in “normal” employment. When I was younger often this was part time, sometimes split or strange working shifts. As I got older this changed to full time, 9-5 or a variation of it. This had been the norm for a long time and then it all changed.

I changed jobs and started to work from home!

Shock to the system

I awoke on the first day of my new job, I put on some jeans and a t-shirt, went into my kitchen for tea and breakfast, I then went back to my room and sat down at my desk for work… It was bizarre and felt alien to me.

Environment

Due to having lodgers I couldn’t dedicate a room in my house to be an office. The desk in my bedroom was where I would be working from.

However my bedroom is the place where I escaped from a long day at work: it is my Netflix cave; my gym; it has my computer and I have escaped reality for many an hour in a computer game or watching so many YouTube videos you wonder how on earth you got to watching a about a cow singing the national anthem. This was rarely a place for focusing my mind on business and work issues.

This was the first big hurdle I felt I had to deal with. I got a new desk, larger and less cluttered. I made space for work items and decluttered all non-work items so that they were out of sight whilst I was “at work”. I made a new user profile on my PC for work and spent some time pinning programs, getting shortcuts setup and making my PC more like the computer I had in my previous work place.

Work environment

When working ‘normally’, many people don’t think about the full social construct of what it means to be “at” work. You are hard wired to be in work mode: with work colleagues and expected to be professional. In my case I would be wearing business clothes and using a computer just for work. I acted differently around my work colleagues and had a different mindset.

Colleagues might chat away about non-work items but not to an extreme amount. Most of the time I was ready for a business conversation or meetings. I was at work and in work mode.

The ring of Gyges

If you want to become invisible and effectively do anything you want without being caught then the ring of Gyges is the tool for that job! Plato the Greek philosopher used the story of the ring to ask about human nature.

Generally we are good people and do good things, or at least not bad things. Do we do this just because people can see us and will judge us? If we could do whatever we want and not get caught, would our actions be the same or somewhat more nefarious, as the story suggests?

This is how I felt when I first started working from home. I had the ring on! I had given myself tasks that needed to be completed but nobody was going to look disapprovingly if I picked up my phone and went on Facebook; ask me to turn off the sound on a YouTube video; or complain that my lunch break, instead of being 60 minutes, had started to become two or three Netflix episodes long (don’t watch Breaking Bad on your lunch break when you work from home…).

If you have never worked from home or for yourself before then try and imagine the next time you are in the office, what you would be doing if you had the ring of Gyges on? Would you look at those funny Facebook notifications more often? When you felt a bit distracted would you just go do something else for a bit? Would you turn up at work at all?

Motivation and drive

If I was lying I would say it took me a week to get over the ring of Gyges issue. More truthful would be two weeks and more accurately would likely be three weeks!

I am not trying to scare anyone thinking of doing what I have done but I am giving an account of how I felt and the mindset I needed to change and overcome to be productive. You might be very different to myself and on day one might be there, I am suggesting it might take some time to settle into this.

It took me three weeks to realise there was no ring of Gyges, it was just me, I was stopping myself from working. Perhaps I just needed the novelty of my Breaking Bad siesta sessions to get old but it is something to consider and delve into your own personality and traits.

Work when you want and how you want

Now the good bits! For example, I decided to do this blog at about four in the afternoon – I thought about it a bit but couldn’t really start it.

My creative brain had switched off and so I decided to switch off, I went out for a walk, saw a friend, had dinner and then returned home. I would have loved to see my old bosses if I walked out of work over an hour early and just said, “going home, not feeling creative”.

I got home at about 7.45pm and sat back at my desk, spent some time going through my emails and then had some ideas for this blog and others. I got an outline for a few of them ready and 9.15 came round so I decided to call it, I know I am more creative in the morning and would use the outline I had done to work from when I got up.

I have started to realise when I work best and when I don’t, when I can be productive in different situations and work around that. This is something in “normal” work that can be very hard or impossible to achieve.

To take the plunge or not?

I can’t answer that question for you, the only person who can is you and even then, you might not be able to answer until you are in the position and see how you react to it.

I can honestly say after a shaky start and, I will be honest – a few days, *ahem* weeks – where it can slip and be hard to motivate yourself, in the long run I would never go back. I can now balance my life and work how I see fit within reason. Of course there are busy times but you know you can take time elsewhere when it becomes available.

When you get into the zone and work your socks off, it’s for you and by you. It’s not because some overlord has told you to do so.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge, I wish you well. If you aren’t in that position perhaps you can take some comfort that you might still be in the best place for you.

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