Home Work 101

By Robert Goldman

February 20, 2020 5 min read

What's better: a really great job where you have to go into an office every day or a really awful job you can do from home?

Maybe it's just me, but it's difficult to imagine a job so terrific that it's worth dealing with commutes that are too long, meetings that are too frequent and managers who multiply like cockroaches. (How does a cockroach multiply? Ask one how much is three times seven and you'll find out.)

Yes, working from home can be paradise on the half shell, but you do have to be careful if you want to avoid potential stumbling blocks.

I'm talking serious problems, like joining the Monday morning video staff meeting wearing your pink, teddy bear pj's — again. Or deciding to put the cost of detergent on your expense account on the workdays you devote to doing the laundry.

Which brings us to "How to Stay Focused When You're Working from Home," Elizabeth Grace Saunder's recent article in Harvard Business Review.

"As someone who has worked from home for 12 years, and been a time management coach for remote workers," Saunders has made it her life's work to come up with tips to "make remote work more productive and satisfying."

Put on those pj's, and let's dive in.

Tip No. 1: Establish Working Hours

"It may sound silly," writes Ms. Saunders, "but if you want to have a focused day of work, pretend you're not working from home."

The idea here is to establish "office hours," even though you are nowhere near your office. Saunders considers herself open for business from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. If she has a chore she needs to do or, one assumes, an episode of "Baby Yoda" she wants to see, she makes sure these activities do not occur during business hours.

If you do decide to establish working hours, you'll want to be more realistic. Tell your co-workers you'll be open for business between 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. That's about all the time you devote to working while you're at the office. No reason to kill yourself just because you're at home.

Of course, to truly replicate the "at the office" experience, you need more than office hours. You need an office. A cold, damp, spider-infested basement makes the perfect setting for a CIA black site or a home office. Scour Craigslist for an Atari 1200XL computer system and Lotus 1-2-3 software. Finally, hire a dozen semipsychotic malcontents to wander around your home, mumbling menacingly about how society has mistreated them.

Now that's an office situation anyone can relate to.

Tip No. 2: Structure Your Day for Success

Get the most from a work-at-home day by "structuring it differently than a typical workday."

Saunders suggests a meeting-free day. I recommend you structure an entire week. Follow up "no-meeting Monday" with "no, thank you Tuesday," a day in which you politely reject every assignment you are given. "What's happening Wednesday" is the day in which you pretend to have amnesia and can't remember you even have a job, after which comes "thirsty Thursday," in which you spend the day visiting local brew pubs on the company dime to determine who has the most yummy chocolate stout. End your busy week with "free spa Friday," during which you let the company treat you to a series of completely useless and ridiculously expensive spa treatments. Do pilates with dolphins. Have your tonsils gold-plated, and soak your earlobes in vintage champagne.

The company may initially balk at the expense, but when they see how mellow you feel, they'll pony up.

Tip No. 3: Set Boundaries With Others

"Explain to friends, family, and other acquaintances that the days you're working remotely aren't opportunities for non-work-related activities." This is not easy to do, especially when it comes to explaining to your significant other that even though it appears you are stretched out on the couch dozing heavily, you are actually working on critical work projects and are therefore unavailable to perform trivial household tasks, like extinguishing the grease fire that is burning down the kitchen cabinets.

It's all a matter of setting limits, Saunders says, and "you don't need to do so apologetically." In fact, if you demand adherence to your limits, your wishes and your whims, you will build respect for your focused, disciplined way of working from home, right up until the moment you are kicked out of your house and can go back to the office like a normal person.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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