My thoughts on working from home

Having started working for Yammer and being based in Sydney, I’ve been working from home for the first time in my career the last 3 months. Michael Fox just wrote a thought provoking post over on his blog, 22 Michaels, and I thought I’d share what I’ve found about working from home.

1) You need to be disciplined

One thing that became immediately apparent was that I needed to really invest in my time and my discipline. When you work in an office, it’s very easy to get caught up in the rhythm of your life. You get up at the same time, shower, breakfast, commute, office, coffee, chat, email…etc etc.

At my previous job, I’d happily keep my email open all day because it also served as a portal into what was going on in the office. When you’re working at home, having your email open (or any service that really drains your attention) can be dangerous. The first week I got back from San Francisco, I spent most of my days buried in my email…even though I didn’t have a huge amount of email. I’d also spend a lot of time in Yammer, obviously, and days could fly by without feeling like I was achieving much strategically.

I needed to be more disciplined about what I was doing with _my_ time, and the better I’ve got at this the more productive and happy I’ve felt.

2) Batch your email

I now try to batch my email, and only open it twice a day. I normally check it first thing in the morning, and then again towards the end of the day. There are lots of people who have written about this. It’s also well worth reading Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

3) Be strategic

The robots are coming. Tim Hwang now reckons he can build a robot that will do what Lawyers do today. If you’re not careful, you’ll be replaced by a robot soon enough and so it’s crucial that the work you do every day is highly (highly) valuable. I learned this very early on, as it felt like I was being to reactive to the tasks that were coming in.

If you work from home, you need to make time to be strategic and brainstorm/discover/plot the next actions and parts of the your work. What can you do to really provide value to that client? What do they really want? Do you really understand their business enough? Those are the kinds of questions that robots will never fully be able to answer, and their also the most valuable questions to be providing insights on. Don’t get caught up just ‘doing things.’ Give yourself time to make value.

3) Coworking is fun

I’m a people person – it’s one of the things that makes me, me. Working from home can be a real challenge because I have days sometimes when I don’t see people. Find people you can work with, and make sure you organise this. Michael was kind enough to have me in the Shoes Of Prey office a while ago and it’s something i’m looking to repeat soon. I also try to work onsite with clients as often as I can, when it makes sense.

If you cowork in Sydney, let me know where and I’ll come meet you sometime. 🙂

4) Be aware that you change the space

I live in a little cubby house, studio apartment with my amazing girlfriend Rose. What’s hard about working, is that Rose gets home at about 5pm most days. By the time she get’s home, our little cubby house has become a man cave and I’m often still happily working away on something that I’ve got some rhythm on. That’s not really fair on Rose and so I’ve started to aim to finish up my day at as close to 5 as I can. I pack away my laptop and then help clean up the space. It’s quite a simple thing, but hard to do sometimes.

At home, you really notice the difference between times when you’re working and when you’re not. Because, if you’re not working then you’re just at home! To me, the ideal mix is looking like having a desk somewhere that I can go to cowork with people when I feel like that, but then work from home at the other times.

4 thoughts on “My thoughts on working from home

  1. Insightful post as usual Steve. I was left thinking this is not just about working from home. Apart from cleaning up your ‘Man space’ I reckon it’s all valid for people that work from an office also.

    1. Thanks Derek – you’re right of course, many of these habits are good in every context. However I think being in an office can sometimes hide their importance…working from home shon a light on many of my less productive habits. 🙂

  2. Top post, now go have babies 😉

    Batch that email, and know your time box. Work like hell to finish on time, and then plan the next assault.

    Also, a man cave is a very important thing – and I think the cubby house dayse are numbered…

    Rock on!

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