Various labor studies have found that, over the past few decades, the proportion of workers claiming to do at least some of their work form home has increased.
Consequently, studies and experts (and occasional Yahoo CEOs) have attempted to prove whether working from home or from the office is more “productive” or “creative” or what have you.
I tend to think that this debate misses the point. Very few people (who are not self-employed) work from home full-time. Indeed, many of the people who tell survey-takers that they have done some work from home over the last week are talking about answering emails at night, in the early AM, or on weekends — not exactly the usual picture of a full-time telecommuter in her jammies.
So, my take: if people do this sort of work from home, then it’s not surprising that some people occasionally “home from work” too.
I first heard this phrase over on The SHU Box from a commenter (she says she’s not the origin of the phrase, so if anyone has seen other uses, please point me in that direction! I would love to trace its linguistic development). I love it. I think it perfectly encapsulates the personal tasks that many people do during work hours.
As with working at home, it is neither good or bad. Sometimes it’s inevitable; sometimes it’s something else.
If you have to be in your office from, say, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., there are certain home-from-work inevitabilities. You need to call professional offices when they’re open.
Other stuff is more nebulous. Maybe you hit an afternoon energy slump. You could reread the same emails six times. Or you could plan your next vacation. In the moment, one probably seems more appealing than the other.
Then there’s the stuff that just bleeds through the work/life barriers. Maybe your work email address is the one in your kid’s contact file at their afterschool program. You’re answering a slew of emails, and you answer one from the program director right next to one from a client.
So, if you find that you “home from work” regularly, how can you do it well?
A few ideas: First, create personal priority lists, just like you’d create professional ones. Personal tasks can expand to fill all available space. Limiting them both creates a sense of progress, and helps make sure you’re doing the stuff that actually needs to get done. If you know this is the week to book your tickets for Thanksgiving, buy your sister a birthday present, and make a dentist appointment, great. Do those things. Then be done until the next week.
Second: Don’t use your best time for these tasks. I know this is easier said than done. For most people, morning is when we feel capable of conquering the world. It is so tempting, when you show up at work, to “clear the decks” before settling down to deeper work. But the problem is that you might run out of steam before you get to the deeper stuff. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment — because you knocked a lot of stuff off your to-do list! — but it is very hard to do deep work later in the day as meetings and requests stack up. So that’s when the final tip comes in…
Sub home tasks for “fake breaks.” You know what I’m talking about. You get sucked into an argument on Twitter. You take a glance at the headlines, see an ad for Nordstroms and start shopping for boots. If you tend to do these things during transition times, you could try taking real breaks (go outside!) But if you’re going to do the fake stuff, do something that’s actually productive, like booking that hotel room for your cousin’s wedding.
Do you “home from work”? How do you handle it (without going insane or losing your job)?