These are some of the things I can do because I’m fortunate to work for a company that lets me work from anywhere:
- Hug my kids and feed them breakfast before they leave for school in the morning.
- Greet and make a snack for them when they get home; hear all about their day.
- Work from my favorite coffee shop.
- Spend a week with the whole Basecamp team in our Chicago office.
- Spend a week with my team in sunny Austin, TX (while it’s -2ºF in Chicago).
- Run an errand for a friend.
- Walk my dogs.
- Work with a friend.
- Care for a sick child without taking a sick day myself.
After you’ve read all the books and articles about keeping on-task when working from home, setting up the perfect home office, avoiding loneliness, staying connected, sidestepping distractions, and avoiding interruptions I’d suggest one thing: embrace interruptions.
Maybe this isn’t the way of MAXIMUM IN-THE-ZONE PRODUCTIVITY but as my kids have gotten older and the days are fast approaching where they’ll be off on their own I’ve tried to be open to those interruptions.
For example, my son usually goes right for my office when he gets home in the afternoon, standing with me at my desk rattling on about his day oblivious that he might be interrupting. I do my best (and sometimes it’s really hard) to stop what I’m doing, turn to him and be present. How many more of those conversations will there be? I’ll take every one I can get.
My daughter comes home starving. Taking 10 minutes to make her a snack makes both of our days. She could totally do it herself and I could totally keep working but which 10 minutes am I going to remember? Which will she remember?
If you have little kids (or no kids) what I’m experiencing may seem like it’s irrelevant (or at least a long way off) but I promise you it’s not. You won’t remember working a little later or catching up on Saturday because the people you love interrupted you but you’re certain to remember those little interactions. And even more, they will remember them, too. This is why I work remotely. I worked a day job and freelanced all night (while putting myself through college) when these same kids were little. I barely remember those years. Be grateful that you’re home to be interrupted at all.
* * *
Today’s American worker is the most productive in the world and our productivity has increased exponentially for more than a century.
An average worker needs to work a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as one working 40 hours per week in 1950. […] the average worker could have a 29-hour workweek if he were satisfied with producing as much as a 40-hour worker as recently as 1990.
— Productivity and the Workweek by Erik Rauch
Of course, we’re not actually working less (we’re working more hours!) and (surprise!) it’s not making us any happier either.
If you’re fortunate to have the freedom to work remotely, great! Rejoice in your freedom to get things done when, where, and how you work best! Jump up and down because you don’t have to get in a car for your twice-daily dose of soul-sucking traffic! Inhale deeply safe from the “hero” in the next cubicle who’s sick but came to the office anyway! Enjoy lunch with your spouse instead of in the break room with Connie from accounts payable! These are all tremendous benefits that make you healthier, happier and a better worker.
Now take all of that and cut yourself some slack. The work will get done. The people you love aren’t interruptions, they’re the reason you work at all. Give ’em a hug.