Ok, slightly off my usual topics, but here goes - my desk!
I work from home, I have an office in my house, a large desk, few machines, lots of books, paperwork, endless pens that don’t work, whiteboard, noticeboard, calendar on the wall, music (a must have).
Over my career working at a desk I have hot desked, worked in a pod (booth), had three desks, one desk, two desks, clean your desk when you leave into a secured cabinet, machines coming out of my ears, even a rack server once, very noisy it turned out (my colleagues didn’t thank me for that one).
Are you a clear or organised desk person? I am not, mine is a jumble of things and generally its related to what I am working on, the problem being I have a lot of different projects at various stages.
I wish I could say I know who the plug adaptor in front of me now belongs to, or why there is a bag of sweets looking very old and discoloured under my main screen. I will leave you intrigued at the idea these somehow belong to a strange project I am working on.
As a developer, I have a few things which mark out that I am having a bad day - a piece of paper hangs from my noticeboard, titles “Regular ASCII Chart”, my family know if that paper moves to my desk it’s a bad day, and my ever-faithful bible “SQL In A Nutshell” is never far away.
If you have ever worked from home, even for just an afternoon, you will know it’s very different to working in a normal office. There are distractions, nobody at a desk next to you to run a thought past, no indication of when its ok to take a break.
There are many resources out there to tell you how working from home should be done. I wanted to share with you my own thoughts and approach.
Once, at a conference in London I heard a guy from Google talk about his change to working from home. He started by explaining his old routine, a three-hour commute to the office each way, fighting for a desk in the ‘hot desk zone’, finding a chair that still went up and down, connecting to the WIFI with ever changing credentials, locating the person he needed to see, and so it went on.
At home he created a space, an office for want of a better word; when he occupied this space he and his family understood he was working. This is key, especially if you have children in the house, all need to know that just because you are there, you are working.
He, like me, discovered Skype, and Skype for Business, video calling, instant messaging, all the things I used to hate so much – where you can get hold of people far more easily than in person. Meetings can still have you there, albeit on a screen. Email is key also, just because you are not there in person, you still need to be involved.
Many studies have proven that home workers are generally more productive, work longer hours, and yet take more regular breaks and are a lot more relaxed.
When I joined CELCAT it was clear I would be a home worker as I live a few hundred miles from the office. That took an adjustment by a lot of people, not just me, and that took time. The temptation to just expect me to be at the office for a meeting was one of the biggest to overcome, introducing skype meetings to everyone was a protracted process. Now, we think nothing of it, and even use this as a method of communication with our clients.
The other thing I have learnt is home working is not for everyone. For me it wasn’t until I had this job that it worked. There are many factors to consider for you, your household, and most importantly who you work for. Your own discipline to manage your workload, breaks and hours worked is key. When you are in an office you know when its lunch as everyone starts moving, the office empties at the same time each day, your boss can see you and communicate with you at will. You must take control of all of this, I have had many days when I have looked out the window and thought, “blimey why is it dark out there?”, “oh, I haven’t moved for 12 hours, oops!”