This is a great topic, and the host is a good friend, TJay Belt. We’ve met each other’s families and a lot of our conversations revolve around non-work stuff. I actually am friends on Facebook with TJay and follow his outdoor adventures on a weekly basis as he hikes, bikes, boats, and more.
This month he asks us to write about Work/Life Balance, which is an important topic to me.
Work From Home
My first attempts to find balance started at the turn of the millennium. Actually in 1999, when I worked at a financial services company. We had instability in systems, to the point that I kept a pillow in my office as I spent more than a few nights there.
After that I changed jobs a few times until I finally went to work for myself at SQLServerCentral. Since then, I’ve been at home for 18 years, including through this pandemic. A few things that I’ve learned in that time.
The first time I was at home regularly was sharing an office with my wife, who had been telecommuting for a company for quite a few years. She was on the phone a lot, so I learned to keep headphones around, or be ready to grab my laptop and go work downstairs.
I also learned that things come up at home. Maybe my wife was planning on getting kids and a meeting popped up, or vice versa. It was helpful to be flexible and ready to adapt.
Set Some Rules
When my wife started working from home, we had a 5yr old. He was pretty good with rules and learned to be quiet when the door was closed. A couple years later, our second was born, and that was a challenge. We had a nanny, and that was helpful, but we slowly had to teach the 2nd (and 3rd) rules about noise and disturbances.
On the plus side, we learned to be flexible and make time for kids. If they needed some attention and we weren’t busy, give it to them. Include them in breaks, walks, or head to school. I loved going to lunch with my kids when they were at school in 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade.
One thing that helped me is that I blended work and life when at home. My boss or coworkers wouldn’t hesitate to ping me if they needed something at 6pm, or now, 7am, and that’s OK. However, I also know that doing laundry, or prepping something for dinner, or even cutting grass are things I might do as a break from work or while listening to a call.
I mixed my life with work, taking advantage of the proximity. In an office, I might wander to the break room, or go talk to someone and do a little less work. Here, I try to get something done. I’ve taken an hour to change oil or put on winter tires in the middle of the day, and it sometimes lets me return to work refreshed.
At the same time, if I have a bunch of chores, it’s much easier to go back to work after dinner for an hour if I need to get something done.
Set Some Hours
At first I tried to make a strict set of office hours and work from 8-4, like I was in office. That didn’t work for me. It felt like I was not taking advantage of being at home, around kids at times, and more.
However, I also learned to get away. I am lucky in that I’ve often had a separate office, but I have had laptops or other devices around the house. I’ve learned not to check email or do work when I’m not working. If I use the computer to check something for life, I don’t spend time looking to see if I’ve missed something at work.
Spoiler: I’ve always missed something and it’s almost always not that important.
I do, however, make up time if I have had a bad week. When I struggle to work, it’s hard as a creative person. In an office, I’d listlessly sit at my desk and let time pass me by. Now I get up and go do something to help myself.
I’ll then make up that time in the evening or on the weekend.
Time Zones Suck
I work for a UK company in Colorado. I’m GMT-7, which means I really have a few hours in the am when I can reach people in the UK and work together. I also get some people scheduling things at 7am, or even 6am, my time. Not often, but it happens. We have an office in CA, and I sometimes get messages around 6pm my time, just before someone there knocks off.
I roll with this. My wife hasn’t been thrilled, but during the pandemic I’ve had a lot more 7am calls than ever before. A ton at 8am. I just deal with it because it’s not every day, and the flexibility is a trade off. I’ve done plenty of 9am yoga classes, taking an 8:00-8:50 call on the way and in the parking lot. They deal with it, so I can as well.
We work to live, not the other way around.