This is part 2 of a 5-part series on working from home. Part one looked at my story when I did my office job from our basement.
Working in a professional office can be very inefficient. When I moved from the office to work at home it was a real eye opener to discover that I could free up so much time for my personal life and not sacrifice my work performance. I worked from home when our twins were infants and every extra moment I could free up was valuable. Since I was given such a rare opportunity by the company I worked for I wanted to prove that I could do just as good a job working from home on my schedule. The following list shows just how more efficient I was able to be when I set my own hours and worked in our basement.
- Commuting: I will start with the obvious one first. No more fighting rush hour traffic. I had one of the shortest commutes in our office as I lived no more than a 15 minutes away from home which is only 30 minutes a day saving. This small savings is still 2.5 hours a week, and given 48 working weeks a year, 120 hours annually of time spent on the way to and from work. Most people in cities spend much more time than 15 minutes to get to work. Do the math. This can result in a lot of time freed up for exercising, reading a book, or spending time with your family.
- Getting ready for work: When I worked in the office I started at 7am. With a 15 minute commute I would wake up somewhere between 5:30 and 6am. On average I would say it took me an hour to shower, get dressed, have breakfast, check e-mail and sports scores, and then leave for work. While most of these tasks have to be done anyway I still estimate that I eliminated at least 20-30 minutes a day by starting work in my pyjamas instead of a shirt and tie.
- Working your prime hours: I am sure that at certain times a day you are more awake and your brain is functioning at a higher level than at other times. Everyone is different but I am sure that during an 8 hour shift at work you are not as productive each and every hour. I am a morning person. I need about 30 minutes in the morning after waking up to get revved up but after that I am at my most alert from then through the next 3-4 hours. After a break, preferably with a brisk walk, I could work at just below peak; say 80-90% for a couple of hours. After around 2pm (depending on when I woke up) my productivity really starts to diminish. Knowing this and trying to work around my responsibilities at home I would wake up before the family, splash some water on my face, grab a glass of water, and get to work right away. I would have a snack or two at my desk so I could go a while without stopping for breakfast. I was a machine and I would get so much done in the first few hours. The core tasks that had to be completed were all done before 9am (4 hours into my day). The rest of the day I would help out with the family, maybe take my oldest daughter swimming, while looking out for important calls and e-mails. I would sit down for another hour or two of semi productive work before calling it a day. I did this 7 days a week if necessary to get all my work done.
- Work distraction free: This is perhaps the biggest and most underrated savings from working from home and working different hours than everyone else. I worked in a department of around 30 people in an office of over 500 people. I had to keep in contact with so many people within the office, other offices within the company, and a very large vendor community always wanting to sell me more things. While my employers agreed for me to work my wacky schedule from home the largest concern was that lines of communication would slow down and emergencies would not be dealt with as soon as they needed to. What happened was exactly the opposite. By removing myself from the office and from regular working hours I was able to filter out all the non emergency issues and push them off to the following day where I could quickly answer the questions before they got to work. My voicemail message stated that I was working out of the office and all questions will be dealt with in a timely matter. If they had something that could not wait I gave a contact number for the home office. Most people did not like the idea of disturbing me at home so they simply left a message. When my office phone rang I knew that it was something I needed to look after right away. Since I was not doing any other work at that moment it could have my full attention until it was resolved. I would browse e-mail throughout the day to look for things that needed attention. This schedule divided my day up so well. When I needed to work I could work in complete peace without any distractions. In the office I could turn off e-mail, forward all calls to voicemail and shut the door but I could only get away with that for so long before someone would beat down my door to solve their ‘emergency’. Working mornings and weekends distraction free was so valuable and it literally took away hours from the time needed to get my work done.
- Motivation: I consider myself a hard worker but even then it is hard to motivate yourself especially during non prime hours. When I set my own hours, however, I was not restricted by the time on the clock but by the tasks needing to be completed. It is hard to get excited after lunch when you see you still have almost 4 hours to kill till you can go home, but when you work from home and you can take your daughter swimming once you get these 10 tasks completed, you are motivated to get down to work. During the time I worked from home I was far more motivated to get work done and the quality of work does tend to be higher when you are motivated.
When I worked from home, a home with three young kids and an overwhelmed mother of newborn twins, I was able to get my work done so efficiently I spend a good portion of the day being a part of our family life. By cutting out time preparing for work, the distractions that occur in the office, working during the times I was the most mentally alert, and being highly motivated to get my job done quickly and professionally, I was able to complete my job in much less time than when I was in the office. My employer only wanted this to be temporary and my time at home would only last 14 months but when I returned to the office it was so frustrating to be placed back with all the same inefficiencies I dealt with before. It was harder this time since it was so obvious to me that I could do my job better in less time if I just worked from home. Six months later I quit my job and I now work from home for myself.