In my previous life, I completed a traineeship as an offset printer. With just ten staff members, the company was a handicraft business with traditional work patterns. And that included the working hours: We started at 7am, had our morning snack at 9am, took our lunch break at noon, and then clocked out at 4.15pm.
This structure certainly has its appeal: You left the shop at 4.15pm, and your working day was over. Finished. On the other hand, these working times weren't so helpful if you had an appointment the doctor's or the car garage, whose opening times were often precisely the same as your working times. In the worst case, you had no other choice but to take a vacation day.
Options such as flextime and home office make it much easier to attend such appointments. But this leads to another question: When is the working day actually over? When you've done eight hours of work? When you get tired in the evening? When you've finished the task at hand? Well, that probably won't always happen at 4.15pm.
As one of the remote employees at //SEIBERT/MEDIA, who mostly work from home, I want to share some experiences and tips with you here.
In many regards, flextime is a wonderful thing, but it does require a large portion of self-discipline. This is something that wasn't necessary to the same degree for the "normal" 9-to-5 I had during my traineeship.
The concept of "set" working hours helps me to separate my working and private lives more effectively. On the one hand, this means that I don't have to worry so much about clocking enough hours, on the other hand, I don't have to decide each day anew when I'm going to get up the next day and when I'm going to clock off for the evening. The arrangement we have made within our team to stick to "core working hours," to make it easier to organize meetings, for example, takes a similar approach.
Of course, having children means that your day is subject to a specific routine: They have to go to kindergarten or school and have plenty of other fixed dates that you need to stick to.
The routine around my working hours makes it easier for my family to know, when I'm busy and when they won't disturb me while working.
In addition to the physical aspect of clocking off by leaving the office or turning off your computer, there's also the aspect of switching off psychologically. But the two don't necessarily always happen at the same time.
It is usually easier to switch off after work in a craftsman's trade, as they are often more physical. As a developer, I mostly work with my head so some problems don't go away after I physically clock out. Especially since the physical distance from work is not very far; my journey home is from my home office to my living room, after all.
As such, I find it helpful to go out, play with my kids, cook something for dinner or do some gardening. If I happen to come up with a solution to a work problem in the meantime, I write it down and try it out the next day.
However, in my experience, the temptation to "quickly" turn on the laptop during the evening is great. Although this isn't a problem that only affects remote employees, but, in theory, anyone who can access and read work content on their private devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone). This constant availability of information sometimes makes it difficult for me to switch off in the evenings.
My home is my castle
At irregular intervals, I go to a co-working space closeby. Their website says:
"With coworking, my work stays at work and my home remains my home."
So it seems as though there must be more people like me who experience a time discrepancy between clocking off physically and mentally.
One lunch break, we started talking about this topic and established that having your working and living spaces in two different places helps to also separate them in your mind (whereby "different places" means different locations and not simply two different rooms in the same house).
But above all, I simply have to tell myself from time to time that my current task can just wait until the next day and that I'll be sure to produce a better result once I've rested rather than plowing on into the evening after a tiring day. But that, of course, differs from person to person; I'm more of an early bird.
So, I find that rituals and a structured daily routine help to draw a clear (as possible) line between my work and private life. And I certainly think it's necessary: After all, when your work-life balance is completely off kilter, both sides suffer. Multitasking is not one of our strengths as humans.