THE ART OF FOCUS
Chuck Vadun, 51, Communications Director at Fire Engine RED and father of two
MY WIFE wasn’t sure I could stay focused and productive working at home. That was almost five years ago, and I’m doing well. She even admitted it. I wish I’d recorded her saying that.
I’m in marketing, collaborative work, so I was used to saying, “Let’s go to the whiteboard and sketch it out.” I can’t do that now, so I use Google Docs and Sheets, Slack and other tools to share ideas. It works very well.
When I started, I stuck to my morning routine: breakfast and a shower. My breaks include lunch, walking the dog, yoga and playing the drums. I’m also a neat freak, so another break may be tidying up one area or doing one cleaning task. Then right back to work.
In my last job, my office was next to an open-plan area with music blaring and Nerf guns going off. Now it’s easier for me to focus and actually think about what I’m doing. This has made for better results.
Isolation is a problem, I’ll admit. But if you acknowledge it, that’s half the battle, and you just do something to counteract it. I meet friends for coffee or lunch. Sometimes I’ll take a yoga class in the afternoon and then make up the work time later that night. If I don’t have phone calls to make, I sometimes take my laptop to the library or the cafe. Just having a few micro-interactions with people – even if they’re complete strangers – can help keep you balanced.
All in all, this has been great, especially for my family life. When I worked in an office, people who left at 5pm because they had kids got the side-eye a lot. Here, it’s not about when your butt is in your seat. It’s about deadlines and results.
So I’m fortunate to see my two daughters at 3 in the afternoon when they’re done with school. I get a hello from them, and my wife is supportive of my workday boundaries. She waits until I knock off before asking me to do something. That said, I’m part of the afterschool and sports carpool system. Our CEO is a big fan of this: remote workers can leave whenever for that kind of stuff. As long as you’re doing good work, it’s all fine.
CRUSH IT LIKE CHUCK
Must-have equipment: a door on your office. You have to be able to shut out a barking dog or crazy kids. It’s best if that office is a separate room. Psychologically, having a designated work area reminds me – and everyone else – that in there is where work is done. And being out of the office means I’m done with work.
Boundary worth pushing: over communicating with colleagues. We spend lots of time interacting via Slack, instant message and conference calls. I’m out of sight but don’t want to be out of mind. So I over communicate. Not annoyingly so, but enough to compensate for the lack of office drop-bys. Best body-and-mind stretchers: yoga and drumming. I started practising yoga about three years ago, so I keep a mat handy for a five- to ten-minute minisession. I also have a drum kit in the garage and grab my headphones and play along for a song or two. Short breaks help my creativity. If I take my mind off a task I’m struggling with, my subconscious often provides the answer when I get back to the keyboard.