Work It From Home

FAN­TASY LIFE OR A FRESH KIND OF HELL? LIS­TEN TO MEN WHO MAKE IT WORK.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - ON THE COVER -

Here’s how to hot­desk from the com­forts of home with­out los­ing ef­fi­ciency.

It’s prob­a­bly hit you mid-com­mute, maybe mid-meet­ing, or smack in the mid­dle of just an­other day at the of­fice: If I was work­ing from home, I’d be much more pro­duc­tive. More and more men are lis­ten­ing to that voice: About four in ten Amer­i­cans work re­motely at least part of the time, ac­cord­ing to a Gallup re­port pub­lished last year. Nearly one in three works re­motely 80 per­cent of the time. No won­der: “Un­til you don’t have a man­ager, you don’t re­al­ize how much time is spent, and wasted, with a man­ager,” says Adam Cahn, 54, a CPA in the greater New York City area who started work­ing from home about six years ago. “You don’t have that cor­po­rate BS. No meet­ing af­ter meet­ing. You don’t have to show up in some­one’s of­fice and ex­plain your­self. You just ex­plain your­self to your­self.” Lis­ten to a cou­ple of guys who are do­ing it and lov­ing it, and then maybe lis­ten to that voice in your head. 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, but then get­ting 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 cof­fee shop. Just hav­ing a few mi­cro-in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple— even if they’re com­plete strangers—goes a long way to­ward keep­ing me bal­anced.

All in all, this has been great, es­pe­cially for my fam­ily life. When I worked in an of­fice, peo­ple who left at 5:00 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 3:00 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 my quit­ting time be­fore ask­ing me to do some­thing. That said, I’m part of the af­ter-school 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 over­com­mu­ni­cate. Not an­noy­ingly so, but enough to com­pen­sate for the lack of of­fice drop-bys.

Best body-and-mind stretch­ers: yoga and drum­ming. I started prac­tic­ing yoga about three years ago, so I keep a mat handy for a five- to ten-minute mini-ses­sion. 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.

I DON’T MISS THE PO­LIT­I­CAL JOCK­EY­ING OF AN OF­FICE. WITH WORK­ING FROM HOME, QUAL­ITY TALKS THE LOUD­EST.

com­mut­ing an hour each way, and I wanted that time back to live the life I wanted. Sud­denly those hours were mine. That meant morn­ing runs and af­ter­noon bike rides.

Even though the whole idea is to es­cape the of­fice rou­tine and the meet­ings (and maybe some of the peo­ple), I found that you need both a rou­tine and some so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

I don’t wear py­ja­mas all day long. It helps to shower, brush your teeth, and dress as if you’re go­ing some­place. That sets the tone for the workday. And I plan my day—work as­sign­ments, er­rands, work­outs. That struc­ture helps set a rou­tine, and a rou­tine leads to pro­duc­tiv­ity.

One of my tricks is read­ing in bed—some­thing un­re­lated to work—for 20 min­utes as I grad­u­ally wake up. That stim­u­lates my mind, and then I do 20 min­utes of cal­is­then­ics. Then I brush my teeth. The time I would’ve spent com­mut­ing I in­vest in my­self. It’s a form of self-love, and it’s hugely im­por­tant.

I don’t miss the po­lit­i­cal jock­ey­ing of an of­fice. With work­ing from home, qual­ity talks the loud­est. I’m proac­tive, set­ting up phone calls and vir­tual meet­ings. I’m also my own IT sup­port, my own re­search in­sti­tute. You have to prob­lem-solve by your­self. That’s a skill that pays div­i­dends down the road. Once your home be­comes your home and your of­fice, you’ll get sick of it re­ally quick. Get­ting out is cru­cial, even for a short walk. Of course I have Slack and video calls, but I ac­tively sched­ule re­cur­ring team meet­ings, just for the sake of con­nect­ing. I also feed off the en­ergy at cof­fee shops.

That said, I have to put up a vir­tual wall be­tween me and friends and fam­ily. It’s all about ex­pec­ta­tions and pri­or­i­ties. It’s es­sen­tial to set ex­pec­ta­tions with your loved ones. If they need some­thing, they have to tell you it’s ab­so­lutely ur­gent. If it’s not, it gets pushed off. Cop­ing with lone­li­ness is a crit­i­cal life skill. I say em­brace it. You feel com­fort­able with your own thoughts and learn to be­come your own best friend again.

Be like Mike

Tally your time: For one week, write down ex­actly how you use your time. It can help you fo­cus not just on what you’re do­ing for work but also around your home. You get a sense of where you need bal­ance, and you can ad­just.

Re­sis­tance is fruit­ful: When you wake up, re­sist the urge to check your cell phone. Cre­ate bound­aries be­tween the life you want and your work. Don’t let that stuff in­fil­trate your mind­ful­ness ev­ery wak­ing hour. You’ve built time back into your day, and it’s valu­able.

Find your hap­pi­est place: I work from my lap­top and have noise-can­celling head­phones with a mi­cro­phone, so I can have dis­trac­tion-free meet­ings. And I will set up shop from my couch, my kitchen ta­ble, my of­fice. That free­dom to work through­out my house is my happy place.

ONCE YOUR HOME BE­COMES YOUR HOME AND YOUR OF­FICE, YOU’LL GET SICK OF IT RE­ALLY QUICK. GET­TING OUT IS CRU­CIAL, EVEN FOR A SHORT WALK.

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.

ABOUT ten years ago, I ne­go­ti­ated for some time to work re­motely. I had been

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