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In Part 1 we looked at your working schedule and activities. In this second part, we are looking at aspects of your new environment.
What do You Need from other People?
There’s another critical consideration. What do you need from other people? Being at home and working from home, can be very isolating. All those social interactions that you had in corporate life suddenly disappear. I strongly encourage you to rebuild those social elements of your working life. Build them into your working day. How can you create an opportunity for catching up with a friend or going to the gym? Maybe volunteering will enable new social interaction.
When I first started working on my own, I realized that a key part of what made me effective was to be around other people when I was working. I chose to leave the house and travel to a business club. Just having people around, made me much more productive. The payback for the time and the expense of club membership was recovered several fold by my enhanced productivity with other people working in the same space.
What do You Need from your Work Environment?
I would strongly encourage you to think about where you’re going to work. The temptation is for your workplace to be the kitchen table, your bedroom or the front living room. But in most households, it’s very difficult to preserve that as a workspace and not suffer from frequent interruptions or frequent distractions.
Carve out a place which you can dedicate as a workspace. You want to know that, when you leave it at the end of the day, it’s going to be untouched when you come back the following morning. You need a place where, when the door is closed, people recognize that you’re not interruptible. You don’t want to fall prey to the constant distractions of the other household activities that need to be done.
What do you need from an environment like that? Are you the sort of person who needs to be able to look out on a landscape? Are you the sort of person who wants to have lots of things around you? Or do you prefer to have a very clean, tidy environment? Now you get to choose. Maybe you don’t want to be in the main house. My wife’s big breakthrough for her productivity was to have a ‘she shed’. Literally a summer house in the garden that she would go in and look out over a beautiful landscape and do her thing. In principle, all we needed to do was to get electricity to it and then she has her own space. As a garden shed it wasn’t naturally heated so an electric blanket and a blower covered that gap when the weather was against her. In the summer, you could open it up, and be as warm or as cool as you wanted. But she had a space where she knew when she shut the door nobody was going to touch it and we knew when she was there, she should not be interrupted.
So, think about your work environment and what you need from it. Getting a shed in the garden may not be the right answer for you, but it is relatively inexpensive and fully tax-deductible.
Let’s just come back to those domestic distractions. In most households, if you go out to work somehow you have much less responsibility for all the tasks that need to be done at home, particularly if your partner is at home more than you are. Now you’re both at home you need to renegotiate who does what. You cannot assume that you’re able to abdicate all your responsibilities for what goes on in the home. There will also be all those things that you’ve never quite got round to that, now you’re seeing them in the house, have a new urgency for you. Be intentional about setting aside time, during your working week, to contribute to the things that are going to improve your home life. See them as things which give you a break from work. It can enable you to be more creative and it provides you with the downtime that you used to have when you were commuting or travelling. It’s amazing for me how liberating it is to stack the dishwasher, chop up vegetables for a casserole or do the laundry. But also how little I want to do the hoovering, clean the toilets or tidy the bathroom!
Remember, all those household tasks are up for renegotiation when you are both based at home.
Does your Partner want to Work?
It may also be an opportunity for you to encourage your partner to do some working from home themselves. There’s one, client I’m working with, where her house husband was taking all the responsibility for the house and the children, while she had a very demanding corporate job. Now she’s, transitioning to a Portfolio Executive workstyle there is an opportunity for him to go back to doing his previous work on a part-time basis. He is a psychologist and could do four or five sessions a day when the children are at school.
This will also support her in the transition to a portfolio executive workstyle because his financial contribution will give her more of a runway as she leaves her high-earning corporate job and steps into her new Portfolio Executive workstyle. If she has an expectation that her husband is going to do more fee-earning work, the reciprocal expectation is she’s going to take more responsibility for looking after the children and participating in home life. What she’s realized is that she would love to take responsibility for providing lunch for the children when they come back home at midday. But she doesn’t want to release the time that she’s traditionally worked when the children come home from school. She wants to work through from 2pm-6pm.
Think about your pattern of working, where and how you’re going to work and the people you need to interactive to keep you productive.
Look at how you need to plan a future where you don’t have all the advantages of corporate life.
In a separate blog, we’ll come back to how you can replace the accountability and the interaction that drives your work goals. But for this blog, we’re focused on how you can build a lifestyle that meets your needs in a Portfolio Executive workstyle.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.