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Working from home is a double-edged sword that must be balanced to be effective. As an IT leader of a professional services organization, my work takes me across the state, and occasionally across the country. That means maintaining great flexibility in where and how I work. It also means when I’m at the office, my attention is pulled in many directions as I collaborate with my colleagues on the pressing matters of the moment. So, when focused work without distraction is needed, working from “home” is how I get it done.

You’ve probably picked up that I put ‘home’ in quotation marks. That’s because how I define home on any given day isn’t always the same. If you’re like me, working where you reside comes with its own set of distractions that can take you away from the critical work tasks at hand. For me that comes in the form chores and nagging items around the house, my dog asking to play or go outside, the comfortable lounge chair in the family room that’s perfect for a quick nap, and my spouse, who spends a few days a week working from home as well. Some days are better than others in my ability to tune these diversions out, and over the years I’ve learned to manage these in different ways. One of those tactics is changing what I call ‘home’ for the day.

Different Versions of “Home”

I work for small/medium business that’s selected a co-working facility for our offices over a traditional private space. That’s been a great asset to have as an employee because it gives me the flexibility to be part of my team in our dedicated space, or just slightly removed from that team energy by working from the common spaces offered by the co-working facility. That keeps me one level removed from my team’s daily activity. Sometimes working from ‘home’ is simply being a 2-minute walk away. This is great for lighter tasks I need to accomplish, but still keeps me available for urgent matters if needed. When I require another level of separation, I choose to work at another of the local co-working spaces offered as part of our membership to the community. I love that because it keeps a nice level of energy around me while still being a professional space with all the office amenities I may need during my day. It also gives me guaranteed quite space to take a phone call when needed. (Very important in my job)

My next work from ‘home’ is my local coffee shop. This is great for constant energy around you, but no one will talk to you or interrupt your focused thought. I like this for a change of scenery, that it removes office and residence distractions, and that I can really dig into the laundry list of items on my plate. Where it fails is unpredictability of space, unsecure wi-fi, no place for a quite call, and maybe most important, the pressure and cost of ordering food and beverage to justify taking up space at their shop. For the days I’m not excited to shell out money for overpriced coffees and baked goods, I head to the library.

My work from ‘home’ at the library is reserved for very special circumstances. Libraries have a long history of being ‘quiet zones’. So, while they’re good for knocking out brain intensive, independent tasks, I find the energy to eerie and uncomfortable. I’m constantly afraid of disrupting those around me, receiving an unexpected call that has me running out of the building, trying to answer without making noise, or dazing off into the silence with nothing to jolt me back into reality. While the space is highly predictable, the wi-fi is really consistent and the convenience of access is great, I personally only use this space when I have a deadline, can’t be bothered or don’t want to see anyone for the day.

A True Sense of “Home”

Then there is home. The place I really call home. Where I can work from the couch, in my pajamas, un-showered, and no one has any expectations of my appearance. This is all about getting to work, being comfortable and putting energy into the tasks at hand vs. my commute, public appearance and social expectations that come with leaving the house. Sure, there are distractions at home like I mentioned before, but compared with “walk-ups” at work, I think there’s still a net gain from being home on the days that require a laundry list of items to be accomplished.

In the end, 2020 requires us to be smart about how and where we work. It requires us to know our own strengths, how we can best contribute in our roles, and how we control our environments to be the best people we know to be. Where is your “work from home” spot, and how do you manage the environment and distractions that come with it? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.