After over 15 years of working for tech companies entirely from offices I found myself in a new role where I needed to work remotely, be on-call, and not only that work with people on US timezones.
My initial concern was “How will I motivate myself to get started in the morning and keep it going?”, but this pales into insignificance as I discover the problem is “How do I switch it off?”
My boundaries were constructed by the divide of home and the office. This division meant that I had to leave at the end of the day and have a buffer (commuting by car or bicycle) for my evening. Working in the same place as I live has knocked that down. Bizarrely with my commute removed from my day I feel like I am spending even less time with my family than I was previously. I prefer to be an early morning type of person and have always been, this really is tricky when working with multiple timezones.
Now is the time I need to ask what other people do to cope, and the changes I need to bring in to go from what is an unhealthy work ethic into a more balanced life. I know a lot of people my age getting into deep anxiety (all lovely people who I would never imagine going down that route, but the human brain is wonderfully complex).
One of the weird things about working in an office is that you spend all your time with a small group of people in our company. When you have a family as well you spend all your time with your work friends or your family and you kind of forget you don’t have a proper social life outside of those two circles. I’ve also found that I don’t leave the village I live in that often now as there is little need to, but then you can see they deficiencies that were covered up.
As of last week I’ve decided that I am going to start addressing these problems piece by piece.
- Every lunchtime go to the shops to buy it (can be expensive, but a mechanism to force me to leave the house).
- Eating far more healthily and a no snack rule for me (I know I can consume almost unlimited calories). This is phase 2 of this particular plan and makes the first point less expensive.
- Just stand up and go out for a bike ride mid afternoon for 30 minutes before PST timezone wakes up.
- Start addressing the on-call anxiety which can cause me to freeze up and be far less productive. There are personal and technical items to address here.
- Reaching out to friends and family again after essentially digging myself into a very deep hole.
- With my children I have to make sure I’m unavailable for a certain period of time every evening for bedtimes and baths. Most of the time I have not failed at this.
And further forward looking because it is going to be difficult to do all changes in one go.
- Start enforcing a “no evening work” rule and start actually unplugging at a more suitable time to have family and personal time. I know I am going to struggle massively with this, with products like Slack becoming more the norm they are massively intrusive.
- I know I have to do some evening calls purely due to the timezone, but I should limit it to not all evenings.
- Try to head into the London office more regularly, if for no other reason than to have more human contact.
- Start to find a way to get to talks in Cambridge/London again by addressing workload.
- Actually try a bit harder on the social life front.
- Social media can be positive and a huge negative. It needs to be controlled more, I think reading books/comics distracts me from it more, but TV does not.
- Start writing again. Just blogging to start with, but longer form than social media posts.
- Look at co-working spaces for at least one day a week out of the house and village.
- Or even find like-minded people who want to share an office space, not necessarily every day either.
I want to hear from other people who maybe have been through a similar process, or need to go through it. Advice, help and support always gratefully received (and given).