In our most recent post on leading a virtual team Martin and I talked about the upsides of remote working and many of the comments we received highlighted ways in which people find balance between the demands of home and family life and work. That got me thinking about what makes a real difference to me day to day and took me back to contributing to David Hopkins’ Edtech Rations book, in which we shared what the most important things are, those you don’t leave home without. But when you don’t really leave home to work, what is it that makes the difference when you work from home?
Martin mentioned wearables in the post and that prompted me to think about how I use my smartwatch when I work from home. I do have concerns about the way the watch can track so much of my activity and I have switched off some more advanced/sharing functionality because of it, but there are certain things it can do that I find really helpful:
Alarm clock: When charging and put on its side, the watch is a great alarm clock and I use it both at home and when I travel. It’s motion sensitive so the display only comes on when needed, which I like. It shows you the time your alarm is set for and it starts to get brighter as that time approaches, helping you to wake up. All of that could easily be accomplished with a regular alarm clock of course, but I like that I can make use of the watch when I am not wearing it and travel with it without having to carry along another bulky item of technology. It also means that I can leave my phone out of reach but I can still check the time.
Move reminder: another aspect of the watch I really like is that you can opt in to it reminding you to move if you have sat still 50 min of the hour. Whilst I have other reminders to move, like wanting a cup of tea, or the phone ringing or a delivery arriving, this function really helps me on days when I have a lot of work to get through. It reminds me to take a break from staring at the screens as well. On a long journey it’s not always possible to take a break, but I find long train journeys much more comfortable when I move about a little regularly. With enough awareness and self discipline there is no reason why one shouldn’t naturally take breaks regularly, but I don’t always have that when I get lost in a complicated piece of work.
Phone system: our phone system puts calls through on my computer as well as my mobile phone during work hours (I have chosen for it to do that, it’s not required). However, I am not always at my desk and I don’t always want to carry around my mobile phone either. So glancing at my watch when the phone rings gives me the chance to check whether it’s a work call or a personal call. I can answer the call on the watch, but I rarely do.
Planning time to go running: there is one other way in which I use the watch during the week, particularly in the colder months when it gets dark early and is cold in the mornings. I set the watch to display the temperature and the time the sun sets, helping me decide when to best find time to go for a run. I don’t run every day, but for my work life balance to work I want to be heading outside once or twice during the week, and I find it frustrating to forget, finish work and realise it’s nearly dark. So having a way to remind myself of what time the sun will set (provided that it is shining to begin with) is a useful way of planning the end of my working day and I have the flexibility to finish an hour early to catch the last bit of daylight.