Home Is Where You Hang Your (Hard) Hat

Number one question I'm asked by people who know me through Sun circles: How do I find the time to manage a youth hockey team, or (until recently) sit on the Little League board? The answer is in striking the right balance between home and work life, a process made significantly easier at Sun through Open Work, our flexible work space program. In our latest Innovating@Sun podcast, I sat down (remotely, of course) with Ann Bamesberger from our work place resources group to talk about the how and where of getting the job done.

Flexible work assignment is not, as we often point out, synonymous with "work from home." It means you work where you are, when you need to work, adjusting time and time zones to your advantage. It's similarly not a substitute for actually sitting in a room with co-workers, because that's frequently where the good ideas and brainstorms occur. My top three rules for having an open mind about Open Work:

  • Measure output. Some people can only be productive in an office. Others are far more productive when the creative process runs continuously, occasionally being bumped into batch mode by a carpool pickup. Measuring output means that you're continuously setting goals and checking how you're doing against them. I've had plenty of "wasted days" in an office, and some incredibly productive days buried in my home basement office. I was never one to study in the university library, for example, because I frequently walked around to see who among my friends was also using the library as a social nexus rather than a quiet reading place.
  • Get out and meet people. If you enjoy the flexibility of working in multiple locations, really utilize that freedom and go meet with people in a variety of places. Again, there is no substitute for sitting down in a room with a whiteboard and drawing, and you're more likely to maintain a work relationship with someone you know beyond their email address. There's almost no distinction between the level of effort required to maintain a friendship in the face of email and social networking, and what it takes to continue to invest in inter-personal work relationships. If you're only a virtual presence, your output will suffer. See above.
  • When at home, be there. As dictated to me by former Sun exec Pat Sueltz. This isn't really time management; it's about focus management. The slippery slope of working from home is that you're always working; sometimes you need to leave the cell phone and browser and be 100% with your family. I carry a miniature spiral notebook and pen with me most of the time, so if I have some insight (typically a joke for a blog entry) I write it down and turn it into output later. I'll be honest; I did record an internal podcast sitting on the steps of the Olympic ice rink in Lake Placid (but without the flexibility of work location, I never would have been able to go on the trip in the first place). Balance means declaring some time clearly non-work, and then being abundantly clear about any non-maskable interrupts.
  • Comments:

    Excellent points Hal....in a time where people are more and more concerned about teamwork suffering due to our growing remote culture, you cleary explain here that this is not about just 'working from home'. More of us remote workers need to take time to reach out when we are visiting a different Sun or customer location for a meeting, etc. In the end, this just adds to overall productivity vs. being an obstacle. I never thought I'd be such a big believer of this type of work enviroment, but I'm loving it and living it and am more productive than ever!

    Posted by SandyB on April 16, 2007 at 09:56 AM EDT #

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    Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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