When the crisis started, they sent us home, home to the home office, but the question is: did they give us the skills and tools to survive it? The answer is no. It was as if we were soldiers going into battle, but instead of weapons, they had issued us with broomsticks. As it must be the majority of us still working at home, let’s start to rethink our approach to it. There is a small framework which can be really helpful for making decisions about what’s needed in the home office and what investments in technology and skills one should make. Trough this idea, the work in your home office will become more productive and less stressful.
The framework is called Activity Based Work. It is a term that first appeared in the 1970’s and is well described in a wikipedia article of that name. The idea has become widespread in the area of office design.
The first new idea here is that the work one does is not uniform. Work consists of tasks which have different types of characteristics; Activity Based Work says that one should execute the task in the environment that best suits it.
According to Activity Based Work there are four different types of activity
– concentrated work
1.Concentrated work is reading a report or maybe preparing a presentation or a speech. You will want to be able to focus and not be distracted. This is obviously a challenge at home when small children might be bouncing around.
But probably we’re as well challenged with the so called “down the rabbit – hole” syndrome, where you google a term like “Activity Based Training” which leads you to a really good TED talk which leads to a few short Eddie Izzard clips and then maybe what? A short sleep?
2. Recovery means to take a break and recover your energy and focus. In the Homeoffice this can lead your partner to identify a new task for you since you are not doing anything anyway.
3. Collaboration are tasks like brainstorming or working together on a document. Collaboration in the Homeoffice is obviously a challenge when the rest of the team is distributed throughout the country.
4. Meetings are what people do in zoom the whole day. What is most important here? To keep the meetings engaging and fun.
So this framework differentiates between different types of tasks and encourages to execute it in the place most suitable for. But in the home office this is hard to manage, as one probably only has one place to work from which he shares with the family dog.
So how to take advantage of the framework despite occurring limitations? When you sit down in your home Office, ask the question: What type of task am I about to start on? Is it a task involving concentrated work? Is it a recovery task? Does it involve collaboration or is it a meeting?
Once you have identified the type of activity, check, how can I optimize my immediate environment for fulfilling the task?
If it is a concentrated work task, one might think about closing the door to the home office and even putting email and telephone in quiet mode.
If it is a recovery task, one might ask oneself if the best place is in front of the screen. Maybe you have a balcony or a short walk might be in order. The joys of the home office!