Last week was a good week. Given that I was on vacation with my family in Florida, that statement is pretty much a given, but it was still of note. This vacation was our annual week in South Florida at a timeshare we’ve had for years. I have often worked some portion of the week when we’ve gone and I did the same this time. Since I’ve been doing independent consulting, I tend to be hyper-vigilant about time off versus time working. I can’t spend hours on end at the beach without turning into a lobster, so I got in some work during my time back at the room.
I have worked from home for seven years, but have recently gotten more in touch with the value of a periodic change of venue – whether that’s going to a WeWork up in the city or a coffee shop closer to home. It’s a good mental jolt to change my surroundings and have a little background noise. In our post-pandemic world, I think a hybrid work arrangement would be ideal for me. Last week helped solidify that.
I was able to accomplish a lot. Perhaps more than normal, but that’s hard to quantify. “Accomplish” means, to me, finishing a task. I think a couple of long-running tasks reached the point where I could complete them, so I suspect it’s just chance that they closed last week. I got a data flow implemented for a customer that automates data extraction from a proprietary system. I also sat through a number of recurring meetings and made progress on researching some other technical solutions. That all felt good.
Aside from all of that, I also read a novel – Peng Shepherd’s “The Cartographers” – in its entirety. That’s normally something that takes me a couple of months to do. I also got in a few very hot and sweaty runs and I also spent a respectable amount of time in a beach chair next to my wife and daughter. (We also saw “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.”) That was the highest-value time of all. Finally, I managed to sleep 8 hours or more three times that week. That is something that’s happened maybe three times in the previous decade.
I’m not writing about all of this simply to humblebrag. I essentially had the “work from anywhere” “digital nomad” experience last week. That’s cool. The typical WFA viewpoint is that there’s nothing I do in my home office, or an office building, that I can’t really do from anywhere. With most teams being hybrid now, that is true. It’s rare that an entire team is in an office at a conference table for a meeting. Some portion is always attending remotely so an office is simply another place from which to Zoom into a meeting.
What I started thinking about was that the inverse is also true. There’s nothing I do anywhere else that can’t be done from my home office. So why is it so much harder for me to read a book or get 8 hours of sleep? I do pretty well with my runs at home. I’m productive in terms of work. Maybe it’s harder to set boundaries, so I let work bleed over a little more?
I came back refreshed, ready to keep it going, and feeling good. The truth is that my workload last week was pretty similar to any other week. That’s fine. I enjoy my work and it relaxes me. I don’t see my work as something I need to escape from. But setting it down to spend time with my family or pick up a book just seemed easier, the transitions felt smoother and less like a “context switch” that we in the tech industry see as friction. That’s what I need to understand and figure out how to hold on to.