There was an interesting article in Greedy Associates a few months ago about “homing from work” — trying to achieve work/life balance by getting personal errands done during the day. I hadn’t heard the phrase before, but it’s obviously something I did while working long hours at the law firm, and something I’ve advised people to do (to certain degrees) when, for example, advising people to try to fit social visits with friends into breakfast or lunch dates, getting a midday workout in, or even keeping a recurring appointment (therapy, personal trainer) or a frequent doctor’s appointment. Still, other times I’ve advised people to avoid doing things at work (for example, not having long wedding planning calls at the office), either because it’s unprofessional or it’s bad for work/life separation. So I thought we’d discuss: what do you think are things that are appropriate to do at the office? What are the things that are almost BEST to do at the office and make you more productive and happy, and which are things that are acceptable — but just barely? What are the things that are “hard NOs” in terms of homing from work? My own list might look like this, I suppose:
Productive personal things:
- Doctors appointments (no other time to do them, really)
- Anything that can be accomplished within 60 minutes between the hours of 11-2 (your “lunch hour” — a mid day workout, a walk or lunch date with friends, going to the drugstore to pick things up, a manicure, a blowout, etc.)
- Anything that can be confined to a 10-minute period at any point in the day (reading a news story or blog or two, checking Facebook, shopping an online sale, personal research, etc. — the problem is getting sucked into something longer than 10 minutes!) (Are things that make you more productive at work — yet are personal in nature — in a different category entirely? Everyone needs a mental break at some point from your job. Do 20-minute power naps fit in this list?)
Other acceptable personal things, within reason:
- Quick telephone calls or in-person meetings with people associated with other non-work areas of your life — wedding vendors, alumni mentoring, the nanny, etc… I’d say these become MORE acceptable if you can do your job while talking or taking the meeting. For example, think of the old stereotype of the Wall Street baron barking orders into a cell phone while his tailor is there fitting him for his expensive, bespoke suit. (This is an interesting example anyways because it begs the question — do the rules change if you’re an underling working 20 hour days versus if you’re a boss working 20 hour days?)
- Career-related development (networking lunches, events, mentoring, etc) — it usually will not be related to your job but often makes the most sense during working hours
- On the occasional basis, anything that gets you to work no later than 60 minutes after your usual arrival time (appointment, breakfast with a friend, etc) or takes you away from work no earlier than 60 minutes before your usual departure time (leaving early to catch a flight, seeing your kid’s play, making up a missed personal training appointment, etc.).
Unacceptable personal things to do at work:
I have the hardest time with this list, in large part because it depends on your office, how you work, and what your boss views as acceptable. For example, if you’re working almost every weekend, most nights, into some early morning hours… stuff’s got to get done sometime. When I was in this zone, I tried to keep the general idea that, as long as my billables were ok, if I happened to be at the office when I was doing something personal (or, was doing something personal that I could have done on a night/weekend when I had chosen/been required instead to work) then it was OK. But if you switch to a 9-5 kind of office — even if you’re still working evenings and weekends because of how you work — then you may find yourself with a much longer list of “unacceptable” personal tasks, because your boss may view them as much less acceptable.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Are there any “hard nos” on personal tasks at the office? Does your list of “things that are more efficient during the workweek/make you more productive at work” look different than mine? What home tasks do you do at work?