Pants Optional is a series focused on advice to company Owners, Managers, and Employees on how to be successful in a Work-From-Home business model.
“…nobody complained about adding their commute time back in their lives, but after a while, many people discovered there was a downside.”
Before working from home my daily 16-mile commute in Phoenix, Arizona was 23-minutes each way. Half on the freeway and half on busy city streets during rush hour. I was fortunate to be driving a safe, comfortable, and reliable vehicle. I fell right in the average American commute time to and from work. Other employees ranged from a few minutes away to several driving over an hour each way. Regardless of the time, nobody complained about adding their commute time back in their lives, but after a while, many people discovered there was a downside. A potentially serious downside for some.
Even if they did not realize it at the time, their daily commute had become a critical step in transitioning from a homelife mindset to a work life mindset, and vice-versa. During their commute to work, they could think about and mentally prepare for their day. On their way home it might become a time of reflection, or a time to think about what is for dinner, or to simply zone out and crank the music.
People discovered the 5-second work from home commute was a shock to their system, suddenly jarring their mental states from home to work and back home again. At the end of the day, people found themselves irritated by their family, or roommates, or pets, because they did not feel like they had any downtime after work. And they didn’t! Their family was acting the same as when they walked in from the garage before. The only difference is that you never realized you used that 15, 30, 45-minutes of commuting to transition from your work life mindset back to homelife. It was completely unconscious.
Enter the Mindset Commute. If you had a 20-minute commute before, then try taking 20-minutes to do something that is going to give you the time and environment you need to get that transition back. Get out of the house and take a walk or go for a run. Step out on the patio and enjoy a beverage by yourself.
Whatever you decide, most importantly, make sure you have an agreement with whomever you live with (except the dog) that the 20-minutes after you walk out of your home office, those minutes are still yours and you are not to be disturbed unless something literally catches on fire. Explain to your roommates or family how you need this personal time to purge your mind from work. If they have noticed you have seemed irritable after work, they will understand the importance of giving you this.
Spend some time on a hobby or start a new one! Admit it; you have always wanted to try Bonsai.
And the word commute can really mean just about anything. By one definition, your mindset commute can mean literally getting into your car and driving around the neighborhood for 20-minutes, return home, walk in the door and announce “Honey, I’m home!” Or take the money you are saving on gas and eating out and buy a VR headset. Take a virtual drive anywhere in the world! Here are some great ideas:
- Hobbies – Spend some time on a hobby or start a new one! Admit it; you have always wanted to try Bonsai.
- Exercise – Obvious, but how many times have you made excuses of not having enough time to be active? Look up the 7-Minute Workout.
- Gaming – Jump off the work computer and onto the gaming console. Because not everybody gets excited about pushups, crunches and burpees.
- Meditate – There are hundreds of ways to meditate. Do a little research and try one out.
Personally, my morning commute was a ritual of creating the perfect cup of coffee. It seems like such a pretentious thing to me now, but I would take about 15-minutes to meticulously brew a carafe of coffee. Get this, I would hand-grind fresh, expensive, gourmet coffee beans in a manual ceramic burr coffee grinder, place the grinds into a double-walled, stainless steel French press (with mirror finish of course), while boiling water in my gooseneck kettle on the stovetop. After blooming the grinds for 30-seconds with a splash of hot water then pouring the rest in, I would wait 2-minutes before slowly plunging the press with only the weight of my hand. Part of me hates to admit how much I enjoyed that process, but let me tell you, after that I was mentally ready to walk into my home office and get to work.
My meticulous coffee commute lasted all of 2 months. Since then, just like tonight, I will think to myself, “Gah, I need to get the coffee ready.” and as if it were the last chore before going to bed, scoop the generic pre-ground coffee into the 10-cup electric coffee maker and hope I remember to hit the timer button so it’s ready in the morning. Honestly, after the first year I no longer need a morning commute. I’m mentally ready to jump right in the home office with my mediocre coffee and get to it. After work, most days now I no longer need a commute either, but when I do I usually like to sit out on my patio for 10-15 minutes, with the dogs, and enjoy an adult beverage while shamelessly scrolling through social media on my phone.
However the mindset commute looks to you, the common denominator is personal time—that magic amount of personal time allowing you to shift from one mindset to another. Your routine before work may be completely different and take only a fraction of the time you require after work. Some of you may not require a morning or evening commute at all. The type and time of commute you need today may not be the same next month or next year. Try alternating between different commutes based on your mood. Before working from home, you could drive different routes to disrupt the monotony. Why not do the same thing at home? Give yourself permission to change your commute and try new things.
About the Author: Stuart Platt, Managing Partner at Outhouse LLC restructured his 25+ year company to an Office Optional (OffOp) business model in 2018. Stuart’s version of the OffOp model enabled the company of nearly 40 employees to downsize its physical office from 14,000sf to 6,000sf. Based in Phoenix, local employees desiring to work in the office for a few days, weeks or months can reserve any open desk whenever they want. The remaining employees work from home, fulltime across 10 different states and counting.