On working from home

I’ve been working from home for two days per week since I’ve started working at Uptrends. It’s a company policy. However, for the last nine months, I - like most people in IT jobs - have been working from home almost exclusively. And it’s been exhausting, but I’ve found some things that work for me. Here’s how I manage my day-to-day work / life balance with a fulltime job and a family.

I wake up around 6:15. I’m horrible at getting up early, but it means I have a little time to wake up by myself before the kids are around. That’s approximately 30 minutes where I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. Usually, Linde (my 1YO daughter) is already awake and I bring her a bottle of warm milk that keeps her satisfied for that half hour. Then I go downstairs, turn on a little light, make myself a cup of tea, get bread out of the freezer for breakfast, and browse Twitter or Reddit. These 30 minutes help me to be a better dad and husband in the following peak hour.

Approximately 6:45 Jona (my 4YO son) shows up and we have a little chat about what his day looks like - a long or a short day at school, what after school activities are planned already, and if it’s friday (his favorite day) already. After that, I go and get my daughter of bed, make sure both kids are dressed (shoutout to the wife for making sure clothing is laid out already for both of them) and shortly after seven it’s breakfast time with the family, and then preparations for school.

A couple of minutes after 08:00, my wife and kids leave to get Jona to school, and I leave to go to the gym. I find that taking care of my physical self in the morning really helps me to be better focused the rest of the day. I do a 30 minute workout - high intensity interval training, or HIIT for short - head home, take a shower, bring a thermos of Rooibos tea to my desk and prepare my working day. Then, at 09:30, the development team I am a part of have a short meeting on what’s important for today.

The next few hours are for work. I have a desk that allows me to work while sitting or standing up, and it’s great! I had one at the office already, and used it regularly, so I’m really happy I have one at home now, too! I try to stand as much as possible. What helped me here is to always start meetings standing up. I don’t like reminders or notifications for stuff like this, and I when I’m in “deep work” my brain cells are otherwise occupied, so meetings are a nice reminder for me to get up if I wasn’t already.

At 12:30, I take my lunch break, followed by a 20 minute walk in the park close to my house. I find this break is the hardest for me to take every day, because work can be overwhelming and a quick desk lunch is tempting. Some days have a lot of meetings that make me feel like I can’t spend time on “real work” (even though I know these meetings are helpful to advance the work the team does). Other days I’m doing “real work” and want to continue because I’m finally in that state of Flow where I’m fully focused and really making progress. It’s probably an example of Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. This is where I need to learn to prioritize personal health over work.

13:30 to approximately 17:15 is another work block. Afternoons are toughest, snack-wise. Aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner I eat a bowl of yoghurt with some (healthy) cereal and a piece of fruit in the morning, but I haven’t nailed healthy afternoon snacks yet. I am currently trying two multi-seed crispbread crackers with boiled eggs and a bit of salt around 16:00, which are fine, but a bit boring, honestly.

The next few hours are for the family. Dinner, spending some time together, getting the kids to bed, cleaning up - you get it. Around 20:00, the kids are sound asleep and the house is somewhat presentable again.

I spend at two to three nights per week on work. Because most of my colleagues don’t work evenings, there’s less “noise” and no meetings. It’s a great time for me to do some deep work, like fleshing out a design or refactoring a particularly complex piece of code. I like those evenings, and I feel less obligated to work on what’s planned exactly and more free to “explore” options for my code or designs. I usually turn off my computer by 22:00. Nights I’m not working I’m either playing computer games, spending time with Renske, or taking a bath with a book. I try to have no-screen nights at twice a week.

My weekends are spent on the family. I like cooking, so I might spend a couple of hours in the kitchen to prepare a nice meal. And between Jona’s football practice, grocery shopping, getting outside and (obviously limited) social activities, weekends fly by even faster than work weeks.

However, with everything added up, I feel like I managed to find a balance that works for me - and by sharing it, maybe inspires you, too!