Ask us about the delights of working from home, and we’ll write you a book. The morning routine alone is a thing of joy.
No need to launch yourself full-pelt into work mode, frantically downing a latte and dodging a few thousand fellow commuters to hit the desk by 9 am. Instead, you can take your time getting out of bed, and if you’re having a bad hair day – who cares?
If there’s one tiny silver lining of the current Coronavirus situation, it’s that more people will get to sample this freedom. As companies look to protect their staff, working from home will move from something that’s already popular to a necessary (if short-term) way of life.
Happy as the work from home scenario is, the newbies to the scene may find themselves coming up against a common barrier: being overly accessible.
Are You Overly Accessible?
Being overly accessible is an issue that’s rife in freelance life, but it doesn’t get a lot of air time.
Instead, we focus on drawbacks like overcoming loneliness, or how to stay in the loop. These are important, of course, but they’re less endemic and more easily fixed than the accessibility problem.
Here’s why. When working from home – especially if new to it – many people feel the need to be instantly reachable, all of the time.
In part, this is to do with an old-school mentality of presenteeism. You want to prove to your boss, your clients or your colleagues that you’re not slacking off, and so you become hyper-responsive.
It’s the virtual equivalent of staying in the office past 8 pm every evening. Never mind if you actually achieve anything in that extra time (unlikely, since you’re exhausted). The point is, you’re being seen to be actively engaged. The same goes for being forever present on a dozen different messaging apps.
Another reason for the “always-on” mentality is insecurity. When you’re not physically present in an office, you’re one step away from the decision-making processes.
You’re not as visible, and so, to make yourself feel reassured, you sit on your messaging apps with a zeal that would put Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreations to shame. You instantly reply to any message received and if you take more than a moment to do so, you feel like you’ve failed.
The Role of Technology
This trap is both easy to fall into, and hard to escape from. All the more so because it’s subtle: you may not realize the impact of it until your cognitive bandwidth is entirely fried.
Technology, that golden mantle, actually makes the problem worse. The dawn of instant messaging means that we can be available to all people at all times, regardless of boundaries like time zones, or personal lives. There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 anymore.
And, of course, the ability to work flexibly *can* be a benefit of working from home; but more often than not, it’s the opposite. If you can be available to other people at any time of day and night, you will be. You can waste hours of time and energy just being present, or trying to multitask between downtime and work (responding to messages while watching Netflix, for example).
Apps should help in this brave new world of connectivity, yet they rarely do. It’s ironic that the more “productivity” or “collaboration” apps we have access to, the less productive and collaborative we become.
It’s extremely hard to complete even a single task, let alone deep work, when you have half an eye on messaging platforms. Your attention is fractured, your focus gets lost in a stream of notifications, and good luck keeping track of info – it could be anywhere in one of half a dozen threads, in one of half a dozen apps.
How to Push Back
There’s a simple solution to the problem of being overly accessible when you work from home: say no. Cut off all connections. If only it were that easy…
The thing is that, as a remote worker, you *want* to be responsive. You need to be in the loop. There’s no doubt that you will perform better if you’re there for your clients, colleagues or boss when they require it. But you have to find a way of doing so that doesn’t completely wipe out your precious rations of energy and headspace. You need to communicate and collaborate well, but not at the expense of all other work.
Spike’s conversational email helps hit the balance, by combining the best of email and instant messaging in one place: your inbox. It strips out the bloat of your email feed, so you can wave bye-bye to long, confusing threads with multiple headers or attachments. It transforms your emails into an easy-to-navigate, real-time chat format so scrolling through a thread takes seconds. This, along with features such as Priority Inbox, make it as easy as possible to keep your most important contacts front and center. You have all the tools you need to instantly reply to people – if you choose to do so.
At the same time, Spike is still email – which means it’s asynchronous and open-silo. You don’t need to be online at the same time as your colleagues or clients in order to keep up a conversation, and works with everyone–even if they don’t use Spike. You won’t lose track of an exchange, even if you don’t log in for days, taking the pressure to respond straight away off your shoulders.
The Best of Both Worlds
With Spike, you can use Groups to have instant conversations with people, with real-time awareness to see when someone has read your message and when they’re in the process of replying. You can be instant when you want to be.
At the same time, you don’t *have* to be. You can rely on asynchronous communication for any non-critical emails, along with the snooze feature to schedule reminders for any message you want to reply to at another point.
Because it allows the best of both worlds, Spike means you can run all your communications from your inbox. You can chat when you want to, and focus when you don’t. And when you are focusing, you can bring your A-game thanks to an uninterrupted flow–because you’re not busy switching between apps.
When you have Spike in your life, you don’t need any other messaging apps. It does the chat part, and the email part too, in a platform that is open to anyone with an email address.
So if you’re new to working from home, we’d like to share some advice: ditch those apps. Stop being forever available. And instead make it work on YOUR terms, using Spike as your all-in-one toolkit.
We love flexibility and the power to control your workflow in the best way possible. With the current situation, we’d love to hear how you and your team plan to tackle remote work, so tweet us @SpikeNowHQ. And for more tips and tricks on working remotely, check out our blog.