Prior to lockdown
Prior to lockdown, in a typical week, I'd work from 4 different locations (times below are round-trip commute times):
- Bishopsgate: ≈ 3 hrs (car, train, tube, walk)
- Sutton: ≈ 2.5 hrs (car)
- Heathrow: ≈ 2 hrs (car)
- Home: 0 hrs
To achieve even the times shown above I had to shift my day forward a couple of hours to avoid the rush hour. i.e. I’d wake at 5:30 am, leave home at 5:45 am and arrive at the office around 7 am.
I was frequently spending 9–11 hrs each week simply travelling to and from an office. And when I arrived at each office, I was sitting in front of a laptop—a laptop that I’d just carried with me from home.
During March 2020, when all employees in the UK were asked to work from home (if practical), this all changed. Being a Product Manager who was often in a different location as the teams I needed to work with e.g. Tech, Sales, Marketing, Data Science, Data engineering, etc., I was used to “remote working”, even when that meant being in one office, and connecting with teams in a different office.
I’d also got into the habit of working from home at least once a week (usually when I had to focus on a task—collaboration is great, but it's not the solution to all problems). So shifting to working from home full-time was not a big deal, and in many ways it was preferable (for a start, I was saving 9–11 hrs by not travelling).
A new routine
After a few months of working from home, I’d found that my weekdays had settled into a pattern that included: reading, working, eating, exercise, and TV. This is shown in the sketch below:
I’d start the day by getting up around 7 am and would read my Kindle for about an hour, then I’d start work around 8:30 am. First thing I would do is check the news from the previous night via Feedly (I subscribe to around 120 feeds). I’d often have a small lunch at 11:30 am while at my desk, and then I’d either go for a 5 km walk at midday (while listening to podcasts). Right after my lunch\exercise break I’d check Feedly again, and then get back to work. At the end of the workday (around 5 pm) I’d check Feedly one last time, and then I’d be thinking about what to cook the family for dinner (we eat at 6 pm, which I guess is earlier than most).
After dinner I’d read again, and then it would be time for my second exercise session of the day, typically a 10 km row (on the Concept 2) which I’d combine with watching TV. After that I’d settle in front of the TV with the wife and we’d watch a show that we both enjoy (so not the sci-fi I’d typically watch while I row). At around 10 pm I’d be off to bed, but would typically read again for up to an hour.
I read 45–60 books per year, mostly fiction, and mostly space operas, although recently I’ve started to read more non-fiction. I’d always struggled to read non-fiction until I started reading in the mornings, I find that reading non-fiction in the morning, and fiction in the evenings really suits me, so it’s something I’m planning to continue. (Follow me via Goodreads).
I exercise for 2 hours per day. On the face of it this might seem like a lot—it's not. When you consider that I’m basically not moving for the other 22 hours (sleeping or at my desk) then moving for 2 hours each day actually doesn’t feel like it’s enough. And I think this is one of the most important things I’ve learnt from working from home for almost a year. I no longer walk to the train, or from the tube to the office, or around the office, or go outside to buy my lunch. The only exercise I now do is via planned exercise sessions i.e. walking, running, or rowing. Apart from those activities, there’s very little else I do that’s burning calories. For this reason I’d suggest that 2 hours of exercise each day is probably a minimum for anyone who’s working from home 5 days a week. (Follow me via Strava).
I don’t know what’s going to happen once this pandemic is over. There’s a lot of discussion about us never returning to the previous office routines, and I’m all in favour of not going back to the old ways. Working from home suits me, and to be honest, I think it suits employers, as I think most employees are more productive (not to mention the costs my employer must be saving on office space and reduced travel).