In a recent TED talk, Arianna Huffington comments on the importance of getting enough sleep.
Because the essence of leadership is being able to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic. And we’ve had far too many icebergs hitting our Titanics. In fact, I have a feeling that if Lehman Brothers wasLehman Brothers and Sisters, they might still be around. While all the brothers were busy, you know, just being hyper-connected 24/7, maybe a sister would have noticed the iceberg because she would have woken up from a seven-and-a-half- or eight-hour sleep... and have been able to see the big picture.
This prompts me, in a round-about way, to talk about having worked from home for almost two years, now.
Since I left IBM at the end of February, 2009, I haven’t worked in an office — I’ve been working at home for 22 months. There are both advantages and disadvantages to that situation. I miss some of the structure of going to the office, but mostly I miss the people.
I miss the specific people I used to work with, of course, but, more broadly, I miss seeing people and getting the social interactions in the work environment. I miss having coffee and tea with people, having lunch with people, having people stop in my office and having an opportunity to stop into theirs. Sharing a laugh with a colleague, batting around an idea, or just hearing about his weekend for a few minutes personalizes the work experience in a way that seems important.
I’m still in communication with colleagues constantly, of course, through email, instant messaging, and telephone. Having an IM window pop up that says,
Hi, Barry. Do you have a few minutes to talk about [some topic]?, or
Hey, did you have a good weekend?, does have similarities to the in-office visit. But it’s not really the same, and I do miss doing that face to face.
On the other hand, my job requires a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking, and I don’t miss the interruptions that come with the office environment. That very visit by a dear colleague can, when it comes at an inconvenient time, dislodge critical thoughts and derail a writing session. Sometimes, one has an ephemeral idea in one’s head that’s flowing onto the
paper phosphor, and even a brief distraction will ruin the subtle wording that was happening in the head, before it ever makes it to the hands. It’s nice to have the quiet and privacy, and to know that I can maintain it as long as I need to, uninterrupted.
But what I really do not miss is the commute, and actually going into the office. I’m saving over an hour a day of entirely wasted time. And my commute, a half hour or so each way, is much less than that of some. I got to listen to the radio — NPR, usually, except when they were
begging having a membership drive — so that was something, but it didn’t really count for much. I just considered the drive to and from work a necessary annoyance, and a complete waste of time.
So I save the hour a day, and I also save the fuel for the car — about a gallon and a half a day, 7.5 gallons a week... at current local prices that’s nearly $25 a week — and the wear and tear, as well. But what I didn’t expect is that I save wear and tear on myself.
It’s not just your car that’s stressed by a drive to work; you get the effects as well. It pushes the stress up. And getting up to go to the office can get in the way of getting enough sleep. That part surprised me. It’s only an hour of time, and my days almost always had some
down time, so I would never have thought that going to the office was making me sleep less (or less well). But between the time saved and the stress saved, I am getting more sleep and feeling more rested than I have in many years.
The effects are clear to me. I feel better, and I think I work better. I can keep my mind on things more effectively, I don’t have an afternoon
low period, and I’m happier.
Ms Huffington is right: get enough sleep, and don’t get caught in the
I need less sleep than you do! macho trap.
 This is a good opportunity to throw in a plug for TED, which, in case you don’t already know, has a bunch of wonderful talks, all by good speakers and all short enough that they won’t cut into your time too much. Many of them are worth watching.