Honouring The Buffer

Working from home for half of my working week over the last 20 months has had more pros than cons, by a long margin.

No commute, home comforts, no work “uniform”, being able to play music, more time with family, the list goes on.

However one thing that I noticed early on is I miss that buffer a commute affords me.

By not having that longer time between leaving work and arriving home, I go from work mode to family mode in the 20 seconds it takes me to walk from the bedroom office to the living room, rather than the 20 minutes it takes me to cycle home from the office.

For me, this is just too fast.

I don’t have time to untangle my thinking and focus from work, to home and family, and feel agitated, sometimes snapping at someone unnecessarily.

When I cycle, that time, although short, allows me to leave work behind gradually, and slide out of one frame of mind (and physical space) and into another.

There are ways around it of course, and I could shut down my work five or 10 minutes earlier and use that time to mentally detach from it before I go into the other room, with a change in music or by reading or something similar.

Or I could do what some do and physically leave the house and return a couple of minutes later through the front door, as if I’d been at work at the office.

I remembered I used to have a similar experience after a prolonged photowalk.

Going out on my own for 60-90 minutes was a great tonic and escape from the rest of life, losing myself in nature as viewed one beautiful frame at a time through my camera’s viewfinder or screen.

But then coming home back into daily life too fast undid some of that, I would end up more stressed than when I walked out the door to photograph.

Again, a buffer is useful – and arguably essential – in these circumstances, so we’re not forcing ourselves to shift from one specific and focused state of mind, to another that is altogether different, in too short a time frame.

How about you? Have you found you need a buffer between different activities to avoid that sudden change feeling jarring and stressful?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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10 thoughts on “Honouring The Buffer”

  1. For five years back in the late 60’s and early 70’s I rode a group bus to work. I spent the thirty minutes each way reading books. In addition to providing enjoyment it signaled to the other riders that I did not want to engage in conversation. It was very helpful in not bringing any home issues to work, and vice versa.

    1. Yes I think one thing about necessary journeys like commutes (if one has to travel to a workplace and can’t work from home) is that they can provide some “free” time, but still have that primary purpose, ie getting to where you need to be. As opposed to free time where you’re just sitting down reading a book. This certainly helps some of us to justify these kinds of activities and not feel guilty or that we’re being selfish. I would argue that reading books is more important than travelling to work, but it’s more about the outward justification of doing something with purpose, ie going to work. Wow I think there are all kinds of personal and cultural hang ups (mine!) wrapped up in here!

  2. > No commute, home comforts, no work “uniform”, being able to play music, more time with family, the list goes on.

    And yet some people want to get back to normal where normal means long commutes, no home comforts, a work uniform, less time with family, etc. In my opinion, that’s insane!

    I never want to go back to that kind of insanity. And it is insanity. Because once the old normal returns, we’ll lament the long commute, the lack of clothing choices, and how we wish we had more time for family.

    I do not need a buffer because I have adapted to working full-time from home with all of the benefits. I’ve had 20 months to adapt.

    1. Can you imagine the thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of commute miles being saved as a result of enforced working from home? I’m kind of nostalgic for the early days of lockdown when we were barely allowed out to do anything, but when I did (legitimately) cycle to work, the streets were so quiet, the skies empty of planes, the birdsong so vibrant… It was like travelling back in time.

      A fellow blogger and online friend of both of ours, Jim Grey, wrote the other day that he was going to the office some days, but as there was hardly anyone there, and he was sitting at his computer having the same meetings via zoom that he could be having in the comfort of his home, he didn’t see much point in the commute.

      Any role or industry which is information based and doesn’t require physical items or a physical interaction can be done remotely now, millions have shown that in the last 20 months.

      Good point about about having had 20 months to adapt. I should have figured it out by now!

  3. Since I’m not on the phone all day when working, I can take breaks whenever I want to, where I’m in family life, not the work space. Especially in the afternoon when the kids are home. So I guess I’ve adapted to the “no buffer” work model. Sometimes I’ll even fire up the grill and take the entire lunch hour grilling something. It’s great.
    For pictures, I will agree that my first 10-15 minutes are usually very unproductive in the sense that my compositions are usually off, I’m just not “seeing” the pictures like I’m supposed to. Then after a while it just becomes natural again. In that sense I need a buffer to start…

    1. Yes my working day at home is far looser and involves short breaks doing school runs, folding washing, tidying up or preparing a meal, and yes playing with our youngest, things I don’t/can’t do at work. Aside from being able to do these things, I really like the freedom to do them at virtually any time, barring my presence being required at meetings perhaps three times a week.

      Interesting about taking pictures. I feel similar to an extent, and this is why I really don’t like short photowalks, like 10 minutes snatched on a lunch break for example. I like the time (at least 60 mins) to unfurl into it at my own pace.

  4. I generally don’t need a buffer. I can switch from an activity to another quite easily, especially if I’m happy with what I have done. However I greatly enjoy my commutes, because they are something like a free time, completely out of the frame, nobody can take it. I take that time to listen podcasts, which I appreciate a lot but never do in other circonstances, as I prefer going for a run, or reading when I have free time.

    1. Yeh I think somehow a commute gives us free time without any guilt, as we’re already doing one thing purposeful with the time. This is like the time I have when waiting for my son’s trampolining classes. It’s not really worth travelling home in between (11 miles and 25 mins each way), plus it saves fuel therefore money, and I get 2.5 hours to read and write guilt free that I wouldn’t necessarily have if I was at home in the same time frame.

  5. I’m retired now, but I had a solid hour-long bicycle commute to and from my last position. It was great! I didn’t pedal to work every day (bad weather, night meetings, lack of daylight, etc.), but those bicycle commute days were the best for getting me in the right frame of mind for work, and undoing work stress by the time I got home.

    1. Yes, I find that cycling, like walking, is a great activity for keeping our bodies active whilst our minds process and untangle the pressing concerns of the day. Thanks for your input Mark.

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