Today, I worked at home, it’s a bit like living in the shoes of the competition for me. I run a coworking space (I apologise for no hyphen, but it’s better for SEO) and most of the self-employed/freelance workforce are still choosing home as their workplace.
This initially is very understandable, as firstly, an office is very expensive, especially in central London or most big cities. Then secondly, until more recently the only other alternative to a fixed office contract, was a coffee shop.
Coffee shops are OK for a quick informal meeting, or a quick catch up on emails etc between meetings. However, as a long term base, they are often impracticable, as they can be noisy, the Wi-Fi in most is poor, there is no one to really engage with, you feel guilty that you haven’t bought a coffee for at least an hour and you have to take your laptop to the toilet (losing your seat in the process).
I did a period of home working a couple of years back for around 6 months and I became completely isolated in the end and finished up being depressed.
The home environment can be good, if you really need to knuckle down and get something done and if it is only the odd day here and there, then I think that is totally fine.
However, after a few days, I found that I started to really miss just having another human to talk to. Sure you make phone calls and you are sending emails & social media updates, but that is not the same as the face to face chats you can have in a shared workspace.
The cat really has a limited vocabulary beyond ‘meow’ and to be honest it is worrying that you are even conversing with your pets.
Then there are the home life distractions, such as chores that you would only normally be able to do at the weekends or evenings, you start to say ‘oh well, I’ll have a break and just fix that, or pop to the shops’.
Then the next challenge is eating. When you’re around others and in an office, you might have the odd snack and then a sandwich at your desk, often while you work, that’s it.
When you are at home, lunch will be a longer affair where you study the fridge to see what culinary delights you can cook up. The lunch break will be more like an hour, than say 10-15 minutes. Then once you have stopped, without others around you working, you can sometimes lose the buzz that creates.
If you are at home, then eating the entire packet of chocolate HobNobs won’t seem bad, that’s something you’d never do working around others.
But for me the big downside of working alone at home is the friction points that you miss out on, when you bump into someone you know or someone interesting/new.
At home you are unlikely to have to many chance serendipity moments, that might lead to new connections, new opportunity or new business.These friction points, where you bump into someone, not literally, but where you might be opposite someone and start chatting or at the coffee machine.
Not only does this give you a buzz, make you feel good, as after all humans are designed to be social and around others. But this gives you new ideas and connections.The other thing it does is keep you in touch with what is trending and happening.
The last benefit of getting out the house is that, if you find the right space, is you can become part of a community of like minded people and that is the ultimate goal for humans. We are all happier when we feel part of something, when we belong. When you work on your own at home, you are isolated not belonging. In a coworking space you can belong to a community.
Ultimately, we are all more productive if we are happy and that will make our business more successful and will help us to live a happier life.