Where you work = how happy you are
Working from home is better than working in a cubicle or an uninspiring corporate office, but still sucks in a lot of ways.
I have worked from home for various stretches of my career. I’ve worked from home by myself, as well as with staff arriving every weekday morning to my 280 square foot walk-up studio apartment in Manhattan. There, the floor was so old I needed carpet just to avoid splinters, and needed to make my bed/couch if I wanted anywhere for my team to sit that wasn’t directly on my bed sheets. I’ve worked in shared spaces, in incubators, in corporate offices, in a mall, in about 500 coffee shops and 200 coworking spaces around the world. I have walked every type of walk there is when it comes to workspace. I’ve also opened 11 coworking spaces since 2010, And I can tell you, nothing beats coworking. By a very wide margin. And almost everything beats working from home.
Today, I consciously chose to work from home, from the little CB2 desk setup I added to our living room. I made this choice for four reasons. First, I wrote the first draft of this post in July of 2015, as we prepared to sign an LOI (letter of intent) for our first Covo. This meant life was about to shift into overdrive, and my ability to make the choice to work from home was about to evaporate and I would return to long shifts on-site for the foreseeable future. Second, I had a 7:30am call to review Covo’s website copy, and damned if I was going to wake up in the dark, shower and dress and creep around and bump into things to avoid disturbing Jason, to be downtown at a deserted office at that hour if I didn’t have to. Third, I didn’t have any meetings, a rarity and one I wanted to take advantage of by enjoying it and maybe treating myself to a pedicure. And fourth, I promised Jesse I would make charoset for the Passover seder he invited us to, and that had to happen in a real kitchen. I figured I’d work from home, enjoy my cats, embrace the soon-to-be rarity of solitude, whip up the odd but satisfying charoset medley of apples, sweet wine, cinnamon, and walnuts, and head over to Jesse’s for dinner at 7pm.
Now, having worked alone from home for various stretches of my career, I know I suck at it. Hard. Most people do, in fact, even though it sounds good to the uninitiated. No commute time, all your stuff is right there, you can work whenever you want, cook healthy food, and it’s free. But it’s a lie. I have toured thousands of people around coworking spaces, and a whole lot of them have crazy eyes. They are desperate to regain their humanity. To have a reason to shower. To leave the confines of their home that they once mistakenly assumed would gently hold them like a snuggie.
My kryptonite is twofold; I get incredibly distracted by household tasks, and simultaneously super sleepy. Layer on a patina of guilt that grows throughout the day and knows no bounds. I feel guilty for not being as productive as I know I’m capable of. I feel guilty for any clutter in my line of vision. I feel guilty for wanting to nap and cuddle with my cats. And I feel guilty for not cuddling with my cats and enjoying the moment. When I am working from home I also put a lot of “should”s on myself, like I should at least have a load of laundry going if I’m going to cuddle with the cats, and I should clean the stove.
I’ve already spent time throwing out dead flowers, opening mail and subsequently dealing with an identity theft issue, working on my home-office desk ergonomics, eating a prolonged breakfast of matzo and butter with the rationale that I saved commuting time and can use it as relaxation time, for which I feel guilty, felt guilty for not cleaning the stove cause that is my one kitchen job and Jason has cleaned the rest of the kitchen to spotless, streak-free perfection.
What I have not done is shower or get out of my pajamas, breaking another key tenant of working from home — to get the most out of it, you must act like you are at the office. If you take a call in your PJs, with morning breath and hair sticking out every which way, your head is just not in the game as much as if you pull yourself out of sloth-world and put on your game face. Its like trying to catch fish without bait. Possible, but so sub-optimal you may as well pack up, go home, and guiltily cuddle with your cats instead.
It is these challenges of working from home that inspire me every day to create a warm, welcoming place people can gather. Where incredible humans can afford to go, can find easily, can find their tribe. Where my people can slay the demons of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection, and can reach their individual potential. Where you can find connection, productivity, purpose, and joy.