The Home-Office: The Best! The Worst!

by Saya Hillman
June 17, 2014

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As I read 8 Coolest Tech Offices in Chicago, I admit the images and descriptions --

  • "salvaged materials like wooden pallets, a shipping container and conveyer belts"
  • "(an) Innovation Lab which is equipped with wearables, 3D printers, and sensors for experimentation"
  • "a fully stocked kitchen and a game room with foosball, ping pong and arcade games"
  • "free weekly yoga classes"

-- resulted in a bit (ok, a lot) of envy-drool.

I could easily picture myself in a brightly colored room knowingly nodding by the organic water-cooler at a hilarious new meme shared by a coworker!, or passionately talking with my hands in the floor-to-ceiling whiteboard room as we brainstormed the next big community-building app!

The article's images and descriptions reminded me of when I arrived early for a speaking engagement at Groupon and thusly found myself people-watching in the 600 W. Chicago lobby. The Timbuktu messenger bags! The dapper casual yet professional wardrobes! The beautiful Wrigley, Dyson, Big-Ten Network, Chicago Ideas Week, Groupon employees animatedly chatting their way through the turnstiles, on their way up to regular paychecks, health insurance, bouncy balls for chairs! The vibe of entrepreneurship, youth, collaboration, creativity, big dreams!

But after I dabbed up my envy-drool, I was surprised at my concluding thought -- I wouldn't trade my home-office for any of that.

I've been self-employed and have worked from home for ten years. While I had never considered either of those paths before getting fired from my last nine to five in 2004, I can't imagine ever ever ever working any other way. Ever. Surprised by the strength and certainty of my sentiments, I became curious about other's views on home-offices (the pros and cons to self-employment is a whole 'nother deep-sea dive to be explored in another musing). And being the unabashed Peeping Tom that I am, I asked for a peek at their space as well.

Sample Likes
  • being able to change up where you work in your house depending on your mood and what you're working on
  • if he/she works from home as well, sharing a creative hub with your spouse
  • less distractions and interruptions than in an office and being able to focus more
  • if you work for a company or are a part of community, access to their perks like trainings (online and in-person) and social events without having to work from a cube
  • daytime errands
  • easy to stave off stir-crazy'ness with various types of breaks
Sample Dislikes
  • children overtaking the office (where else are they going to play Minecraft but on your monitor?!)
  • the "office" often being a makeshift space, wherever there's room and quiet, which makes separation from work and home difficult
  • working twenty-four seven because you can
  • missing the energy that comes with wearing business-attire and riding the El or your bike with the masses
  • lack of motivation that comes with not having to get dressed, leave the house, or interact with others
  • lack of the potential of making connections
Marta Segal Block, Advice From Marta | @martasadvice

Marta

"I love working from home, it suits what I do (writing, strategizing) and my lifestyle (parent of school-aged kids). I really think I get more done both personally and professionally without having to worry about a commute, or how to make everything fit. I also have a deep affinity for yoga pants and a deep dislike of high heels. The one downside for me is the number of conference calls I have."

Genevieve Catalano, the Pitch Library |  @_genevieve

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"I like working from home because I don't have to worry about making sure I have everything I need with me in the place I'm working, and I think it's easier to concentrate (for me)... but I do miss having a team that I work with - it gets lonesome! There are also pluses and minuses to having both people in a couple working from home at the same time. I love my workspace though - my desk is a custom-made Amish piece and my fiance and I going through the process of figuring out what I needed and buying it together was how we knew we were in it for life. And of course, I can't get enough of my whiteboard and whiteboard calendar, which I didn't have when I had cube walls."

Josh Hersh, Josh Hersh Coaching | @joshhersh

Hersh

"I'd say working from home is isolating. I've been doing it for almost five years but can't really afford a co-working space until my new business starts bringing in money! If anyone knows of groups that meet at Coffee shops, etc., let me know."

Annie Warshaw, Smarty Pants Yoga | @smartypantsyoga
photo 1 (23) photo 2 (21)
"I love my office because it represents growth in my company. I need storage for books, yoga mats, and snacks which quite frankly is incredibly exciting. I also love the big windows that let sunshine in even on the cloudiest days. Best of all I can jam out to my weird music with my pup and cat by my feet."
Nora Brathol, Arka Pana Consulting | @arkapanallc

Nora

"I love working from home for the flexibility and the increased time spent with my four-legged business partner.  After all, where else could Hedwig watch over my many devices? I think staying intentionally active and getting out of the house frequently for face-to-face meetings, as opposed to all conference calls, is key for anyone who works from home."

Jaclyn Roszkowski, Inked Design Studio | @InkedDesigns
Jaclyn
"Gotta say that I love my view... but the best part of working from home is the flexible schedule. I could never go back to working a 9-5!"
 
Christine Mortensen, Sprk'd Content Marketing & Design | @GetSprkd10373789_10152202920344072_8638001782427713150_n
"I love (our guest bedroom/office) because it's a room we never use so it's easy to get into "work mode." I hate it only because I missed having those random interactions with coworkers, which is why I like my coworking space. It's the best of both worlds a few times a week!"
 Here's my home-office (depending on the weather) 

20140616_133815 20140616_133435

My Likes
  • not having to get dressed
  • the lack of time-suck in my life that things like commutes and meetings lend themselves to
  • being able to take a nap whenever I feel nap'py
  • being able to listen to songs on repeat sans headphones or understandable glares from co-workers
  • not having to pack/buy a lunch
  • mid-day "Last Week with John Oliver" breaks sans worry that I'll "get caught" or interrupted
  • waking up to the sun not an alarm (the only time I set an alarm these days is when I'm going on a trip; what a way to make the alarm a source of YESSSSS! instead of NOOOO!)
  • being able to walk to my grocery store/yoga studio/bank/doctor/dentist/gym
  • being home for deliveries
  • having a relationship with my mailman and UPS guy
  • when I need a break from "work," I can still be productive by doing things like loading the dishwasher, tidying up, watering the plants
  • tax write-offs
My Dislikes
  • wish I had a window in front of me instead of a wall
  • my heating bills are ridiculous in the winter and it's still freezing
  • because I'm home as much as I am, it feels like there's an imbalance with doing household chores between my husband and I (which usually I don't mind, but can occasionally surface in an argument)

So, what's the answer? Who's right, who's wrong? What IS the best working-environment? Some people's home-office loves are other people's home-office hates. Some think the perks of traditional office-life far outweigh the perks of being able to do a load of laundry while on a conference call, and vice-versa.

Of course there is no right or wrong. The best working environment is whatever you deem to be the best working environment for you. Luckily, we have the choice to choose what our priorities are and how to make them happen, which, as someone whose main goal in life is to be fulfilled and doing what I want to be doing 100% of the time, and to help others experience the same, makes me all kinds of happy. 

If only food trucks would show up outside my home every day at lunch as they do at 600 W. Chicago, my home-office life would be perfect instead of almost-perfect.

What's your home-office experience? Utopia? Hell? Somewhere in the middle?

 

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