September 26, 2016

Working From Home Sucks The Fun Out of Work

Working from home is written about like it some magical semi-retirement. Articles in the Wall Street Journal like this one, make working from home appear like it’s some sort of 21st century lifestyle upgrade and a method to combine the best of domestic life and a professional career. I’ve found these sentiments to be completely wrong.

Working from home sucks most of the fun out of work! I can’t stand sitting is the same place all day, then when it’s time to end the day, staying in the same place I plopped down in, when I woke up. I get out of the house every day on a run or a bike ride. But still this routine feels like I’m in jail or I’m a cloistered monk.

I worked from home for about two years after I graduated from college, until I eventually was making enough money to rent a shared office space in Salt Lake City. I immediately loved my new office and my office mates who were other like-minded creative professionals. I took a lot of their good advice and creative energy to help get Utah Stories off the ground. We called ourselves the “Bee Collective” and we were all paying around $250 per month to be in a very odd building on South Temple. But sharing our creative pursuits of video production, interior design, writing, web design and filmmaking was well worth the rent, because we inspired each other.

Eventually we all had to move, and eventually Utah Stories required an office of its own. But there is nothing I enjoy more than coming to work, getting things done on my to do list, then going home and leaving my work behind. (Although it never really stays behind). The boundaries make going to work much nicer and coming home a great reward at the end of the day.

Besides the work from home paradise myth, there is another myth that working a business from a remote location and/or traveling the world while running a business is something that is a “lifestyle upgrade”. A book that preaches this goal is the best seller The Four Hour Work Week. I haven’t read it. There are also all sorts of books about working from home.

My advice is if you must use your home to start on a business, go ahead, it’s a great idea to keep overhead low, but make it a goal to eventually get out of your home to work, even if it’s a small rented space. It’s much more fulfilling.  Spending an entire day in front of a computer screen is very unfulfilling.  Computers have made everyone more efficient, but computers have also made us more anti-social: “Friends” aren’t the people you happen to check up with on Facebook; friends are the people you see and interact with on a daily and weekly basis and who you have live in-person conversations with, while cell phones and distractions are disengaged. Working among people who you can share with be inspired from and collaborate on creative endeavors all make life more real and days more enjoyable.

The reason I’m working from home now, is because I’m spending half of my time in the UK, in a little suburb called Cambourne about 15 minutes outside of Cambridge in England. The reason for this is that my better half was awarded post-doc in a physics at Cambridge University. I’ve made attempts to work from  pubs and coffee shops. But I don’t like feeling like I’m overstaying my welcome, or buying lots of beer or coffee to compensate this feeling. I’ve tried working at the library, which I’ve found very distracting. I’ve also tried working in my wife’s office. This has been the nicest solution, but I still feel like a bit of an intruder.

This experience has taught me how much I really like being planted in little Salt Lake City, in my little old office on Broadway. It’s not glamorous, most of the work I need to do is rather tedious. But a great routine makes for a much better life than a vacation or home office you feel you can’t really come home from.

Still, working from England has been a rewarding experience, but everything is actually better in the USA. Not to sound like an arrogant American, and not to digress, but socialism really doesn’t work and it actually kills the entrepreneurial spirit we take for granted in the US.