Many people aspire to give up their daily commutes and work from a home office. For some time, I’d been feeling a tug in the opposite direction, to move out of my home office into an actual one.
I’m the perfect person for a home office. My legal work is such that I am not visited by clients. And in my consulting work, my main client is 2,000 miles away.
I’d worked from a home office on and off since 1993 and steadily since 2003. For most of those years, I loved it. I can’t tell you how many snowy, rainy or frigid mornings I thanked my lucky stars that my commute did not require me to even step outside. Grab a cup of coffee, shuffle into my home office, and I was at work.
But therein lied the rub. When you work from a home office, you are never not at work. Try as you might to draw artificial boundaries, your desk constantly beckons you to sit down and do a bit more.
Some people fear that they could not be productive working from home. They fret that they would be tempted to turn on the TV or fiddle around in the kitchen. That was never a problem for me. If anything, my problem was stepping away from my work.
When you have no commute, you have no space between off-work and on-work. No drive or train ride. No walk to the office. No need to dash out at noon to the local deli.
One friend of mine who worked from home forced herself to go through a pretend commute every morning. Instead of stepping from her bed to her desk, she left her house and walked a slightly circuitous route through her town and back to her house. That was her way of transitioning.
Reestablishing A Boundary
After a dozen years in a home office, I began to feel that the line between work time and personal time had completely faded away. I started to think about getting an outside office as a way of reestablishing that boundary.
Finding one was not easy. I looked at several spaces. They were too big or too expensive or even, in some cases, too claustrophobic. I did not want to spend a lot – after all, I hadn’t been spending anything on rent for 12 years. And I didn’t need much space – somewhere to put my desk, a credenza and some shelves.
One day, responding to yet another ad on Craigslist, I found it. I felt like Goldilocks finding just the right bed. It was affordable and the right size. It was in a suite of other professional offices. All I had to provide was my own Internet access. And the landlord didn’t even want a lease – so if it didn’t work out, I wasn’t committed.
The office is in Gloucester, the seaport city adjacent to my small town of Rockport. It is just a short drive from my home and I can even take a train, where it’s one stop away. It’s a block from the gym I go to. It’s on an eclectic main street with restaurants and shops. It feels like going to work but without the pain of a major commute. And, of course, I can always stay home if the weather is bad.
These days, no one enjoys any true separation between work time and personal time. We are always connected. We are always on. But so far, I like having a separate and detached work space. As much as I felt productive working from home, I feel now like my time in the office is go time. I am here to work for a finite period and I go full steam. And at the end of that time, I feel a bit freer to be off the clock.