Since leaving the full-time workforce 9 years ago, there has been no need for me to go to an office.
I have a great home study at home that looks out onto a leafy courtyard. Our street is peaceful, and my three kids are at school, so interruptions are few.
I don’t have a job as such but I have plenty of work – besides writing for Mamamia, I freelance for advertising agencies, help clients with their social media and sometimes, okay, occasionally work on my novel.
When I was working full time in an ad agency, I dreamed of a life like mine.
But as the kids grew up and started school and I was less caught up in the physically demanding and time-consuming aspects of all-day parenting, I discovered I was going a bit nuts.
Yes, without the kids here during the day, it was quiet at home … too quiet. Except when the dishwasher screamed to be emptied, or that laundry begged to be folded, or I decided there was no way I could settle to my work knowing the children’s wardrobes were such a mess. I’d just sort that out and then I’d tackle that brief. Write that post.
Of course, I wouldn’t, and then I’d be cranky with the kids when they got home from school. All my words remained unwritten and darn it, there my kids were, expecting dinner and asking for help with their homework. Didn’t they realise how FLAT OUT I was?
For the past couple of years, I was monumentally unproductive. I was also lonely.
That was a surprise – before the kids started school, I dreamed being alone. I’d pump out a novel in a month and become the most sought after freelance writer in the country. I’d make a bucket of money, have a tidy house, eat sushi once a week with my friends and still be there, smiling and fulfilled, to welcome my children home. Very possibly with home-baked cookies.
Sometimes that happened, but not often (and the buckets of money part – never). I realised my motivation came from being with people; specifically, other adults.
I didn’t want an office job or even a full-time one. I like the freedom of freelancing, but I need other people – and for me, Skype, social media and email wasn’t cutting it.
For a while I worked in a cafe, but the company was transient and I was getting fat, drinking endless cappuccinos as a way of paying for the Wi-Fi I was hogging.
All a bit pathetic, really.
Then I found a co-working space called The Thought Fort (no, this is not a sponsored post and there are similar shared office spaces all over the country), for people in creative industries – web developers, animators, designers, writers. You can rent a desk for a week, a month – whatever suits.
The fee includes Wi-Fi, air-con and cleaning.
There’s a fish-tank and a kitchen complete with misspelled notices telling people to clean up after themselves; just like a real office. It’s a concept that’s growing as more and more people freelance, but can’t work from home because there’s no space, no peace or no motivating vibe.
So I don’t need to go to an office but I do. I’m happy to sit in traffic, fight for a park and grumble about unwashed cups. Really, I am.
When I’m at The Thought Fort, I’m much more productive and infinitely happier. It’s not a crazy wacky zany kinda place – mostly it’s quiet and everyone gets on with their work. There’s a meeting room if you need to discuss stuff or take a conference call, and headphones are a handy accessory, but it’s nice having people around.
I’m twice the age of some Thought Forters, but I like that – they have a different take on things – and they show me stuff I might not have stumbled across in my Gen X online meanderings.
For example, Brendan, a frighteningly talented designer (about 16, by the looks of him), introduced me to www.theoatmeal.com which illustrates beautifully the perils of working from home.
Co-working suits me. I like having people around – I’m interested in what they’re doing, and I like to break up the day with a laugh at something besides a meme on Facebook. It makes me happy when someone says they’re popping out for a coffee and would I like one.
At the Thought Fort they even get together for drinks on Friday.
I’m haven’t been able to join them yet, but it’s nice to know I’m invited.
Do you work better alone or with others? If you work from home, what do you find hardest about it? How do you make it work?