Making Space for Work at Home (Or How to Know It’s Time to Find an Office)
Working from home can save you money or simply mean you don’t have to wear pants. But the point may when you need to find someplace else to work. So here’s a short guide to help you determine when to move out.
Pants, trousers, really anything covering your lower half is overrated. The exception may be the kilt given its functionality, versatility and stylishness. None of that matters though if you work from home, because you don’t have to wear anything!
Putting something on is another matter, for many it’s a signal to themselves or others that they are now in work mode. If that works for you, great. If not, well then welcome to the no-pants club. Sadly at some point you may actually have to return to the constraining world of pants. All because working from home is no longer feasible or more accurately, working without pants isn’t feasible.
To quote Ian Malcom, played by the venerable Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” For freelancers and entrepreneurs the full statement should read, “Life finds a way… to keep you from getting shit done.” And if you’re not getting shit done then you’re not getting paid.
It isn’t just social media that can be distracting when working from home. It’s that pile of laundry, those dirty dishes, an empty fridge, an annoying cat, a comfy couch, an unfinished video game. The list goes on. And gets all the more complicated when someone else is at home.
Children and partners create a different type of pressure when you’re sharing a space. It can be very hard to ignore others when they’re so important to you. Teaching them that you’re working and need your time and space is a job in itself. If you’re lucky enough to have an office or at least a door you can shut that may be enough, but it isn’t always the case.
Your work may also be intruding on your life. You may find yourself hosting a lot of clients, and inviting them to your place where they can see your laundry drying isn’t the sort of image you want to present. Alternatively you may be working closely with a team or other freelancers and your place may be inconvenient for them. Or your kitchen table resembles a desk more than it does a place to gather with friends and family to share a meal.
If any of those sound like you then it may be time to begrudgingly pull on a pair of pants and head out into the wild. Finding a place to work isn’t as dangerous as Jurassic Park. You won’t be running from creatures trying to kill you, nor will you be sequestering yourself in a tree for safety. At least you shouldn’t be. If that’s the case you may want to reevaluate your life.
A new place to work doesn’t have to resemble a traditional office. Plenty of freelancers and entrepreneurs work from cafes, libraries and other public spaces. This is feasible if you’re solo and flexible, because you aren’t guaranteed to ever find the same seat twice in a row. Public spaces are often free, but other than libraries there’s little guarantee they’ll be quiet. Even then desk space can be at a premium. Public spaces are generally some of the least ergonomic setups, and fast food restaurants are specifically designed to get you out of the door as quickly as possible.
Co-working spaces are often ideal for freelancers and entrepreneurs. But like public spaces they can vary greatly in the services they provide, the price of renting a desk and the office culture. Some places are little more than shared private offices, with little interaction between the people renting desks. Others are more open and designed around people interacting.
Here in Helsinki there’s a range of options such as
- Microsoft Flux,
- Mothership of Work,
- Helsinki Think Company,
- UMA Workspace and
- Minimal Viable Office.
While the greater Helsinki area offers a number of free locations to take advantage of including the labs and co-working spaces at the aforementioned Microsoft Flux, Startup Sauna at Aalto University, and Torget at the Hanken School of Economics.
Finding a place to work is a matter of striking a balance between cost, time, accessibility, need and personal taste. If those more traditional sites are not to your liking then Finland has its own home-grown solution to finding a more unique space: Mushrooming. Alternatively you could always rent a place with a bunch of friends, and then set a rule that pants are not required.
Should none of that be feasible then it’s time to lay down some rules at home. And not just about pants. Set hours for contact between you and your partner or children, with emergencies being viable reasons for disturbances. At the same time, chores and other housekeeping needs to be done at set times.
Being a freelancer means keeping your own schedule and that includes your non-work activities. Things can quickly fall apart if you’re not strict with yourself and strive to maintain a schedule so you can accomplish everything you need to, both for work and personally. But that’s the price you pay for not wearing pants. Either way it’s a burden.