The last time I regularly worked anywhere other than my home was (gasp!) 1998. When I became a full-time freelance web designer, it was at the very beginning of the work-from-home era. To put it in perspective, WiFi wasn’t even a common thing yet (nor was it called WiFi).
Of course, a few things have changed since then. More and more people are working from home. Hardware, software and broadband have allowed remote workers to become incredibly efficient. And even those who are employed by more traditional companies are getting things done away from the old-school office.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is my desire to continue working from home (I’m comfortable here, and you can’t make me move). With that, here are four reasons I’m staying in this spot like a bulldog in the middle of a catnap.
Commuting Is Bad for the Soul
Okay, maybe I haven’t commuted more than 50 or so feet in a while. But there was a time when I did spend over an hour a day driving back and forth. I wasn’t enthralled with the experience.
Not only is navigating pothole-filled roads (thanks, Pennsylvania!) dangerous and time-consuming, it’s also bad for the environment. And I believe it negatively impacts concentration and creativity. Those two traits are pretty important for a web designer, no?
Working from home, on the other hand, means not having to fight traffic. I can get right to work without having to relive any near-death experiences from the road. Overall, it’s great for productivity.
The one drawback is that there’s no one to blame when I roll into the office a few minutes late. I could say that the cat was laying in the middle of the stairs, but I doubt anyone will buy that excuse.
The Ability to Control Collaboration
I will admit that, at times, I miss the camaraderie of being surrounded by colleagues. There’s a shared experience no Zoom meeting can replicate.
There are benefits to working alone, though. I can be myself. I don’t have to worry if the music’s too loud or if my lunch interferes with a co-worker. One need only be considerate of themselves (and one’s housemates, if they’re home).
Best of all, there’s nobody looking over my shoulder in an effort to “help” me complete a task. I always found that to be unnerving and more of an obstacle than anything.
Strangely, this doesn’t seem to kill collaboration with others. It’s merely assigned a proper time and place. The result is that I can get feedback when I need it, or am at least prepared for it. The rest of the time is all about actually doing things, instead of talking about them.
Avoiding the Awkwardness of In-Person Design Politics
The more people who have input on a project, the more likely it is that design politics will rear its head. Everybody wants their say and to have their ideas implemented. Sometimes they compete with the opinions of their colleagues. Thus, it’s often difficult to establish a shared vision for how things should look and work.
As a freelancer, I still deal with this – but from a comfortable distance. That’s a big plus, as seeing this up close and personal is…awkward. Dealing with such arguments in an in-person meeting seems more like a job for a marriage counselor.
The distance – both emotional and physical – actually makes resolving issues a bit easier. For example, it may be a matter of writing a “unity” email that tries to get everyone on the same page. Or it may just be a matter of telling the person in charge that things are out of hand.
No More Cheapskates (Besides Myself)
Working in an office often means having to accept antiquated equipment and uncomfortable situations. The chair that unpleasantly pokes you in the back. The monitor with the flickering display. Or sharing a computer with that guy who’s always sneezing.
The common denominator is that each of the above is an obstacle. It’s just another thing that makes your job more difficult. That doesn’t have to happen in a home office.
Here, I can pick and choose my components – at least the ones I can afford. And if a particular item is out of immediate reach, I can save up for an upgrade. That beats the experience of asking, complaining or begging for better working conditions.
Plus, even if I sneeze all over the place, at least I know where I’ve been.
A Novelty for Some, a Way of Life for Others
The memories may be a bit faded. But, upon learning that web designers could work from home, my first reaction was something to the effect of “That’s where I want to be.” And it’s been a blessing to have done so for so long.
Since that time, so many others have taken the plunge. For them, it’s a lifestyle choice that many seem to enjoy. After that initial transition period, working at home is like second nature.
Still others have been forced into a home office due to world events. This is a more difficult path in that the transition has taken place in a very short period of time. It can be hard to get up to speed and establish a routine.
Regardless, it quickly becomes apparent that working from home is a very different experience. It’s not necessarily the best fit for everyone. But if you find yourself loving the lifestyle, you’ll never want to go back to an office.
After so many years, that sums up my feelings exactly.