I wanted to write a bit about working and home work spaces and working from home. I’m in a rather unusual position right now in that I’m on maternity leave from my usual full time job but I opted for a rather shorter period of time off after the baby from blogging. In fact, I didn’t really take any time off at all and now the baby is 7 weeks old, I am keen to get back into the swing of writing and collaborating, albeit it in smaller bites and fitted into and around what has temporarily become my new full time job of feeding the insatiable appetite of Little Baby 2.
There are however a lot of things that I love about going to an office to work – the main ones of course being my team, my company and my strong belief in the brand and the ethos of that company – but there are also some of the more mundane yet emotional aspects which I wanted to touch on, and which might be interesting to anyone that has always worked at home.
Clear desk/ hot desk
Not being too attached to the work space is actually amazing. We have rows of white adjustable desks which can be used either seated or standing. We all have laptops and a locker which are personal to us and we are assigned to specific floors of the building – I work in marketing and all of sales and marketing are allocated to one floor. Beyond that, we pick a new seat every day. And I love it. My previous jobs both involved my own office, not just my own desk (I was a solicitor) with my secretary in her own little office next door. All that it really meant in practice was that I could barely see my desk for piles of files, notebooks and so on; my shelves were piled with old case documents, research and course notes and I had a whole drawer full of spare tights and paracetemol and shoes to lug home when I went on maternity leave.
At my current job though, every day is a fresh start. Sure, it can sometimes be slightly tedious to have to adjust the chair and register a request to IT to replace the mouse, but every morning is a clean slate. I can arrange my notebooks and pens and coffee cup and I don’t feel sick at the pile of stuff in a paper inbox that I am avoiding.
At home, we obviously have less space but we do have 3 people competing for the table with the computer on it, along with an ever growing to do pile, along side various desk essentials. Now that I am spending part of every day or evening working, I am trying to work towards emulating the clear desk/hot desk state of mind and remember how lovely it is to sit down to a clear desk, how refreshing it is to have no clutter and also to leave it clean for the next person. Sure, that next person might be my husband, but it is nice if I have cleared away my things rather than him having to move them and me being annoyed about this.
White desks and a laptop
I really don’t know what it is about the white which I really think adds to the clean and clear feeling. We have a beautiful white high pressure laminate Danish designed kitchen table which I love to work at for the same reasons. I recently invested in a laptop so that I could work from more locations than the main family computer and I love the freedom that has bought me. From the kitchen table, and also from various local cafes.
Everything looks cleaner and more appealing (to me, at least) on a white desk. I love my 1950s dressing table that I use as a desk with the family computer on but I also love the freshness of working on the white kitchen table.
Reducing paper and clutter
I’m not talking about throwing away my lovely instagrammable notebooks, or curtailing my stationery habit. I mean reducing the filing, the admin and the paper that seems to be everywhere. At work where I only have one locker I can’t just get creative with more storage options, as beautiful and Pinterest worthy they may be. I have to keep tidying, keep throwing things away, keep assessing whether I need the original or whether a scanned version or photograph of it is enough. It goes against everything I used to do, being that I was essentially taught to keep everything, first by my mother, then by the SRA when I was a lawyer, but it is really helpful. When you either have to carry it home, or find space in your locker for it, you start discarding course notes pretty sharpish.
At home, I’m definitely not so good at this, but I am working on it. Rather than thinking of storage options I am trying to first think of Konmari and whether I actually like or need the items. Only then will I consider the storage. It’s a slow game, but one I’m determined to have cracked by the end of maternity leave. Which leads nicely to…
At work, there are hard deadlines, set by other people. Obviously when one is working for oneself but from home, there are deadlines. With blogging though, the deadlines are more fluid. Particularly the decluttering and creating office space kind of deadlines. I’m trying to set targets and stick to them.
I find my mind can be a lot clearer by leaving the house, getting some fresh air and often feel more energised and organised when I arrive at work. The commute is the obvious downside, so I have found the perfect balance presently to be to get up and dressed, do the school run, pick up a coffee and spend an hour or so, baby permitting, at my local cafe answering emails and sorting out my life admin.
If I worked at home full time, or at least regularly, which is something I hope to do once I return to work after maternity leave, leaving the house to go for a walk and get coffee is something I will continue. Another possibility is to work in a cafe, or to at least schedule meetings externally.
Dress the part
I don’t go so far as the anecdote I was told of the person who asks his wife to iron him a shirt so that he can dress in a suit and tie to work at home but I do feel better and work more efficiently when I’ve got dressed. I find that the school run is actually quite helpful on that front, as I need to look at least vaguely human to the staff, lest they think there are problems at home, so turning up in my pyjamas is not something that appeals.
Any other suggestions?
This post was written as part of my contribution to the Workplace eBook from Furniture at Work.