Welcome to Anatomy Of An Office. This series is dedicated to pulling together a functional yet stylish workspace with plenty of budget-friendly tips!
I used to think that having a dedicated workspace away from home was completely unnecessary. I’d hear what I considered to be the same old tired clichés about increased productivity, less distractions and a better overall work / life balance.
After I quit my agency job a year and a half ago, I was happy to be home, to avoid a commute and to get some much needed solitude (most of the offices I’d worked in had open seating plans). Every morning, I crossed the hall from my bedroom to a nicely decorated home office. Life was good. And to be honest, I never bought into the idea of a work / life balance anyway. I didn’t see the point of leaving home every day to dive into work, only to escape it when the clock struck 6 pm…because I loved it. And to be in demand in a competitive field, I felt that it was important to live and breathe my work.
Even with my extreme view, everything worked out fine…but it was just fine. Sure, I was avoiding an extra rent bill every month but I began to wonder if I was really producing as much as I could be. Because let’s face it, when your job is to be creative at all times and you’re distracted by the pile of dirty laundry, a stack of dishes and the mailman, it’s hard to mentally click back over into “the zone.”
Still, even with nagging feelings about my current situation beginning to creep in, I was on the fence about finding a dedicated office. I’d been saving towards a big future goal and making a dent in my progress just to have an Instagrammable, pretty space seemed lame. I told myself that I could create from anywhere — I’d done just that from a couch in Berlin, a tiny bedroom in Vancouver and a kitchen table in Amsterdam during the prior six months.
Then, it happened. I met a couple at my neighbor’s house party and they pointed at the building across the street. They’d just taken over the lease and it was quickly filling up with creatives. I was intrigued. The thought of walking to work, having a space to spread out, make a mess and call my own began to seem more appealing. A few months later, as we were walking by one night, we ran into them again. After a quick tour of the building, I was convinced. Everyone else was an artisan — pottery, jewelry-making, weaving and letter pressing were all happening inside of those walls. It was good to get outside of the graphic design bubble.
A month went by and more traveling ensued — I bounced from the west coast to the east coast and back again and when I got home, I found an email stuck in my spam folder offering me a space. French doors. Exposed brick walls. Very high ceilings. I sat on it a few days….was this really a necessity? What would I do with it? Then, the ideas started flooding in. I talked it over with Joey and my family. I could finally get an intern. I could teach in-person classes I’d been dreaming about. I could do more involved photo shoots. I signed the lease and moved Branch in.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” —Steve Jobs
Once you’ve made a commitment, how do you really know if something is right? The truth is, it doesn’t matter how great something looks on paper. Until you’ve actually settled in, you don’t…until you actually go to work and spend a full day in the environment. It turned out to be a smoother transition that I’d envisioned. A few hours in, I felt right at home. Or at least, right at home at work.
5 reasons why a dedicated workspace outside of your home is a good idea:
1. More productivity equals more money.
Even if you’re highly productive at home like I was, there are always distractions creeping in. I put in long hours but I wasn’t always operating at my highest level. I’d roll out of bed, start work between 7 and 8 am and by late afternoon, disheveled and tired, I’d take a break to watch Dr. Phil (because when you don’t leave the house very much, other people’s problems give you a reality check that things really aren’t so bad). An hour later, I was easing back into work, losing track of when I was supposed to eat lunch or dinner because my day didn’t have a clear structure. It was a matter of getting as much done as quickly as possible but every time I’d stop to grab a snack or get the mail, I’d get sidetracked and lose another 15 minutes.
The other side of the productivity coin is a little harder to pinpoint but I believe that when you put the wheels in motion to take a big step, the universe rewards you for moving outside of your comfort zone (or in my case, my house). Two weeks after signing my lease, I got offered one of Branch’s largest projects to date and just the deposit alone covered my entire year of rent. Who knows, the job might have happened anyway but I took it as a sign that I’d gained momentum by physically (and mentally!) leaving the house.
2. Having a private hangout allows you to create without constraints.
Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of messes at home. What I noticed, though is that they never stuck around — I felt the urge to clean up and get everything back in order by the end of the day. There was a part of me that felt held back, partially due to space and distractions. When you’re trying to take a photo and your pet squirrel runs into your shot, it’s just not going to work. Now, I walk into my office every morning, set down my cup of coffee, light a candle, make a to-do list, look out the window at traffic zooming by…and feel ready to not only get work done but to explore new ideas without interruptions, unwanted feedback or a feeling of needing to clean up the second a project is finished.
3. A structured environment in turn gives structure to your life.
Working from home, I was always on. There was always something more I could do to promote or grow my business and since it was so conveniently located across the hall (truly a blessing and a curse), I took full advantage of it. Never having an escape can make you really tired. Now, I head into the office at 9 am. Some nights, I do stay late but when I leave, I put my phone in my purse and tuck away my laptop. I get a good night’s sleep and deal with whatever is left the next day. Having a change in environment from work and home gives me a mental break — I’m more relaxed on my downtime because I’m not being nagged by work in the next room. And, the best part? Once I leave the office for the night, I don’t send another email unless it’s an emergency. It’s a pretty freeing feeling.
4. Set business hours mean there’s less room for procrastination.
When I worked from home, my days could stretch on forever. There was no real beginning or end because if I didn’t get my to-do list done during the day, I could just tack on a few extra hours at night. Now, I start work at 9 am, go home for lunch at 1 pm and leave for the night between 6 and 7 pm. There are still some crazy late nights when I’m catching up before traveling but otherwise, I leave and go meet friends or go home and eat dinner. When you give yourself very firm time constraints, it’s amazing how much more you can get done. End of story.
5. If you have a bad day, you can shut the door and leave.
Okay, I know this is a bit of a stretch but it’s true. When you’re home, it’s nearly impossible to get away from work. It follows you around like a nagging mother, day and night. If I had any bad feedback or a call that didn’t go as planned, I couldn’t escape it. Now? I just close my office door, turn off the light and take off. The act of closing the door and walking away is more symbolic than anything but it’s still effective. There’s something very zen about leaving it all behind, knowing that there’s a fresh start waiting tomorrow.
What about you? Do you work from home? Have you had your own office space? Which did you prefer? What are the pros and cons for you?