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green, greener, and green-ish grass April 4, 2007

Posted by andrea in working life.
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I work from my home office, almost 100% of the time. This has its pros and cons, as many people have found, and have many ways to deal with the cons.

Pros: allows you to be on your “own schedule” some/much of the time. Great when you’ve got family commitments during the day, saves almost 100% on commuting time and costs, allows you to self-manage, provides a space where you can be comfortable and undisturbed (unless you’re me, and your house is 75% under construction, and the dulcet tones of the tile saw and nail-gun air compressor kind of wreck that experience).

Cons – and this is just what I’ve found: the aforementioned house renovation noises, the tendency to drift away because you have “other” distractions (NOT the TV, for me, though), the alone-ness esp. in the winter months, and the lack of team drive, since you’re all in a different space, and everyone has their own distractions.

I attended two days of meetings with my teams (mostly the same people), like I do every month. I really look forward to those days. It’s a chance to catch up, yap, trade jokes, and get some serious collaborative thinking happening. Yes, we have the tendency to digress, but what team doesn’t? There’s a certain energy that’s in the room, and it’s a good way to trade off on ideas in real-time.

At the end of day two (today) one of our project teams decided that we’d like to work face-to-face once a week. The project is on a heavy deadline, and collaboration is vital. A colleague (Bobby, again!) asked me if it would be a good idea for our other project team to do the same thing, as we drive towards launch date. For me, absolutely – but I wasn’t sure if anyone else would be into it. Bobby said he thought those who could get to Toronto easily would definitely be into it, which is most of the main players on the team. So, another day of working together.

It’s a nice balance. There’s no one right way to work, obviously, for everyone. But more and more, especially since my home office environment is not really conducive to hard-thinking work, I know I need to get out of the house. At least part of the time. I don’t want to do either extreme, actually. But recognizing that sometimes we do need actual human interaction, non-mediated by the Internet and our GUIs is important, I believe.

Luckily, here in Toronto, I’m connected with a group, Indoor Playground, that has a space where people can sign-up and pay for office space use. This is where we have our monthly meetings, and I think I’m going to use it more and more. It’s not super-elegant, but it’s a good big warehouse space located right in the web ghetto (and where many of my work colleagues and friends work, so lunches out are a real possibility).

I know a lot of office people dream of working from home (I was one of them) – jealous of the self-management, the time you have if you can to go run errands (driver’s licence renewals, maybe a grocery shop or two when it’s not busy, doing taxes, etc.). The grass is always greener, and I found that out last week when my husband said to me as we were heading downtown to our accountant’s, “wow, you really miss going to an office, don’t you?” I miss being part of the continuous thrum of city working life – it doesn’t seem like drudgery to me anymore, but purposeful.

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