Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)
Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)
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Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)

Work from home or get an office?

Posted by Al Doan under Gaining Experience, Online Media Reviews


Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)

There is a write up by James Reinhart over at Thredup with the title “Why your start-up needs to get out of Starbucks and into an office right now”. An interesting argument that I tend to agree with mostly. Let me share my experience with the topic.

When I left college I took a corporate job that had me working as a remote employee. I was living the dream that I’d had since I was a kid. You know the one that goes “How awesome would it be if I didn’t have to go to work each day, but seriously, I could just work from home… that’d be awesome!” (btw, that is how we talk as 14 year olds) So I was sent a laptop, and went to the local ‘Buy More’ and furnished myself with a printer and a monitor, wireless keyboard and my beloved Staples Tillman office chair and went to work. It was surprisingly not glamorous. The pros were that while living in Orange County I had a 0 minute commute, which was nice. The cons were my work never stopped. The laptop was always there, emails were pouring in, and so my schedule turned into wake up at 6am, work a few hours, walk to the kitchen for breakfast, bring it back and work, play some Fifa on the Playstation to take a break about noon, then grab a sandwich and eat while reading emails, work, stop about 6-7p for dinner, go grab a movie with friends, come back about 10, just check the email to see what I was looking at for the next day, end up working a few more hours, midnight – 1a go to bed, do it again. Even my Saturday’s turned into this because I had a studio setup where everything was in the one room, which means that my computer is a prominent fixture and if I sit down to check my personal email, and I see a work email titled URGENT!!!  I open it, and I’m sucked back in.

I got better at this, but better was going from 16-18 hours a day down to 13-15 for me.  I never felt like I could be home and not at work, I would tell myself I could, but I couldn’t.  Flash forward a year and me and a buddy are building our own first business.  We’re sharing a house (I’m sharing his basement/crawlspace as he has a wife and child upstairs) and we have a little office space setup.  So we’re no longer sleeping with work, but we’re working out of the house.  Again, great setup right?  Well let me tell you this – you will never feel like a bigger shlup of a person than you do when the baby starts screaming, your buddies wife is trying to do laundry and handle the kid, and you spin around and quietly shut the door cause you have work that you have to get done.  Or when you hear the exasperated yells from the wife about “so much to do and the house isn’t clean and AKKKKKKK!” and all you do is turn up the music because you have to launch in two days.  Or how about the incessant shushing because you are on an important call and the TV is blasting or the kid is crying?  Yeah, it just doesn’t work that way.  What really happens is you get up and help, calm the baby, do what you can, but again, because you lose time during the day, you end up putting a few extra hours in an night. So to the wife and friends you appear to never stop working while in your mind your never getting enough done.  There are variations on this scenario, but still, give it enough time, the aforementioned situation will find you.

The office o' champions

The home office o' champions

Then we get that going and I go on to my own place, just me, and I try to work out of the living room.  I’ve turned into a transient laptop lugging jet setter, gotten accustomed to using a couch cushion as a mouse pad, and handled it pretty well.  But I end up trying to multi task with the TV going (olympics turn into march madness which turns into full house marathons which turn into CNN) and a little watching / letting myself be distracted is done as a reward, because I work all day anyway, I deserve a little break here and there.  Honestly, it’s not the worst scenario, but it’s just not sustainable either. I had to change again.

Currently I’ve found the solution for me in a small office space (15×18) with an 8ft whiteboard and two desks, then bookshelves and pictures, pretty cut and dry.  I show up at about 8-9am, work till 6-7, then when I go home, I don’t bring the laptop with me.  I do not have a laptop in my house.  (Crazy, I know) The phone still keeps me in contact, but I’ve made it so that I have found a way to successfully seperate myself from my work.  It’s all about balance. When I’m at work, I focus and knock out the whiteboard to-do list, then I can go home and not feel guilty about not thinking about work, but when I show up to work, I’m excited and know I don’t have all day to wander around. I can do facebook after I’m done, I’ll watch that youtube vid later, etc. I still get it in, but it doesn’t shaft my productivity.

James @ Thredup says it’s all about productivity, I say it’s about balance, whatever your reasoning, I’m betting the solution is in not having your house be your WHQ.  Your family will love you for it, and they will even be happy to see you.

Tags: , , , 6 Comments »
Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)
Hard Knock MBA (Personal MBA)
  • Dave

    I can't agree with you more Al. I currently work from home and can't wait to get an office for all the reasons you mentioned above. I end up helping out with the kids or housework and I am easily distracted. Another thing that makes a big difference, and this may sound bizarre, is getting dressed in the morning. Sometimes I just roll out of bed and start working in my pajamas. Even though I accomplish a decent amount, by the time 2 pm rolls around and I'm still unshaven, unshowered, dressed in what I I got up in, and start to smell my own body odor, I feel like a total loser! If you have an office you'll shower, get dressed and go to work. In this type of environment I feel much more productive. It is so important to separate home life and work life. The best analogy I can think of is sleep. If you can 8 hours of uninterrupted, peaceful sleep, you feel more rejuvenated than if you get 10 hours of broken, crummy sleep. So it is is working at home. You might put in as many, if not more hours, but you just somehow don't get the same quality and quantity of work done. That's just my two cents!

  • drbillnye

    That's a great point Dave, as obvious as it may sound, I can't tell you what a marked difference getting myself up and going makes rather than letting myself get sucked into the 7 am, roll over and pull open the laptop routine. Great comment

  • hughvail

    Bigs, I love this post! I know the pains. I have battled endlessly with the thought to go out get an office space. I even found one over looking a prominent golf course for a couple hundies a month.
    I love the point you touched on with having to get up help with the family, return back to work, go to bed being accused of working non-stop! haha (thats me trying to find the humor here).
    Emails… I shut off my internet service (I have the iphone too! which is half the fun) because I was getting emails on top of the texting and calls. I would ignore one text, then a call, then feel guilty and respond to an email… BAM “you're working non-stop!” So, I let the computer do the emailing, while the phone does the calls, and I cut back on the texting. There is a bit of overtone here that may appear as if the family doesnt want you to be successful, but really there is so much personal satisfaction in clearing up time for el numero uno. Thank goodness for family 🙂

  • drbillnye

    another great idea, separate the devices. If you watch the post today (the future of gaming) the guy talks about how everyone is predicting convergence of technology, where your each device will do everything else as well. The swiss army knife approach, but he argues that's not the case. I think part of the reason we want technology to diverge is because the tech itself gets better, but like you say, it lets us focus in on what we're doing and accomplish things when we want to be doing them, then turn them off when we're done.

    Anyway, great thoughts, you might drive me back to a blackberry from the iphone 😛

  • joshontheweb

    I had the same dream, my friend. I have an office but I do a lot of side jobs from home. But as you said, it all comes crashing down once you have other people living at the house. My *bad* solution is to wait until everyone is asleep and then work all night without distractions. This can only take you so far…

  • Anonymous


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