The last time I worked in an office, I couldn’t wait to work from home. I had lost what little tolerance I ever had for endless meetings, and HR managers dragging everyone from their keyboards to play morale-building games of charades. Yet no sooner had I started working from home that I started looking for other places where I could sometimes work. The search continues, eight years later.
The trouble with working from home, especially when you live alone, is that you can easily spend days with no human contact. Yet finding the right work space elsewhere is difficult, too, since I would prefer to walk or cycle, and, although I want people around me, I don’t want so much noise that work becomes impossible.
Less than twenty meters from my door is a gazebo surrounded by flowers. Unfortunately, it’s in a courtyard where children are playing at most times of the day. Their parents are usually in the courtyard, too, idly chatting, and while I’m glad enough to talk to them when we meet at other times, I have been unable to convince them that when I’m carrying my laptop I prefer not to talk.
The same problem exists with the pool in my townhouse complex. I’d love to sit by the water on a deck chair, and dive in to do a few lengths while I’m working out how to word something, but, when I try, neighbors persist in asking what I’m doing.
Less than a kilometer away, there’s a rec center. It has an open area full of tables, which is often used by ESL tutors to meet their students. Unfortunately, it’s right beside the gym, where troops of adults and children are constantly passing. Also, every now and again, the staff decides to discourage people using the tables, so I can never be sure that the tables are available.
Not much further on are coffee shops. Unfortunately, one is too quiet to bother with. Another is wedged into a corner of the supermarket. A third has glass down one side, and by early afternoon feels as comfortable as a greenhouse, even on cloudy days.
Besides, I feel like a dilettante working at a coffee shop – and more of a bit of a freeloader, even if I buy something every couple of hours.
The best solution I’ve found is to sit in the shade under a tree in the local park, where I can hear the nearby stream and watch people pass on the sidewalk. However, when I do that, I usually drowse, leaving my work half-done.
Usually, the off-chance that I might get work done in any of these locations seems to small to gamble on. Instead, I stay by my work station, half-convinced that I am missing something somewhere, being productive, but convinced that by staying I’m one day closer to a curmudgeonly and lonely old age. Yet even that seems a brighter prospect than returning to an office job.