Recently this article from The New Yorker went viral on social media. It hit a nerve because it taps into a very modern malaise – how working from home can send you totally mad.
As freelancers, we at Nine Media know well what it’s like to work flexibly – and we’ve all got our different preferences on how we shape our working day. After I left Good Housekeeping magazine four years ago to go freelance, I soon discovered how much working from my actual home didn’t suit me at all. In fact, I actively HATED it. Here’s why.
Your home suddenly becomes a very depressing environment.
So, I like my house. After all, I’ve taken out the biggest loan of my life to pay for the sodding thing. And when you work somewhere else, coming back home at the end of the day is a lovely reward. But when you’re there all day? God, it’s bleak. The lights, the furniture, the smell, the lack of anything fun to eat in your fridge (it falls very short of a lunch trip to Wasabi/Abokado/even Pret, for God’s sake).
People don’t think you’re actually ‘at work’
I interviewed the incredible author Joanne Harris a few years ago, who writes her books from a custom-built shed in her garden. She found it infuriating that just because she was based there, friends and neighbours therefore thought she was available to ‘pop in’ on, collect parcels, have a cup of tea etc. Just because you’re not physically in a different location, you are trying very hard to get shit done. But people just don’t get this.
You miss the joy of commuting
And I’m not being facetious. Commuting can be horrific (I’m especially thinking of those poor souls who rely on Southern rail), but not always. Commuting can be especially good to act as a buffer between home and work, giving you a nice 30-minute window in which just to generally go into human standby mode. In the past couple of years I’ve become a podcast obsessive, and when I was commuting into Stylist Live every day during 2016, this was my time to listen to my favourite podcasts and escape into a different world.
Your life identities blur into one
We all wear different hats, and take on different identities in our lives. And you don’t realise how important it is to physically keep them separate until you don’t have any separation. Travelling away from my home (where I’m a mum and partner) to a workplace literally helps me shift from one identity into another and get my head into the right mode (I’m aware I am increasingly sounding like a robot, here. I promise I’m not.) Otherwise you’re being all things to all people in one place and oh God it makes me feel crazy just thinking about it. My brain can’t do it.
Your co-workers are really boring
Because it’s you. You and only you. And you’re not that great to chat to ‘cause you know all your jokes already.
So what to do? For me, it’s all about packing my work with lots of other people and places. I’ve joined a co-working hub close to my home in North London – I don’t know what most of my desk-mates do, yet, but they’re other humans. I meet up regularly with the rest of the Nine Media team in person so we can plan our courses and what the future holds. And through my other freelance communities like Hoxby, I make sure I turn up at the co-working events.
No, I don’t always need to leave the house, thanks to our hyperconnected world, but I work a lot better – and am a lot happier – doing so.