For a solid stretch of years, I worked almost exclusively from a home office, both while working at Netscape, during the first part of my time with Mahalo, and then for the early Crowd Fusion years up until we landed The Daily as a customer and I was often working out of the NewsCorp building in downtown Manhattan, and eventually, we had our own offices. I would work from home from time to time during the later years of Crowd Fusion and the beginnings of Ceros, but these were when Jackson was just a baby so there were lots of moments like this one:
Jackson sleeping in a baby bjorn or some sort of sling, while I gleefully typed away at my computer, working, and thinking smugly “Man, I’m such a pro-dad and multitasker!”
Fast forward to today. Jackson is 6. Darcy is 2 and a half years of total attitude. And it’s summer time so they are often home. And I’m now working for YouEarnedIt remotely from Dallas for a good percentage of my weeks (although I am down in Austin quite a lot too). However, despite two kids and summer time, the home office thing is still working rather well so far (knock on wood). Why?
Things needed for a successful home office
A room of one’s own
Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in the highly politicized backdrop of 1929 England specifically addresses what a woman needs to write fiction in an essay that concisely thinks carefully through the subject. I highly recommend it. However, ever since I read the essay in college, I’ve seen having a room of one’s own as being a requirement for any focused endeavor, especially any creative endeavor. All of that is to say: you need your own room if you’re going to work from home.
Mine isn’t even closed entirely off from the rest of the house, and even though it is summer and the kids are around more than they’re not, it’s been working out very well.
A good headset
We use Slack quite a bit at YouEarnedIt (we even have a YouEarnedIt Slack integration that works quite nicely), but we also sometimes have Google Hangouts and phone calls and even Slack with audio sessions. In those scenarios, it’s best to have a headset that works and is wireless and affords you with some freedom of movement about the house. I got this wireless headset and it works nicely. I can get up and walk over to get a drink of water from the kitchen and it still keeps a strong signal. It also does a good job of filtering out the noise from around the house for both me and the people on the other end of the line. Only in circumstances where there’s someone mowing right outside my window or Darcy is screaming bloody murder is there really anything heard through the mic. And the best part: just flipping up the little mic arm mutes it whenever I’m not talking.
A variety of places to work from
I have a desk. I also use a laptop, so I can go sit on the back porch or move to a back room for an important call if the kids are being raucous. I also have both my laptop and monitor on stands, so that I can either remain seated and be looking up at a good angle for my back, or stand up and look down a bit. This stand sits under my laptop when I am at home, and when I travel, I can fold it up and it fits in my bag alongside my laptop, so I can have a similar set up wherever I go. I also have an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad that I use with this set up.
Good work life balance is important when you work from a home office. 10 years ago when I did it, I very much couldn’t stop working. Now I can. Maybe it’s just because I’m older. Maybe it’s because I have two kids and I realize that they are more important than anything else. When I visit the YouEarnedIt offices in Austin, we take breaks, we eat lunch, everyone leaves work at a reasonable hour. Just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing the same thing.
I’ve noticed after the past 3+ years of working at Chaotic Moon in an office, I now have a little voice in my head now that I’m working remotely again that is slightly neurotic, feels slightly like “what am I missing right now,” and tries to push me towards being hyper-available online. It’s been an odd struggle for me to adjust to, given that I’ve done remote work like this extensively in the past. Fortunately, the YouEarnedIt team is great, and I feel very connected even when I’m not onsite, and they’re used to several of our YEI family members, like Chris Rice, our VP of Engineering, working remotely.
The important thing in hybrid work scenarios like this, I find, is to treat everyone in the office like they are remote, and everyone who is remote like they are in the office. Everyone communicates better with that in mind.
In any case, it’s odd how 10 years changes your perspective on things. This isn’t a deep post, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, so I thought I’d share.