In the last years I have been giving the topic of work increasing thought: how we perceive work in general, how much we work, how we work, and especially where. As a freelancer I have largely been in the position to choose my place of work.
So I find myself wondering, is this a blessing, or a curse?
Thanks to digitalization, tools and apps it’s possible to communicate in real time across the globe almost seamlessly. With new job roles and structures, business people like me can work almost anywhere. Besides access to files and databases, all we need is a laptop and of course, a wifi connection. So goes the theory. But how does it work in real life, and for me? Here comes a personal account on my quest for total work freedom. Whatever that might mean.
Working while traveling; the life of a digital nomad
It sounds like a dream. Waking up at the shores of the ocean or at a remote house in the hills of Tuscany. A quick morning dip or walk followed by coffee and breakfast in paradise. Refreshed, energized you get your laptop out and sit down to get some work done. Working with a view like that, yes! You are so ready. But soon, the wifi connection in this remote place is breaking down in intervals. So you find yourself chasing a better connection – maybe in a place that is a bit chiller as suddenly the sun and heat seem too much. Installed and connected in a cute coffee shop, you soon begin to feel weird, sitting there among the locals with your laptop being all busy, hesitating to take phone calls or typing too hectically. Suddenly asking yourself: who wants to work at a place where everyone else is so obviously not? Not me, surely.
Working in cafes; the life of an urbanite
Something a lot of people do, especially in urban areas like Berlin. Pick any café with a good wifi connection and there they are – lined up and hunched over their laptops hour after hour. Sometimes, I do it, too. Depending on the work I have at hand, I like the vibe, the noises and the rattling, fueling my creativity. It can work for me, zoning out the sounds and into my texts. And of course, coffee and snacks are great. Yet still, here too I restrain from calls, and after 2 hours, my bad conscience about occupying space without ordering becomes overwhelming so I drink too much coffee or head home. And if I am being really honest here, I prefer sitting in a café with friends, talking, or with a newspaper, just enjoying time off.
Working from home; the life of a lonely worker
So, let’s work from home. From all the remote-working-set-ups, this is what I have been doing the most. First, it is quiet. And I need silence to think and focus.There is no distraction from colleagues, through meetings or other company related endeavors. You need to be well organized, structured and focused to really pull it off. Working from home must mean working from home, not slouching on the couch in your PJs all day, doing laundry, cleaning, or other suddenly super urgent errands. No, work!
For me, it is crucial to have a place that signals my body and mind it’s work time – so I never sit on the couch or even the bed, but at a proper desk.
Train yourself to fixed work times, and leave household work and other distractions for the breaks. You will soon learn that this will increase focus, and productivity.
The biggest challenge of not working at an office is that the lines between work and leisure time blur,sometimes even dissolving completely. After years of freelancing and working in so many different places and setting I came to appreciate good old working in an office – at a brand, company, or co-office space. I go there to work, get it done, and then go home and ideally leave it all behind when closing the office doors for the night. And, as much as I love working alone and focus, it is great to have a team sometimes, to discuss matters, get some advice or reassurance, or a simple chat in between.
So, what’s the ideal solution?
I don’t have an answer to that. There are days when I focus best at home in total silence, there are days when I need a buzzing coffee shop to get my creativity blooming, and there are days I need clear office time to be productive. So personally, I promote providing the freedom and opportunity to decide at any given time what environment fits the tasks at hand and personal mood best.