During my time as a freelancer, I’ve worked in offices all over the country. But the “office” I spend most of time in is the one situated extremely close to my bed. I refer, of course, to my kitchen table because I live in Zone 2 and the idea of having access to an entire SPARE ROOM to turn into a HOME OFFICE is so laughable that I may have to stop writing for a moment and leave the room (just kidding…obviously I don’t have another room to walk into). Actually, my boyfriend and I don’t even have a kitchen table in our flat; I work on the natty kitchen island we built just after I moved in and denounced his horrid secondhand glass table as a monstrosity. It allows me to do classy things like have my friends round and talk to them over my shoulder while juggling drinking my own weight in wine with steadily burning dinner. It’s very “cosmopolitan” as my mum would put it but not particularly comfortable to write at for six continuous hours. Nonetheless, I spend much of my time at it.
Working from home is a funny old thing. On paper, it sounds fabulous. Observe…
- Lie ins While your partner drags their rat-racing ass out of bed at 7.15am, cursing your name as they go, you get to stay in warm, wonderful bed pretty much right up to the minute that you’re due “at your desk”*. I’ve managed to cram a quick shower, teeth brush and change into clothes that are only marginally more formal than PJs into about a minute and a half.
- Alone time Once you’re at your “desk”, you can stick the kettle on, wade through emails and make a POA for the day, all without having to talk to a single soul. No office small talk, no unscheduled meetings, no boss perched expectantly on your desk at 8.58am telling you that you’re “JUST the person” they wanted to see. Solitude. It’s bloody marvellous.
- Lunch your way You can eat what you like, when you like. Plus you save a bundle on not scurrying into Pret every day for a calorie-happy smoked salmon and cream cheese sarnie. You can also buy a month’s worth of tea bags from Tesco for roughly the same price as a single take away cuppa. I’m no accountant but just sayin’.
- VERY generous time management Absolutely nobody – and I do mean nobody – works until 6pm at home.
- No need for public transport YE-ASS! Take THAT TFL. With your strikes and your severe delays and your sweaty, eternal awfulness.
But in practice…well, no actually it’s awesome. I love working from home. There are, however, two sides to every coin:
- Lie-ins Nothing wrong with lie-ins, right? Wrong. While they sound fantastic and arguably make weekends worth waiting for, it’s actually not a great idea to stay in bed ‘til 9ish every day. I went through a stage (early on in my freelance career) of luxuriating in my bed until 9.15am, then 9.30am until, after two weeks, I was barely managing to rouse myself much before 11.05am. Conditioning myself into a semi-permanent state of knackerdness made me sluggish and hopelessly lazy. It wasn’t good for business and now I set a sensible alarm no matter what my schedule. Scout’s honour.
- Alone time It’s all peace and quiet until you remember that, actually, you do quite like people. I find myself – in order to avoid waiting by the front door for my boyfriend to come home each night like a neglected Dachshund – running in the park more and more and talking to strangers while I’m at it. I also tend to offer to take meetings in Central at my clients’ offices; it keeps them happy and keeps me sane.
- Lunch your way Though ruinously expensive, I still love Pret, God help me. Their ham, cheese and mustard toasties still rock my world. I may just serve them at my wedding.
- VERY generous time management I’ve been caught out with cutting my day short before. One Friday, I got up at 7 and worked through til 4 which, I figured, was a good long go at a working day. Sadly, the client I had been working for that day rang at 4.45pm (while I was hustling through Paddington station, weekend tote in hand) demanding – not unreasonably – a quick re-write before the day was through so that she could put the copy live that evening. I spent a highly frustrated 3 hours on the train to Totnes with slowly diminishing Hot Spot WiFi (hello, West Country) trying to cobble together what was, I’m big enough to admit, a spectacularly dreadful second draft. I had to do a complete do-over the following Monday for free. Moral: NEVER assume you are done for the day until expressly told as much.
- No need for public transport I stand by this one. There is nothing good about London’s public transport. Fuck YOU, Northern Line.
I think, on balance, a little balance is in order. Some days working from home in a glorious, meltingly quiet cocoon of self-reliance, some days spent in someone’s office avoiding the CEO who calls you by the last freelancer’s name and talking to Marie in accounts about her children’s nativity play. In July.
Everything in moderation (I suppose).
*WFH also gives the term “desk” an elasticity of sorts. I will happily admit that I have spent entire afternoons working in bed with chocolate digestives balanced on my stomach while my laptop slowly cooks my ovaries.