As one of the writers at workshifting (a client blog), you'd think that offices would be archaic, a thing of the past. The truth is, I've only recently settled back into having an office. I'd been workshifting for so long that I got used to the life of a nomad: working in coffee shops and bookstores, working in hotel rooms and airports. And it was fine for what it was. But I have a little ode to an office space that might be interesting to those solo entrepreneurs or small business types out there.
An Office of One's Own Choosing
I used to be a cubicle farmer for a wireless company. I had one of many offices in a sea of offices, where the way we pretended we stood out from each other was with decorations. There was no privacy. There was no sense that you could stretch out and work the way you operated best. There was nothing to make the experience mine. (That said, with almost 1,000 employees, it's not exactly like we could have made our space be about individualism, at least not without a huge cultural change.) The first difference is that my office is of my own choosing.
When I went shopping for an office, I was surprised how inexpensive they were to rent. I got mine in northern Massachusetts for just over $300 a month. Now, prices will vary, but I chose a small town out of the city and in an older building. It was clean, had lots of outlets, had a great view out the window, and a nice locking door. Not everyone can afford an extra $300 a month, but if that's all it cost to have a place of your own that you could organize your own way and that you felt you could justify by being even more productive, wouldn't you consider it?
Connection to the Outside World
My role requires a lot of contact through a lot of various means. I use Skype, GoTo Meeting, Twitter, SMS and even IM with a select few people. What I don't use is a desk phone. I broke down and bought high speed Internet, but for a while I was using my MiFi service and that worked well enough.
For only $59 a month (in my area), I have a connection that is perfect for Skype and other services, and with Google Voice, I have a telephone number that I can handle as if it's my office line, without worrying that my cell phone will ring off the wall.
Add a few more online services like Google Apps, Dropbox and a neat cork board app called Linoit, and I've got a nice way to stay focused with my small team, my vendors, and my customers all from my quiet little office.
When To Get Out of Coffee Shops
For me, the move to get an office was predicated by the realization that I had a lot more media I intended to make. I plan to shoot a lot of videos and record a lot of teleseminars, and for that, I need privacy. You might not have any such requirement, but there are other things to consider.
- If you have more than three client phone calls a day, a coffee shop might not be the best environment.
- If you need to stretch out to do your work and take up lots of space.
- If you want wall space to hang important information for more visual stimulation (I have a project calendar, plus some sticky notes explaining what's hot on my plate, plus a sticky note area called "commitments" plus one for "home." It's made a big difference in keeping me focused.)
- If you're sick of paying $15 or so a day on food while dining out to "rent" your space. (Quick math: 20 days x $15 = $300 a month).
Don't Rush In
Offices aren't for everyone. If you're going to travel more often than not, you might not want an office. If you're worried about potentially moving, you might not want to get a place with a longer lease. If you're thinking that you might grow and expand quickly, be wary of your lease terms, to be sure that you're not locking yourself in. If you're unclear as to your financial future, it's maybe risky to throw more of a burden on your back.
But If You Get an Office
Give yourself a pat for finding a little place where you can do your best work. I really couldn't imagine the difference in my output since coming in out of the cold from my workshifting lifestyle, and now, I'm happily running not one but two companies from this office (though technically, I have another office 67 miles away for that second company).
What are your thoughts? Are you the office type? What's your space like? What do you wish others had told you that you could help them understand?