Faced with the prospect of a lengthy commute on a sweltering day, either jammed into a packed taxi or a never-ending queue at the traffic lights, plenty of us have dreamed about that ultimate career goal: working from home. Design the day to fit your other commitments, get a few things done around the house, and pop out for lunch with a friend – surely this is the answer to the quest for the perfect work/life balance?
Well, yes and no. Little or no social interaction, an endless list of distractions, and no motivation to ditch the pyjamas for something a little more… professionals are the other side of the coin. OK, the dishes might be done and the bathroom sparkles like a showroom – but what about those missed deadlines? What may sound idyllic on paper can prove disastrous in reality.
The disadvantages of working from home doesn’t stop there. Of course, the pitter-patter of tiny feet can be a joy, especially after you’re done for the day. But when you’re trying to prepare a presentation with one hand and break up warring siblings with another, things can look a little different. In New Zealand last year, demand for coworking spaces actually increased during the school holidays as practical parents sought refuge in an environment better geared to productivity. A survey of 15,000 people in 80 countries found that 68% South Africans cited family members as a barrier to getting things done.
Loneliness is another problem. The staggering rate at which technology has expanded has made our lives much easier: we can order dinner, something to read and a taxi with the tap of an app. But email and messaging platforms like Slack and WhatsApp, though extremely efficient forms of communication, have removed the need for any real interaction – and this can feel particularly acute for someone spending the day at home alone. Loneliness has become so serious, in fact, that in 2018 the UK became the first country in the world to appoint a minister for loneliness. What might at first sound wishy-washy is brought into sharp relief by this piece of evidence in a Harvard Business Review article, which found that loneliness is “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
At the same time, the office environment has its own distractions. Beware the colleague with a fervent belief in endless meetings as the solution to all problems: not only do meetings often take up a significant chunk of time in a typical eight-hour workday, but they also introduce more issues than they solve if they’re not handled with military precision and a ruthless eye on the clock. Then there’s the danger of being side-tracked by someone else’s project, as they ask you to come over and look at something “just for a minute” that quickly turns into another precious hour lost to a non-core task.
So, how to crack the remote employment conundrum? Coworking solutions like Spaces may well have found the sweet spot between the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. Firstly, being surrounded by like-minded individuals creates a buzzy atmosphere that puts paid to any feelings of loneliness – but because your fellow members are more often acquaintances than colleagues, the opportunities for downing tools and discussing last night’s TV are greatly reduced compared to the office. And that sense of quietly competitive camaraderie can be a great motivating factor when 4pm rolls around and your first impulse is to put off writing that long email until tomorrow morning.
That said, it’s all about balance – after all, burnout can also be a big problem in the world of work in the 21st -century. Traditional office culture is partly to blame but home based workers aren’t immune either. Who hasn’t ended up putting in more hours at the kitchen table to prove to the boss that they really are working even though they’re at home? And when the laptop’s left open while you’re preparing dinner, it can be all too easy to carry on with various bits and pieces in between chopping the vegetables. At SPACES, networking events like mindfulness talks and yoga classes act as gentle reminders that a good work/life balance is what will make us most successful in the end.
Another article in the Harvard Business Review found that people thrive in coworking spaces for a number of reasons. The sense of community, the ability to be yourself rather than adopt a “work persona”, and the empowerment that comes with being able to plan the working day according to your schedule, all play their part in developing the meaning and purpose that we all need to feel fulfilled at work. Even better, there are none of those working-from-home distractions that can so easily swallow up half our time if we let them, and no loss of productivity that comes with office life.
When working from home doesn’t cut it for you, there’s always another option. Our coworking memberships provide access to workspaces all around the globe, without the distractions.