I have been working full-time from my home for nearly fifteen years. This arrangement offers many advantages, like not having to wear pantyhose, not having to make chit chat with coworkers, and not really having to be working when you say you are working (who is going to blab to the boss?!?) On the flip side, it is easy to fall prey to what I call “life-creep”. The unloaded dishwasher starts calling to you. While you are in the kitchen you start a grocery list, which inevitably leads to a “quick trip” to the grocery store. The drycleaner is on your way, so you drop off a few of hubby’s shirts. And since you are out, you do a few extra errands, so that you can “get ahead of the game” (I don’t know who coined this expression or what game they were referring to, but the one I am playing is so far ahead of me that I would need to find a warp in the time-space continuem just to catch up).
The well-equipped home office is your best defense against life-creep because it allows you to “go to work” like all those other employed people. Once you are “at work” it is imperative to make sure that your tiny corporate space is a self-sustaining ecosystem that requires nothing from the outside world, because the trip from work to home is very short but the journey back can take a long, long time. There are five essential items in my office that keep me on the right side of door, far away from the siren call of the unloaded dishwasher:
1. Mr. Comfy Chair. When I get sick of rolling back and forth in my ergonomically correct office chair with the weird, bendy back, Mr. Comfy Chair welcomes me into his arms and lets me pretend I have moved into the “study” for a bit of repose. When I get stuck participating in conference calls, I always do so from the soft squishiness of Mr. Comfy Chair because it makes me feel superior to all those corporate folk who are stuck at the board room table (instead of feeling like the poor country mouse who has been granted a visit with her sophisticated city cousins). And here’s a great secret about Mr. Comfy Chair… although he looks like something from 1950s England he is really a Lazy Boy recliner!
2. A well-stocked book case (or 2). Books make me feel smart. They make the whole room look smart. And I truly believe that all of the efforts it took for those books to be written seeps into my office, where I can breathe it in and get contaminated by creativity and self-discipline.
3. My coffee heater. I cannot overstate the importance of my coffee heater! It was given to me as a Christmas gift many years ago and remains the most durable, well-used and greatly-appreciated item I have ever received. I think it cost less than $10 but I rank it as priceless (mostly because I haven’t seen one in a store in years so I have no idea how to replace it when it finally succumbs to old age). This amazing gadget allows me to nurse a single cup of coffee through an entire morning without need of microwave. Thus, I am able to avoid all of the life-creep hazards that lurk in the kitchen.
4. A butt-covering, super-long-armed cardigan. A sweatshirt will not suffice, nor will a blazer or a pullover. It’s not about fashion, it’s about comfort. When things are going poorly (words are stuck in my head, or a client has been mean to me in some way, or I am stressed about a project that seems to be going off the rails), I wrap myself in the cocoon of my butt-covering, super-long-armed cardigan and let it warm both my ass and my soul. (Note: even in the hot summer months, a woman can have need for some cardigan love). My current favourite is a burgundy number from Roots that features finger holes. Don’t know what the deal is on finger holes but they up the comfort factor exponentially.
5. Buster the schnauzer. Without his big, shaggy body beside me I am like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, alone in space with no one to hear me scream. Buster listens to my rants about pop up advertisements, and search engine malfunctions, and documents that disappear into the cyber-sphere even though I KNOW I SAVED THEM! He agrees that I am right and everyone else is wrong. He supports my decision to place a $200 online order through Staples because he understands that I am sick of black office accessories and need cool silver stuff instead. Buster does not judge me for giving myself a pedicure during a conference call (my toes were in dire shape). And when I need a break he takes me to the park where I can breathe in some fresh air and re-invigorate myself but he does not allow me to add in errands (schnauzers DO NOT wait in cars).
Lots of people make the mistake of trying to set up a home office that mimics the “real” offices of those who commute to work. The problem with this way of thinking is that it ultimately creates the exact space they were trying to escape when they decided to work from home in the first place. My office is so much more than a well-organized work space. It is where I go to be “grown up Kim” and it is the only room in my house that is not set up to meet the needs of hubby and/or the kids. It is MY room with MY things and it offers me a customized comfort that I escape to, not from.
Truthfully, there are crazy weekends when I glance longingly into my office as I spin around the house, arms filled with groceries and cleaning supplies and laundry baskets. And there are Monday mornings when I can’t wait to get everyone out of the house so I can pour a coffee and settle into MY space, where Buster the Schnauzer is waiting for me… because he knows he is an office essential!