Photography: Dayna Bateman
Working in cafes might be as trendy as typing on a Macbook Air but it does come with one distinct disadvantage. You can’t do it for long. As we described in our rules for café-working, more than two hours on single brew makes you look cheap while pouring down latte after latte to keep your seat warm won’t just be pricy, it will also mean frequent toilet trips while your laptop sits on the table making eyes at strangers.
In reality, the new working nomads tend to spend most of their time not in Starbucks or any other local bean bar, but at home. To someone who has to sit in traffic for a couple of hours a day, who has to share an office with a guy who eats the world’s whiffiest cheese sandwiches and who has a spare room with a view over the bay, that sounds like a dream come true.
And for the most part, they’d be right.
The Joys of Working from Home
Working from home does cut out the commute, which means you can sleep longer in the morning, save on gas bills and avoid the brain seizures that result from reading the stickers on a hybrid car’s rear fender for an hour.
It does mean being able to take long lunch breaks without anyone knowing, and it also means not having to see the boss… ever!
Best of all though, it creates a new way of dealing with the work/life balance, that old dilemma of dividing up time between a competitive career and the family life that makes it all worthwhile.
But it brings some other interesting advantages too.
Alexis Martin Neely, for example, is a lawyer and author of Wear Clean Underwear!, a legal guide for parents, who did the daily drive to her office for three years before starting to swap the watercooler for the kitchen kettle. Today, she only goes into the office, where she still keeps a team, to meet clients and even then on no more than two days a week.
The biggest benefit of her new work mode, she says, is being connected to her children, even when at work, but she also enjoys the free scheduling that comes from not being confined to an office.
“I don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time and I love that,” she says.
The tax benefits help too. Designating part of your home as a workspace means that some of the usual household expenses — such as cleaning materials, Internet connection, phone bills and even some food and drink — can all be tax deductible. Being able to write off part of her housing payments, says Alexis, means that she’s able to “afford more house” than she would otherwise.
For most people that’s because working from home means a home that feels a little smaller. Set up your desk in the living room and suddenly half your salon has become an office. Convert a spare bedroom into a workspace — the usual way of doing things — and you’re now a bedroom down.
Working from the Bedroom
Alexis takes a slightly different approach. She makes no separation between her home space and her office space. While she has an area over the garage that she says could be converted into an office, she’s chosen instead to place two desks in her bedroom, which she says is quite large.
“I like being in the center of everything and being able to feel like I am part of my family,” she explained by email from her porch. “Even when I’m working.”
The price for that continual family presence though is never being out of the office. Like many people who work from home, Alexis has to cope with the temptation to answer emails on the weekend or take calls in the evening — time that office workers are usually able to call their own. For Alexis, being truly with the family and away from the attractions of work often means getting away from the house.
That’s something that anyone thinking of setting up a home-based business needs to consider, and they have to decide too whether a house-full of children is likely to make them less productive than an office full of co-workers.
Interestingly, Alexis has found the opposite to be true. Leaving her team to work without her in the office has improved their productivity.
“I quickly found my team was more efficient without me there,” she says. “They got more done without me in their hair and I was a whole lot happier working from home.”
If you don’t want to work from home then, you might try suggesting that your boss stays away.