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Home or away

March 25, 2014

I am trying to decide whether to continue to work from home or move out into an outside office. With my business growing, moving seems like the natural move, but I sure do like saving money! What to do?


I am tempted to quote The Clash, and in fact I will:

“Should I stay or should I go now?
If I stay there will be trouble,
if I go there will be double.
So you got to let me know,
Should I stay or should I go?”

So yes, there are pros and cons to each choice. One person who seemed to really understand this dichotomy is Diane Ackerman in her book, One Hundred Names for Love. Says she:

“Working from home meant we could vary snack and coffee breaks, change our desks or view, goof off, drink on the job, even spend the day in pajamas, and often meet to gossip or share ideas.

“On the other hand, we bossed ourselves around, set impossible goals, and demanded longer hours than office jobs usually entail. It was the ultimate “flextime,” in that it depended on how flexible we felt each day, given deadlines, distractions, and workaholic crescendos.”

That last point is an important one: As we all know, working from home gives one a lot of flexibility. If you have young kids who need attention, or just like the option of mixing things up every day, working from home certainly makes that easier. And yet, on the other hand, it also therefore requires not a little bit of discipline.

Working from home used to be fairly uncommon, but of course that is not true today. With all of the tech tools available we all seem to do it to one extent or another. And that is another reason why having discipline is more important than ever if you choose to work from home: The line between work/play/home has become very blurry, probably too blurry.

Raise your hands if you are guilty of this: It’s 11 pm, you are home, hanging out, and you absentmindedly check your email. You notice a work email come in and what do you do? You respond to it of course. And the next thing you know, a half an hour has gone by, working.

So the deal with working from home is that you have to draw clear lines if you are going to make it work. As I used to say back when I worked at home full-time: The good news is that you see your kids a lot. The bad news is that you see your kids a lot. If you are able to draw those clear lines, and not let work interfere with your home life and vice versa, it is a great option.

And remember this too: Even if your business is growing, working from home remains a viable option. You can always rent space in an office somewhere to meet clients or do other work.

On the other hand, working out of an outside office has its joys as well. For one, there are indeed less distractions. The line between work and home is far more clearly drawn when you have a separate physical place for each.

Yes, it will cost you more, but there is also probably an opportunity cost to working from home, so hopefully, if you work from an outside office, your business will indeed grow.

You might also be less lonely. One problem with working from home is that you can feel disconnected, and alone. But when you rent an office or some other space, you are out there in the world of work.

You may also find that you are more effective working this way. Certainly that is what Marissa Mayer thought when the Yahoo CEO decided that allowing Yahoo employees to continue to regularly work from home was not such a good idea. In her memo to staff on the subject, Mayer said, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

So, although I hate to sound like the lawyer I am, the answer to the question, “Should I work in or out of the house” is, it depends. The decision requires a careful balancing of needs, abilities, and desires (said he, writing from his home office at 9:00 p.m.)

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