The author*, in a quirky, thought-provoking article, presents a compelling case for why working from near home can be better than working from home as relational noise and cues abound at home, particularly if living with other people.
Living alone, I’m not distracted directly by other people, but it seems that I’m super tuned in to ‘object related’ visual cues at home, jobs of various types which need attention, and can find it difficult to focus. It seems I have three options…
- Stay at home and keep responding to object related cues
- Stay at home and blot out all object related cues while focussing to the extent that nothing gets done
- Find somewhere else to work where I’m less distracted… even calm
History suggests I prefer the latter!
During the late 1980’s early 1990’s I returned to University, taking Master of Education courses and completing a postgraduate Bachelor of Social Work. All required essays to be written. At the time my sister and her husband had a holiday house on Phillip Island, not a long walk from the Woolamai beach which has a view across to the bridge from San Remo. They generously allowed me to use the house as an escape to write. I’d work on an essay, then go for a long walk on the beach. My unconscious seemed to keep working on the essay during the walk and I’d invariably return to my desk refreshed, with a new angle or other way to improve my essay. A car ride from the Woolamai surf beach for a bracing walk was also a wonderful way to blow the cobwebs away.
In the late 70’s, early 80’s, I volunteered to produce a newsletter for the Daylesford Arts Cooperative. It was great fun. I rented a room in an old hotel in the middle of town which had empty studios to produce the newsletter. I can remember it now – my state of the art golfball typewriter on a desk in the corner, a trestle table to layout the copy. It was a space set aside from my working life at school and home life in a miners’ cottage on Wombat Hill near the now Convent Gallery.
When did this habit of ‘working away from home’ begin? During my high school years, I attended a school in East Malvern in Melbourne, not far from my grandparents’ home in North Caulfield. I was a book worm, enjoyed school, reading and working on my assignments, somewhat difficult in a small war service home where I shared a room with my sister and also had to cope with a somewhat temperamental war veteran father whose mood swings troubled me. Being able to stay with my grandparents during the week was a great relief, enabling me to focus on the essays and tasks I had to complete.
There are many other examples – usually involving deciding to work at school after hours rather than work at home which, as I had a key to the school building, I could do. This was a common pattern in my early teaching years when teachers would often work at the school out of hours. In the last 13 years of my paid working life, I worked at GOTAFE in both Wangaratta and Benalla. My car could often be seen in the car park out of hours, as I found it easier to focus on tasks at hand.
I’ve occasionally been known to go away when the newsletter is being transferred to the website, working on it while on escape to Daylesford, even to Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour.
Even as I finish this, I’m sitting in the U3A office – where, in between other tasks, and having read the article on my email listing, I’ve been able to focus on (and enjoyed) writing this piece!
Cal Newport ‘What if Remote Work Didn’t Mean Working from Home? We need to separate our jobs and where we live’. The New Yorker. May 22, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/remote-work-not-from-home?