How to Make Working from Home a really Shit Decision

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When I first started out as a graphic designer many moons ago I did my first few jobs from my bedroom. At the time I was living in Manchester city centre and had a rather nice apartment, I miss that apartment, it had a balcony and everything.

However working from there was anything but ideal. In the beginning I thought it was fantastic, I had a commute that was all of three seconds and I didn’t even have to get dressed. Surely, I thought, productivity will be insane.

Turns out that was truer than I knew. You see, I’ve said before that I love what I do, and that’s true, but it’s a double edged sword. I’d do my days work, pat myself on the back and then go watch some TV. But then I’d have a thought; a way to tweak an illustration, or modify a website. Before I knew it I was sat back at my desk doing a little bit more work. You’d be surprised at how quickly this pattern turns into you staying up till three in the morning finishing projects off.

Why not have a little Call of Duty during the day? I’ve earned it.

Quickly the opposite also started to become true, free time started to bleed into what should be work time. After all I’d be up all night doing all those extra hours? Why not have a little Call of Duty during the day? I’ve earned it.

My work life was a mess. I was waking up at two in the afternoon, staying in my pyjamas all day procrastinating and finally starting work proper around five and finishing again at four in the morning. I was getting a tonne of work done, it was even good, but I felt like shit. I had no energy at all, no social life, I was putting on weight and worst of all, I just felt like a straight up scum bag.

I had no energy at all, no social life, I was putting on weight and worst of all, I just felt like a straight up scum bag.

Thankfully an opportunity presented itself that helped solve my problem. Some friends of mine had decided to start up a video production company and very generously offered me some desk space which I grasped feverishly with both hands.

Having an office to work from meant that I was forced to get a routine back in place. It’s insane how something as simple as actually having a shower and getting dressed can set you up for the day. Plus it addressed one of my other concerns; the fact that I didn’t feel very professional working from my bedroom. Having an office, a place to work from, a place to meet clients gave me a sense of professionalism and legitimacy that I felt had been lacking before.

And so this was my situation for a good few years. Obviously things changed, I switched offices a few times and eventually got one of my own, but my routine was solid, work was work and play was play, and I felt all the better for it.

Recently though I’ve had a bit of a change of heart about the whole situation. (Yeah, that was just the worlds longest introduction – sorry.)

I wrote about this in a bit more detail on my personal blog, but the jist of it goes like this.

I recently took a couple of months to go travelling around Asia, and whilst there I realised that I could have totally just worked there if I’d had a laptop. In fact I could work from anywhere. It got me thinking about how I’d filled this office up with stuff I didn’t really need that much just to stop it looking so empty. I was tied to a desktop computer that was five miles away from where I woke up (not good for when a client needs a ‘quick fix’ on something). Even the majority of client meetings I had were in coffee shops in Manchester rather than here (another situation that would have been improved by working from a laptop).

On top of that, the issue of legitimacy I had learned wasn’t nearly as contingent on office space as I had assumed.

On top of that, the issue of legitimacy I had learned wasn’t nearly as contingent on office space as I had assumed. I looked at all the British designers I admired, Andy Clarke, Sarah Parmenter, Laura Kalbag – they all worked from home.

I realised that I was paying for the privilege of inconvenience.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I liked about having an office that aren’t even business related. I like that I wasn’t far from other people, the building had offices for an estate agents, a flower shop and even a beauty parlour in so I was never far away from a chat with someone if I needed a break. My landlord too was ace, not only a good friend but he gave me a killer deal on the place. It was really close to the gym and I got to ride my bike there every day.

I don’t want to sound like I bashing the idea of an office over working from home. I don’t think one is better than the other. I comes down to what works for you. Personally I felt like the office was taking more than it was giving and that I had a good enough work ethic now to try working from home again. That being said, although I didn’t live in that Manchester apartment any more, I was acutely aware that what was true there could be true again. To stop that from happening I had to learn from my mistakes and get a proper plan together.

So if any of this is sounding familiar check out the follow up to this article where I’ll go through all the systems I put in place to make working from home a really good decision.

Photo Credit to Ludo

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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