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Out of Our Minds
Tuesday, May 04, 2004 9:12 AM
What I miss about office life
David Weinberger on Business

I've been working at home for almost exactly ten years now, and I love it. But every now and then I spend time at a client's office and get wistful...

I miss bumping into people I like. Getting an email from someone you've never met in person just isn't the same, no matter how delightful the message.

I miss eating lunch with people. In fact, I miss eating lunch. At home, I grab something out of the kitchen and get back to work while the last bite is mid-esophagus. In the office, each lunch time was another little adventure: Who to eat with? Where to eat? How major a lunch?

I miss the full-bodied project experience. Now the projects I work on feel abstract: There's a piece of work that gets done via collaborative-but-separate efforts. In an office, a project has a body, not just a brain.

I miss watching the dynamic social relationships expressed in nuance because they have to be accomplished outside of the official structure. Org charts simply don't - and couldn't and shouldn't and don't want to - capture the friendships, rivalries and loves that are inevitable when people occupy the same space. But because office relationships - and I don't just mean romantic ones - have repercussions, they are often tentative and accomplished through subtle symbols - a cocking of the head as someone listens attentively, a smile as budget numbers are passed from hand to hand...

I miss the giddy joy of taking the second-to-last cup of coffee.

But then I get pulled into some client's weekly 'status meeting' (and believe me, it's all about status), or one of my kids pulls me out to play or help with homework, and I remember why I like working at home.

How about you? What are the little pleasures of your life in the office?


Ruby - 5/6/2004 7:49:11 PM
Thanks, Dave, for expressing all the things I miss about working in an office. After a full decade of retirement, I still feel a sense of isolation from the wider world. Getting involved in some volunteer causes helped satisfy the need for a project and a team effort, but also provided a reminder of the inefficiency and tedium of meetings.

On the positive side, it's great having the love of my life as an office mate and coconspirator in all our projects, strictly of our own choosing. And it's deliciously luxurious to drink that third cup of coffee and finish the crossword puzzle before facing the demands of the day.

By the way, thanks, Dave, for all your wise words we find on various web sites. You and other bloggers like you give us hope that our nation and society are not yet completely and hopelessly gone to hell.
jeneane - 5/5/2004 11:22:35 PM
I wrote about the disconnect of attending client meetings when home is where the heart is over here:


It amazes me after six years of working from home--first as part of a corporation, now off on my own--how utterly exhausted I become when I have to put on my 'work person persona' and take her out to a client meeting.

Fortunately, that same exhaustion can be taken care of while working from home. It's called a nap. And every time I take one, I feel like I'm getting away with something b-i-g. Even though I usually don't bill while I sleep. Unless of course the dream is very productive. ;-)
lee wilder - 5/5/2004 2:43:05 PM
Home Office:

Every day is take-your-dog-to-work day.
No one catches you doing personal emails.
You don't spill coffee in your car anymore.
the 'no shirts, no shoes, no service' rule does not apply.

No mailroom
No benefits department.
24/7 is theoretically possible and clients know that.
Rick - 5/5/2004 9:40:25 AM
I am in the process of moving to a new job. I have two offers I'm sorting through. One offers the chance to work at home on projects. The other would be in a traditional work setting. I think I will opt for the working at home position, mainly because of the commute and the flexibility of scheduling. I know the kids and the chores will be a constant distraction, but I love the thought of working from home. We'll see what happens. Thanks for your thoughts!
Fred - 5/5/2004 9:15:43 AM
I have only had the opportunity to work from home on certain occasions in my short lived work career (26 yrs old), but I will say this. While it is nice to have the camaraderie of co-workers there to talk about the lastest TV program, or what's new in our industry, there is something to be said about being able to wake up, make your cup of coffee, walk about 20 feet and start your work day at 6:30 a.m. and be done by 3:00 p.m.

I have a 3 hour commute a day (yes, by choice) and I find that I don't have time to do a lot of the things I want to do on a regular basis because I'm on a train fifteen hours a week. With the ability to work virtually becoming more feasible, it surprises me that many companies don't allow it.
Brian - 5/4/2004 4:49:53 PM
It's hard to be in the right place at the right time to get free tickets to sporting events while working out of the house....

I've never had the opportunity to work out of the house, unless you count the hours in the evening after I get home from the office.

I've always thought that the 'coworkers' at home would keep me around the water cooler too much so that I wouldn't be able to concentrate. Who wants to work when you can roll around with the 3yr old?

After a day at home I find myself needing to get 'out' so I tend to view going to the office every day as that break from home, but of course I love my work so I guess that helps.
Myke - 5/4/2004 3:29:34 PM
I've been working from home for 11 years.

In the Atlanta area, the traffic in the commute to work is usually time-consuming and/or dangerous. That's enough to override the positives.
Gary Turner - 5/4/2004 9:29:51 AM

A middle chunk of six out of my last ten years were spent working from home, I've been back in an office environment since 2001 and, after a period of re-adjustment into the protocols and culture of office life, it certainly has some appeal. About one of the biggest differences is that when I worked from home, I was always 'at the office' so to speak, and tended to be tempted or drawn into working when I should have been relaxing, there was no clear dividing line between the two. Nowadays, unless I must for very good reasons (like I forgot to do something important at the office) I never mix work and home life. When I step out of the door every night, I'm going 'home', the other place I live.

So, I guess it's like having two homes. Kinda.


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