There has long been a great debate among workshifters. The magnitude of this debate has people from either camp bitterly divided, fiercely loyal, and ready to do battle to defend their side. I speak, of course, of the great workshifting debate of coffee shop versus home office.
In order to take a stance on the topic, I’m going to make a good ol’ fashioned pros & cons list of the two options, and by the end, hopefully, you’ll be able to decide for yourself which of these two options makes the most sense for your workshifting lifestyle.
1. Quiet. There is no question that when you work from a home office, you can generally get as much or as little quiet as you want. Close the door, take a deep breath and start hammering away at your tasks. If you need absolute peace to get anything done, there are few other settings that will provide this level of tranquility (unless of course you have kids at home… in which case, this point’s moot).
2. Uninterrupted privacy. Sometimes, workshifters work on sensitive projects. If you’re working on design or copy for a big client who wants to make a big splash, you can’t afford to have someone catch a glimpse of your sketches. In a home office, you can be sure that there is no corporate espionnage going on. Unless your significant other works for the competition. In which case, you may want to stay with friends until your assignment wraps up.
3. Work in your pajamas. The holy grail of frustrated cubicle workers is to be able to work from home in their pajamas (or less, if that’s how you roll). While most successful workshifters have long ago learned that the key to good performance is to treat every day as if they were going into the office, having the option of working on a quarterly report in your boxers is certainly a perk.
4. Minimal expenses. Sure, you have to get an internet connection, and you have to brew your own coffee, but chances are, even if you were working in an office, you’d still have those expenses. What you can save on is expensive cafeteria lunches, the cost of a dozen grande lattes, and commuting costs.
5. Making phone calls is easy. If you work with clients or colleagues, you need to make at least a handful of phone calls a day. Being able to speak on the phone in a closed door office is a lot more comfortable than making that same call with chattery background noise, or loud colleagues having their own calls.
1. Action keeps you awake. No matter how much you love what you do for a living, there are definitely times when you have to slog through tasks that put you to sleep. Working in a coffee shop can perk you up not only through the caffeine, but also through the action going on around you. For better or worse, being around people forces you to keep up certain appearances. Passing out on your laptop in a Starbucks just wouldn’t do.
2. Benefit from someone else’s wifi connection. A lot of coffee houses offer free wifi connections, which make them the ideal place if you’re out of town, or if your own home internet connection is down, or if you haven’t gotten around to setting up your own home internet connection.
3. Serendipitous encounters. Chances are, if you’re working from home, you’re not going to be having too many adventures. There is no chance to be interrupted, but there is also no chance to have serendipitous encounters with possible business contacts (or other). Part of the beauty of coffee shop workshifting is that you will run into other workshifters, and while most can offer only their camaraderie – not a terrible thing to have in and of itself – others may surprise you by turning out to be important business contacts.
4. Entertainment. Sometimes, when working from a coffee shop, I like to point and laugh at all the people running away from the office for 10-15 minute coffee breaks, only to scurry back with their treats. This behavior should be practiced discretely and only when you’re having a rough day.
5. Inspiration. If you do any kind of remotely creative work, chances are you’re always looking for inspiration. In my experience, there’s little more inspirational than people watching, and coffee shops, after parks, are probably the best people watching spots in any city.
1. Loneliness. As much as it sometimes feels like a relief that you no longer have to hide from Bob from accounting when he stops by “for a quick chat,” it is easy to forget that we’re social creatures and sooner or later, the water cooler chatting will be missed. When you work from home, there’s no one to chat with (except for maybe the cat).
2. Must have your own internet connection. It stands to reason that if you’re going to workshift in the modern age, you need an internet connection. For most people this isn’t an issue, but for a handful of people who have still been getting by without internet at home, working from home will force you to bite the bullet and shell out for a decent connection.
3. Risk of never changing scenery. When you work from home, you enter a weird time warp where you lose track of the outside world, and it becomes all too easy to become a complete shut-in. I’ve heard tales of workshifters who haven’t left their homes for three or more days at a time, because they’ve fallen into the trap of laziness. This isn’t good for your mental well-being, or for your happiness.
4. Possibility of procrastination is huge. Every office worker’s biggest enemy is procrastination. Whether it’s wasting time surfing the web, checking facebook, twitter, or anything else. This is easiest to do at home. Not to mention you could also procrastinate with a myriad of other activities, like television, doing laundry, tidying up the den, re-arranging photo albums, building a birdhouse… the possibilities are endless.
1. Intimidation. While many coffee shops have gotten used to the idea of workshifters buying an overpriced caffeinated beverage and installing themselves at a small table for a few hours, some still aren’t particularly fond of the practice. Getting dirty stares from a frustrated barrista who is waiting for you to order another $6 cappuccino to replace the one you finished 20 minutes ago is not conducive to productivity.
2. Risk of crappy connections. In a coffee shop, you have no control over the quality of the internet connection. You will eventually get to know which shops have good internet service, and which are flaky, but at the beginning, you may find yourself getting your cup of joe, setting yourself up for a day of work, only to be frustrated by constantly dropping wifi signals.
3. The unexpected run-in. Unless you drive to a coffee shop 100 miles outside of your hometown (maybe more), there is always the risk that you will have an unexpected run-in with acquaintances. These run-ins are made awkward by the fact that most people you run into don’t realize that you’re actually working. It’s ofte
n difficult to back away from these conversations. Especially when you’re in the middle of a real creative flow, these run-ins can be a serious deflater.
In the end, there is no right answer. Some people will prefer the calm of working from home, while others will prefer the hustle and bustle of working from crowded cafes. For most people, however, switching between the two common modes of workshifting from time to time is a good idea. It keeps things interesting. After all, workshifting is about increasing freedom, so might as well take advantage of that freedom and explore all the possibilities.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Earl G