The perils of procrastination, dogs, cats, daydreaming, catnaps and children and desire for bad office coffee.

by: Michael Petan, Creative Director

I have spent a lifetime working in a large open office, surrounded by coworkers who have become friends, mentors, and supportive teammates. Our sense of community in the office comes from our knowledge that there is safety in numbers. That sense of community, or lack thereof, affects our desire to continue to work in an office, or to explore the seemingly greener pastures of “working from home.” The office can be a place full of laughter, disagreements, whispered conversations, multiple soundtracks, rumors, politics, sports chatter, and intricate lunch smells. But, not all offices are created equal; chemistry is critical, personalities matter, and sometimes you will feel like you do not fit into your office’s culture. This means it can be tempting to see working from home as an idyllic paradise. And while more companies and industries than ever are operating with at least some work from home situations, it is important to consider how to actually make working from home “work”.

Having now spent the last ten years working from home, I wanted to share a little about what I have learned:

  1. Try to minimize distractions that will inevitably spring up. If you’re home and married with children you might be interrupted every day while you least expect it. Or the doorbell could ring, signaling the presence of an Amazon delivery, neighbors, kids, solicitors, etc. With the ringing of the doorbell comes the barking of my two dogs, and talk about breaking your concentration and your creative flow!
  2. Remember that you are inside your own home and not an office! Something I struggle with is not seeing everything around the house as a “to do list.” Broken things that need to be fixed. Stuff that needs to be put away and organized. Piles of paper and bills lying around are waiting to get paid. Housework looms and I think to myself, “Maybe I should vacuum the living room rug, take out the trash, defrost dinner, walk the dogs…?” I strongly suggest a dedicated office to ensure that you’re NOT distracted. Don’t roam; get to your office and close the door. Try getting a whiteboard to hang outside your door, or get a do-not-disturb sign. Minimizing distractions will help you foster a workspace that is conducive to being productive. Saul Bass, designer extraordinaire once said, “I want to make beautiful things but first I have to clear that big mass of grey fluff out of the tumble dryer filter.”
  3. Solitude! Solitude sounds scary for some, but it can provide the optimal environment for productivity.
  4. The Cutting School Syndrome: the temptation of skipping school and staying home still affects us in our adult lives. Deep down we still might feel like we’re getting away with something, because we get to stay home while everyone else goes to work. We all need a little time off to clear our minds, so make sure to schedule in days when you can really “skip school.” Look ahead on your calendar and mark off the extra hours beforehand so you can take a break and not feel guilty. I like to use the Weather Channel app so I can plan ahead, and take time off during the nicest days. I can say with fair certainty that I am at least 40% more productive working from home, so I get a bonus of added leisure time. I try to make sure that it is true leisure time and not time spent doing chores. True leisure in the creative world is fuel.
  5. Finally, speaking of fuel, we need to remember to fuel our bodies and our minds. A well-stocked fridge is a thing of beauty when working from home, so stock up on groceries before buckling down.

At the end of the day, the real question is what “environment” is best for you; which environment will help you maximize your performance, your personality, and your output. I might also add that it’s critical for creative minds to be engaged in work that satisfies our soul, no matter where we are. So with that being said…

Time to get back to work.