Brand building through storytelling

My new rented office: a progress report

The beauty of working at home, according to the popular notion, has something to do with the dress code: you can get down to business in your bathrobe (or nothing at all, come to that). Then there are all the other perks: the memos you knock off while the pasta water boils, the nocturnal fits of productivity, the commutes you don’t have to make while legions of hapless wage slaves curse the traffic and the weather.

I’ve done my bit for the home office mystique. For close to 17 years, I sang the praises of my own cozy office about five seconds from the stove. But as the Internet expanded the byways of my work, I began ducking into the office for Google searches that promised to be quick and useful, but in fact were a pointless waste of time. Like a pager, my computer was keeping me on call. Meanwhile my husband, who by this time had an office next to mine, had noticed that days could go by in which he didn’t leave our condo. “This is starting to feel like an old person’s lifestyle,” he said.

The time had come for us to separate our personal and professional lives. How convenient that we’d just decided to move. We bought a loft from a 30-something gay couple; it was way too small to work in. So we rented an office suite four blocks away, on the top floor of a heritage building with beamed ceilings and a skylit atrium though which sun beats relentlessly on hot days.

The building has a multitude of quirks, from its origins as an abbatoir to the single elevator, which chugs ponderously up and down as if not quite sure it can make the next floor. Our fellow tenants run charities or small media companies, and no one comes to work in a suit. Every Friday afternoon at four, the jolly bunch next door throws a party, complete with wine and beer, to which we have a standing invitation.

If you could drop by our office, you’d be struck by the polished first impression: our names on a glass panel, as if we had a payroll and a receptionist. We do have a reception area, but it’s crammed with boxes full of books and furniture we should have unloaded when we moved. I blithely call our office “a work in progress,” and in fact we’ve made some headway in three months. The security system finally works. I’ve learned that if I switch off our lights, our friendly neighbours will be working in the dark. So it goes.

Sometimes I miss my built-in desk with its view of treetops and sky. Sometimes I reach for the my appointment book and realize I’ve left it at home. Sometimes when I’m on a roll at six-thirty, I wish I could still work and cook at the same time, and then write a few more paragraphs before bed, the way I did in our old place. Every day I have to think about what I plan to accomplish instead of just letting it happen; every day there comes a time when I must say, “Enough. I’ll finish this tomorrow.” And on balance, that’s for the best. I’ve read more books in the past two weeks than I could manage in a season before we moved. I still have my work. The difference is that I now have a life as well.

Oh, and one more thing: I get dressed for the office. No more writing in my hiking shorts and a faded T-shirt because no one will see what I’m wearing. These summer days, I like to walk to work in my silver sandals and matching silver hat. Once in a while, a stranger will say, “Great hat.” I’m not going anywhere except my desk, but I’m going with a sense of occasion, of crossing a border between the two worlds I inhabit. And that’s as it should be.

Click here to read about the momentous decision to give up working at home. Our move was an ongoing, wildly complicated drama that began here.

 

Posted by Rona

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