Freelance Lonely

Maybe Marissa Mayer,  CEO of Yahoo who recently nixed telecommuting for Yahoo employees,  is right.  Maybe we are happier and more productive when working in an office,  rather than working at home.  This theory flies in the face of the entrepreneurial,  independence-loving American fantasy,  where we sit at home in scuzzy clothes,  or deposit ourselves at the beach or the local coffee shop,  laptop and cell phone at the ready,  and efficiently run a million dollar enterprise.   That is a popular fantasy but for may people,  the reality is not so idyllic.

In a 2010 Census Bureau survey,  it was discovered that 6.6%  of adults worked exclusively from home.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2009,  15 million adults identified themselves as self-employed.  Add to those numbers telecommuters,  some of whom visit their workplace offices only one or two days a week.  Cutting back or eliminating the cost and time of the commute to the office are important benefits,  but there is a percentage of Freelance consultants and frequent telecommuters who find themselves overtaken with loneliness and feelings of isolation.

They are not as productive as they expect themselves to be.  With disturbing frequency,  they find themselves unable to focus on their work.  They are easily distracted,  prone to doing housework or watching television when they should be  “on the job”.  Conversely,  there are others who find that they are unable to stop  working  (that would be me).  Too often,  they (we) are immersed in work-related activities when we could be relaxing and re-charging our inner resources.  Neither group is able to establish good boundaries between working life and personal life.  Going to the right kind of office space may present the solution.

According to DeskMag, an online magazine that covers the co-working industry  http://deskmag.com ,  there are now nearly 800 commercial collaborative,  i.e. co-working,   facilities in the US,  up from a little more than 300 just two years ago.  I first reported on this phenomenon in my October 25, 2011 post and the trend continues upward.

In addition to offering reasonably priced office space,  co-working offices provide opportunities for interaction  (networking)  with like-minded professionals.  Tenants  (sometimes called members)  share resources like a kitchen,  a photocopier and conference rooms.  Some co-working offices create a party atmosphere and organize after-hours social situations like whiskey tastings,  art shows and Christmas and other holiday parties.  “The need to feel socially connected is a fundamental human need”,  notes Ravi S. Gajendram,  an assistant professor of business at the University of Illinois.

The well-designed co-working office will create spaces that organically bring tenants together:  pleasant seating areas with long tables designed for sharing and conversation nooks with coffee tables and comfortable chairs.  “The design strategy is a typology that looks at accidental encounters as much as organizational clarity”,  says David Rockwell, designer of NeueHouse in New York City,  a high end co-working space that styles itself as a private club.  Rockwell says NeueHouse was designed to sync with the interactive,  serendipitous manner in which creative professionals work today.

Still,  there are those who try it and eventually tire of it.  Po Bronson,  who 19 years ago co-founded the San Francisco Writers Grotto,  says that co-working offices eventually start to feel like the traditional offices that we know and loathe.  There can be collaboration,  but also envy,  competition and gossip.  Yet for those of us who need a degree of structure to help us form necessary boundaries between our work and personal lives,  it will be worthwhile to investigate a co-working space or two.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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