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The advantages of working somewhere other than your couch (and ideas to get you started)
Many nine-to-fivers chained to a desk fantasize about being able to work from home full time. Having your own home-based business means working on your couch clad in pajamas (because pants are oppressive).
As of 2017, almost 17 million Americans were self-employed—and that number is growing steadily, especially with the rise of the gig economy. For those who serve as their own boss, that often means working from their couch or maybe a cozy home office.
While being self-employed certainly offers flexibility and freedom, there are definitely some downsides to working from home. Based on my own experience, staying glued to my couch for eight-plus hours a day was isolating and eventually wore down my productivity.
But you don’t have to give up the WFH lifestyle just because working from your actual home doesn’t suit you. There are advantages to taking your work elsewhere, and I’ll run down some of those reasons. Plus, I’ve got some free and low-cost ideas for other places to work so you can separate your home from your office.
Why you shouldn’t always work from your couch
WFH can be distracting
Let’s be honest: working from home can sometimes be a drain on your productivity. On the whole, remote workers earn more, quit less, and are happier than their office-bound counterparts; but getting there requires some effort and may mean grabbing your laptop and going elsewhere to get things done.
When working from home on low motivation days (no judgement—we all have them), I find myself taking more “housework breaks” like quickly sweeping a dusty floor or throwing a load of laundry into the washer.While this kind of multitasking is a perk of working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by domestic tasks (or pets, or kids, or Netflix).
Lack of work-life separation
When you work in the same space where you also come to relax, it can be difficult to get much of either done. When there’s no physical separation between your office and your personal space, it’s easy to lose motivation and experience more stress as a result.
Setting your own schedule may seem like a dream come true, but it still requires self discipline and some degree of structure. When you just have to roll out of bed and grab your laptop to start working, it’s easy for your workday to bleed into your unwinding time and vice versa.
A Medical Press study showed that working remotely can cause more stress and insomnia because of “longer working hours, higher work intensity and work-home interference” that sometimes comes with working from home. Additionally, keeping your laptop or work materials in your bedroom can contribute to insomnia, according to sleep experts at Harvard.
Staying home can be isolating
Feeling isolated when working from home is a common complaint from remote workers. Humans are social creatures, and even if working in an office is a pain most of the time, it does scratch that daily itch for watercooler talk.
Staying inside, day after day, can make you go a little stir crazy. And with no one around to interact with, working solo at home can feel pretty lonely.
Communication can be difficult
Then there are the logistics of working remotely: When you WFH, communicating and collaborating with co-workers requires extra effort.
When you work from home, you don’t run into colleagues in the breakroom or sit in a cubicle near your other team members. Collaboration doesn’t organically happen over lunch with a team member. You and your co-workers are separated by space and even time (for teams with workers in multiple time zones), and that presents some distinct challenges for remote workers.
When working from home, you have to invest additional time and effort into communicating and collaborating with your team. As one remote manager says, “overcommunication” with colleagues is often a best practice to compensate for working outside an office.
Other places you can work while still being your own boss
Just because remote work has its challenges doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. Finding remote success could be a matter of getting off your couch or working somewhere other than the confines of your kitchen table.
Because of things like, you know, the Internet and WiFi, WFH doesn’t mean you actually have to work from home. That’s why I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite alternate venues for you to go to make progress on your to-do list without chaining yourself to a cubicle.
Yes, public libraries still exist! While I might be one of the only nerds who still visits my nearest library to check out real books (gasp!), you can hit up your local branch for a quiet place to work as well.
While the library may not be ideal for loud conference calls or brainstorming sessions, if you need to tuck in and grind through a project, consider it as an option. Some libraries now even offer dedicated meeting rooms and study spaces you can book out for meetings or for a little extra privacy.
Cafes are the go-to spot for remote workers. Between a steady stream of caffeine, free Wifi, and innumerable locations in almost every city, coffee shops are a standard venue for shiftless freelancers and solopreneurs.
Cafes provide the benefits of a little background noise (I can’t work in complete silence) and a little company—it’s easy to share a table with fellow solopreneurs, host a meeting at your local Starbucks, or simply work alongside complete strangers.
Weather permitting, you can get a little Vitamin D while also ticking off tasks on your to-do list. Find a bench or picnic table at your nearest public park and enjoy a little nature while you work through your tasks for the day.
If you want the structure of a dedicated workspace without feeling chained to a desk, you can try a co-working space. Most major cities now offer multiple venues where you can book a hot desk or even rent out your own office.
In addition to offering a desk, co-working spaces often provide perks like free coffee, 24/7 access, high-speed WiFi, and the chance to connect and network with fellow entrepreneurs.
Membership in a co-working space will vary depending on your city and the space, but you can expect prices from $100 per month and up, depending on your needs.
Moving forward with working from home while keeping your sanity
Being your own boss means learning what works best for your work style and productivity.
Whether that means spending time in a quiet library or working from a co-working space a couple of days a week, there are a wealth of options to help you work productively without the distractions of home or feelings of isolation.