25 July 2013

The wisdom of creating a home office

M, my university student daughter, said to me recently, "This house makes me so unproductive!" When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that when she comes home for the summer, she has so many tasks that she wants to complete but the house sucks the life out of her -- not the people, but the actual configuration of the house. She can't find anywhere to sit that is comfortable enough for her to play her instrument, and with our open floor plan there is rarely a time when her clarinet playing wouldn't be disturbing someone or when their activities wouldn't be disturbing her.

When I started taking classes last year, I knew it would be best to move to another part of the house to study. My default spot is my bedroom, but that is associated with watching TV and sleeping. I wanted to get myself into work mode, so I moved all my gear into the living room on the couch. After a few weeks of doing that, I discovered two things. One, the living room couch is OK for sitting with visitors for a few minutes, but it isn't right for working. It didn't take long for my back to hurt. Two, I hated lugging my laptop and books up and down the stairs every day. I'm sure everyone else in the house hated seeing me do it, too, considering I have become more prone to falling.

In my still-ongoing job search, I've been looking at work-at-home jobs. One of the requirements the job listings always mention is a separate home office. It made sense to me in that context because most of the positions are for remote call center agents. You don't want the noise of your household seeping through when you are trying to help someone who called a place of business to ask about an order. I never thought I really needed a designated space for homework or doing bills, though. Until M's comment and my recent experience, I clung to the idea that one of the advantages of being at home was that I didn't need to be all prim and proper. I don't have to put on shoes, I can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts every day, and I can sit wherever and however I want. As it turns out, I still want to do my work at a desk.

I am longing for an L-shaped workstation with a hutch on top. I want to turn on my music, settle into my Aeron chair, and bury my head into my studies. I want M to have a comfortable place to practice her instruments when she is home. It would be nice to have a central place to put my books and our bills other than the precarious pile on my bedside table. Does this mean I am turning into a stodgy middle-aged woman? Maybe, but if it makes me more productive, I don't care.
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