- Work from home is becoming increasingly common.
- I did it for a year and a half as a freelancer but now, I’m much happier to be working in an office.
- The boundaries between work and play were very blurred when my studio was my office. Now, I’m able to divide them.
I was a freelance journalist for a year and a half, most of which was spent covering economics and politics in South Korea.
When I got a job in April as a reporter in Business Insider’s New York City offices, I wasn’t upset about leaving behind a lot of the troubles of freelance work – not getting paid in a timely fashion (or at all), the lengthy process of pitching, unresponsive editors, and so on.
But I was worried about having to work in an office.
One of my favourite things about freelance life (or so I thought) was being able to work from home or having the freedom to go to a coffee shop. I didn’t have to stress about what to wear to work every day, factor in a commute, or worry that my lunches were irritating my coworkers’ noses.
I also get easily distracted by noise and other people. In college, my friends always preferred studying in the super-social undergraduate library or busy coffee shops. I preferred sequestering myself in my bedroom or a quiet coffee shop.
Because of that, I thought I was destined to be a freelancer or work-from-home professional. Yet, I’ve weirdly come to prefer office life. Here’s why.
When you work from home, you’re always in the office
My “office” when I was freelancing was a desk in my studio apartment in Seoul. That desk is also where I ate, FaceTimed friends back home, and mindlessly browsed the internet.
My work didn’t have a solid start and end time because I was always “in the office.” But even when I was working, I was in the same spot where I watched TV and spent hours on Reddit.
Each day looked sort of like this: a morning of work, followed by a very long lunch while watching Korean dramas, a walk around the neighbourhood, then back to work for a few hours.
Before bed, emails from the US would start to flood in. Because I never really left that office mindset, I would panic about tasks I missed during the day (probably when I was having a multi-hour lunch break) and would start working again.
I can’t entirely blame work-from-home for my inability to turn off the work mindset. Straddling time zones in Asia and the US complicated my schedule. I would have to do interviews at 10 p.m. to talk with experts back in the U.S. but also be present with my emails during normal office hours to communicate with editors in Hong Kong or interview subjects in Seoul.
Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett found a similar lack of boundaries when she was working from home (in America) for a year:
“In an office setting, you know when everyone generally starts rolling in. Your coworker’s lunch wafting under your nose lets you know that maybe it’s time for you to eat, too. And seeing your coworkers getting up and walking out the door signals that it might be time for you to pack it up and head home.
When you work from home, you lack many of the signals that the workday is complete, and so there never seems to be a good stopping point. It’s your job, then, to create your own signals and set some boundaries.“
For now, I’m definitely a fan of working in an office – even though it means I can’t wear sweatpants all day. I’m able to divide my day between work and play rather than having a little bit of work encompass every hour of my waking life.
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