Does a Separate Office Really Help?

My husband sat down on the couch last Wednesday and didn’t move a whole lot until this morning. He was home sick from work for three days and only started feeling better part way through the weekend.

I feel like my routine got thrown off a good deal just by having him there. He wasn’t in the same room that I work in, but I could hear him moving around every few minutes. I was worried about him, as well, so I was heading into the other room to check on him every few minutes.

This sort of situation is, of course, a typical consequence of working from home. I’ve often wondered if I’d get more done if I had an office to head to everyday — whether that office is a desk in the garage, a coworking space or an actual office space. Does the act of stepping outside of the house help with productivity? What about separation from household concerns, like sick husbands or energetic children?

Building Up an Office in My Mind

Some days, I see an office separate from the spare room in my house as the cure for what ails me. I think that just needing to get up and get out of the house could help my productivity dramatically. To a certain extent, I think that not being able to stop working and doing a load of laundry would help me.

I’ve thought about what I want in an office more than once. I’ve even worked to set up a coworking space locally to make an office less expensive for me to have on my own. It hasn’t worked out so far, but I certainly had every foot of that shared office decorated in my mind.

But this may be a case of ‘the grass is greener.’ During times that I’ve worked in coworking spaces in the past, my productivity went way down. I had fun people to talk to, so why would I focus on my actual work? I think that I’m building up the benefits of a separate office in my mind. It’s quite likely that a move wouldn’t help me at all.

The Distractions at Home

One of the biggest considerations for whether a separate office would be helpful has to be the level of distractions that are at home. I don’t have an awful lot of distractions: aside from days when my husband is home sick, I’m mostly facing attempts by my cats to try to convince me to feed them about every fifteen minutes.

My husband and I don’t have kids (at least for now). I don’t have to try to work through a small child’s demands. I expect that the usefulness of a separate office goes up dramatically when kids are part of the equation. The same might go for situations where other family members are home during the day, as well.

Counting Costs for Offices

One of the factors holding me back from even trying out a separate office is the cost. I’m sure I’m not the only one, either. The costs that go along with maintaining a separate office are steep. Of course, you have the rent for the space — assuming that you don’t have a spare shed behind your house that you can turn into an office. But you also have to factor in transportation costs, equipping the office (a spare computer? office supplies?), child care costs and even the cost of not being able to handle housework while you’re working. I’m fairly certain that I’d need more help at home if I was working in a separate office.

Those costs can be steep, especially for someone who is working on a part-time or freelance basis from home. For now, at least, I expect that they’ll keep me working from the spare room at my house.

Image by Flickr user Phil Whitehouse

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One Response to “ Does a Separate Office Really Help? ”

  1. P.S. Jones says:

    I think it depends. I’m in the same boat as you. (Work from home. No kids. Distracting husband.) I can’t ever work if my husband is in the house. Recently, when was laid off for a few months, I had to go to the library every work day because just him breathing threw me off track. (Maybe it’s because we have a super small apartment?)

    Coworking works wonders for me. Just being in the presence of other people (not my husband) working pushes me to get more done. Maybe I’m embarrassed to be seen not working while everyone else is? I’m not sure, but even when he isn’t invading the apartment, I find that a day or two a week at the public library or Panera Bread is a welcome change. I probably wouldn’t take on an extra expense of buying office space though.

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