Working from home

Today, I am home sick, much like yesterday. Unfortunately for me, I’m not sick-sick, I’m just fatigued-sick. So I have tons of mental energy and no physical energy. (Note to self: be first in line when they offer up infection-proof sinuses.) So here I am, with a ton of work to do that I don’t really have the energy and/or concentration for, and a ton of house work, same, and a pile of books that I’m methodically reading my way through. Sadly, dare I say it, I’m getting tired of reading. So there’s something to be said for blogging from the sofa in yoga pants and a bathrobe…

The view from homeWhich actually segues stunningly nicely into what I was thinking about recently in regards to workspace. At our annual staff planning retreat a few weeks ago, our Director had us think about our ideal workspace, and gave us crayons, markers, and big sheets of paper. I took an orange crayon and drew a bunch of tables with piles of paper and books on them, a comfy chair, a big window with a tree and sunshine outside, speakers producing little music notes, and a door that could close, with lots of people outside the door.

What that was supposed to represent was the notions that I need flexible spaces in which to creatively manage my workflow, I need the option of privacy but an opportunity to stay connected to my colleagues, and I want music, a window, and physical comfort. I draw a distinction between those two sets; I need the physical spaces that allow productivity, but I also want a nice working environment.

The view from homeFortunately for me, my crayon drawing with it’s smiley face sun isn’t so far off from my normal office reality. I don’t have a window, but I have nearly everything else — I’m a bit too far away from Technical Services to be completely usefully integrated into our work, but we manage fine.

However, I’m waaaay outside of normal reality right now. When I’m not sick and on the sofa, I’m working at home and commuting to campus three mornings a week. My home office is functional, but… well… the door doesn’t close because of the shoe rack hanging over it, because it’s also my boudoir, home of my closets, bureau, and jewelry. It’s also my craft room, full of plastic bins of yarn and fabric and trays of beads and wire. It’s also my reading nook, with the futon sofa and bookcases everywhere. And while the futon’s comfy, the desk chair is a behemoth of an old wooden office chair, snagged from my great aunt’s garage ten years ago because I liked the curve of the wood… not because it’s a great chair. The desk, frankly, is tucked into the smallest corner and more often than not it’s ignored, home of neglected personal correspondence and unfiled household documents.

Right now, though, it’s been cleaned up, cleaned off, organized, and set up for working: Pile of files, laptop on stand, speakers, pens, stapler, the whole nine yards. Also, it has a window. And a cat. Or two.

So. Working from home.

Is it ideal? No.

Is it absolutely workable? Yes.

The view from homeEven though I know what my dream office space looks like, I know how to work with less, here in the reality-based world of librarianship. I also have the mixed blessing of being middle management, so I need hands-on space and resources to be the librarian part of me, as well as organizational paper-pushing space and resources to be the manager part of me, and those two roles require differing levels of privacy, as well.

Right now, when I go to campus, I’m working off a typing table in the Tech Services lead clerk’s office, with a pile of files and sometimes my laptop — but sometimes not. Some days I go to campus with nothing but my wallet, keys, and a notebook, because my work doesn’t always require that I be plugged in, but sometimes requires only that I be available to my coworkers. Some days I don’t go to campus at all, because what I need to be doing is data analysis, and home is the best place for that.

Basically, what I’ve learned is that I need options. Sometimes I need some quiet, sometimes a computer, sometimes my files, and sometimes a crowd. Most of all, I need mental flexibility, because with that I can work anywhere. Even on the sofa in my yoga gear and a bathrobe. But I’m not gonna — I’m sick. I have a pile of novels calling my name, and a cat purring at my feet, and the toaster just pinged to tell me my English muffin is ready for some jam.

Cats and jam aside, what makes up your perfect workspace?  And what compromises do you know you can make and still be effective?


  1. I loved working from home during the few mornings I got to do it while I was working on a (now abandoned, at least temporarily) coding project.

    I loved being able to get up, eat breakfast, and start working without having to worry first about what to wear and what to pack for lunch. I loved staying in my quiet morning dream space, and I loved how well I was able to concentrate when not in the middle of the chaos that is our library. I love the chaos, too, but sometimes I need something else.


  2. We’ve struggled to implement comprehensive and fair and rational work-at-home policies, and it’s still pretty up in the air for us. But when I do it (in the course of normal events, not like now!) I’m always amazed by how productive I can be when not interrupted, distracted, or otherwise victimized by chaos. 🙂


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