Here's my story explaining why on earth I pay almost $2,000 per month for an office when I can do my job 100% at home.
In a previous career, the thought of working from home sounded like music to my ears.
With effort, I succeeded.
In 2012 I was working at home full time.
At first I loved it.
In fact, for several years I loved it.
Until baby number 2 came along.
By that time we were in a larger house, yet with two young kids at home the distractions became too much.
Looking back, it wasn’t just the kids though.
I had cabin fever.
By that point I had been working at home 4 years.
4 years of not suiting up and not leaving the house as much as I should have took its toll.
Fortunately, my business took off by that point.
I could afford a modest office.
And so the search began.
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Why do I lease an office when I can work from home?
Many people ask me this.
My answer is usually “it’s too distracting at home with young kids”. That’s partially true but I can’t pin it all on the kids.
After 4 years working at home I got cabin fever. I really did. I’d end up working in my robe. I’d shower at the end of the day. It was fun at first but after a while, I felt disconnected from the world.
I wanted to jump in my car or on my bike and go somewhere to work.
I also wanted to separate my living space from my workspace. It’s not that I worked all the time at home but it’s a mental separation. Yeah, I know that sounds kooky but there’s something nice about my home being my home and my office being my place to work.
It’s definitely ironic that while millions of folks are transitioning to working from home, I’m laddering up into bigger and more expensive office digs which is totally unnecessary.
What I wanted in an office outside of my home
This was my chance to find something exciting, but I had a limited budget (under $1,500 per month) which doesn’t exactly offer all that many options other than shared office space in downtown Vancouver (especially if I want a window).
Because it’s just me and I don’t have clients or employees, all I needed was four walls and a view. This made me a perfect candidate for shared office space.
What is a shared office?
There are many variations on the concept. Some are open which is a large space with desks throughout. I needed more privacy. I actually needed a private office.
Other shared office arrangements offer private offices. All offices share various office infrastructure such as receptionists, lobby, kitchen, internet, photocopier, bathrooms, etc.
WeWork has made the concept popular. Whether WeWork survives is anyone’s guess, but the concept is sound.
I ended up leasing a small office in the Marine Building in downtown Vancouver, BC with this shared office outfit.
I live on the North Shore, which is northward across the bridge from downtown Vancouver, BC. Without traffic, it’s a 15-minute drive to downtown. With rush hour, it’s 30 minutes plus. If the bridge is closed, it’s hours. That’s rare but it happens.
I wanted my office downtown because it was always a dream. Silly? Maybe, but that’s what I wanted and that’s what I found.
It’s been 4 years in my downtown office. I’ve loved every minute. Don’t regret it all. I’d do it again.
However, I’m moving to a condo office 7 minutes from my house just to get rid of my commute and get more space.
Window and view
I’m currently on the 10th floor. I could be higher, but it’s high enough to offer a great view. My new office is on the 3rd floor because it’s not downtown. It’s a small price to pay.
When I set out to get my first office, I wanted a view with a large window. My office offers that and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
$1,500 or less
I’m not made of money. Arguably, leasing an office when I could easily work at home is a big waste of money but after working at home for 4 years and then commuting to an office, I prefer working in an office instead of at home.
Thanks to shared office arrangements, there are plenty of options for under $1,500 per month.
My new condo office will run me $1,775 plus $100 per month for parking. It’s costing more money but I’ll save 45 minutes per day driving to and from work.
Will people ever return to working in offices?
Maybe, but it’s not like employers and employees have a choice during COVID-19. But when COVID is over, many employees still won’t have a choice. Some employers will mandate they work at home to save on office space cost.
Employers are choosing to have employees work at home to save money. If employees are just as productive at home as the office, there’s no reason to bring the hordes back to cubicles and expensive offices.
Another consideration is it’s different working in my own office owned by me running my own company than working in an office with other people.
It’s different in good and bad ways. On the one hand, an office environment offers social benefits. Perhaps you have work friends which is a huge bonus. I don’t have work friends because it’s just me in the office.
On the other hand, working in an office with other people means conflict. Not everyone gets along with everyone. Employers don’t like conflict either. It hurts productivity. Not that working remotely eliminates conflict. Folks can fight on Zoom and email, but there is no face-to-face conflict.
On the balance, it’s hard to say. I suspect many large employers will embrace working at home because of the cost-savings. For now it’s a competitive advantage but at some point it may be necessary. For example, if Company X saves 10% in lease costs, they arguably have a 10% cost advantage over their competition which means being able to charge 10% less for the same goods and services.
But that assumes that working from home is as productive and efficient as having everyone work in an office. Early reports as of June 2020 suggest that working at home is as productive. Nevertheless, employers do and probably need to take measure to monitor and track productivity.
Only time will tell whether the mass migration to working from home will stick.
In the meantime, I’ll luxuriate in my spacious, quiet office that I enjoy all to myself.