The 8 lessons I learned from forcing myself out of my home office for a week

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While we renovated our 80-year-old home in NoDa a few years back, I couldn’t wait to get to my office at Queens University each morning. Our house had no central heat for two years and the bathroom was without walls.

Now, our house is complete, and I work from home as a freelance writer. I have 10 to 12 clients, and write about five stories a week. Although I do go out for interviews and meetings, most of my days are spent at my home office, and I love it.

When CharlotteFive asked me to participate in a writing assignment that involved challenging myself, I knew a week working away from my home office would test my comfort zone.

My plan quickly took shape – I would work at a different location each day for one week. I got excited as I made my itinerary, but by Sunday, my mood changed. I was anxious: Where would I park? What if I forgot something at home? How would I make a phone call? What if I couldn’t meet my deadlines?

Despite nerves, I survived my #workawayfromhomeoffice challenge and learned quite a bit too:

Day 1

My five-minute walking commute to Trade and Lore Coffee in NoDa was a breeze. I worked from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. I followed the unspoken etiquette rule and purchased items from the coffee shop and Fud at Salud while there.

Trade and Lore Coffee

Melissa Oyler, a fellow C5 writer, met me there for moral support and I interviewed someone too. The day flew by too quickly.

Day 2

I had to catch a ride Uptown to Coco and The Director with my husband, Ryan. I realized I had forgotten my wallet and had to “borrow” from him. The vibe there is lively – many choices for food and drink, a view of outside and several areas to sit and work. The staff is in tune with their customers – making sure each one is happy. They also have free first-come-first-serve tables for meetings.

Coco and The Director

I worked from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and caught a CATS bus home – my first solo ride on CATS since college.

Day 3

Hygge Coworking in Third Ward was my first introduction to a co-working space. The vibe was chill – with lots of spaces and alcoves with desks and comfy couches, free coffee, tea and water. I met up with Well-Run Media + Marketing staff while there – they invited me to sit with them. I worked from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Hygge Coworking

Day 4

By Thursday, I was wiped out. The traveling, new environments and people, combined with a kid who wasn’t sleeping nights, had exhausted me. I drove to the University City Regional Library to work. I lasted two hours in a reserved quiet study room. I went home and napped.

Day 5

Ryan gave me a ride to WeWork Stonewall Station, another co-working space in Charlotte. The community area is a large space with tables, restaurant-like booths and couches. The party vibe may have been because it was Friday, or everyone was hyper after eating the free Krispy Kreme donuts. I got there at 9 a.m. and stayed until I caught the 4:15 p.m. bus home.

WeWork

Lessons Learned

(1) I can block out most noise, but still prefer complete quiet. The guy trying to close a sales deal over the phone at WeWork was distracting and comical – after a long jargon-filled sales pitch, he asked what company he was talking to.

(2) I still jump around like a squirrel when I work. I thought being away from home would cure that habit.

(3) Time still goes by quickly, whether I am at home or out.

(4) The temperature of a place is worth consideration. And if you have to pee, are you safe to leave your stuff?

Trade and Lore Coffee

(5) A big part of my job is making calls and doing phone interviews. It was difficult finding a space to do these without a lot of background noise or feeling obnoxious to my neighbors.

(6) There were fewer distractions – no personal calls or household work – but I also didn’t have the time to cook or clean. By the end of the week, we were eating scraps and clean laundry was piled high on the couch.

(7) I think I’d feel weird going to the same location every day, like I was taking advantage of them.

(8) Co-working space is a great platform for bouncing ideas off one another. I made great contacts in just the two days I did it.

What will I do different in 2018?

I’ll plan weekly outside meetings with other writers, editors and community members – the one-on-one interactions are invaluable to my mental health and career. I’d spring for a day of co-working on occasion, and I’m looking forward to taking the bus to other Charlotte destinations.

Photos: Vanessa Infanzon

8 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Vanessa! I work from home for a corporate company and I tried to do the same just for a day (not a week) and found the noise and distractions hard to maintain that professional precense on conference calls. But it is nice to do every once in a while for a change of scenery. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad you liked the story. My biggest takeaway has been that I need to get out more and my goal is one mtg a week. One person even suggested trying a new spot each time – I like that idea too.

  2. I live in Ballantyne and work from home. I would love to read another article about places to work in Ballantyne or South Charlotte.

    • Thank you Cheryl. Since this story seems to resonate with so many people perhaps further stories about coworking and working remotely would be helpful. I’m adding your idea to my list.

    • Good question. I did not pay – I told them ahead of time what I was doing and asked if I could come for the day for free. Day passes are available though and prices vary by coworking companies.

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