On Working From Home

Six years ago, I quit teaching and became a full time web designer.

At that point I had three things to my name:

  1. An old iBook laptop with more broken keys than working keys.
  2. Two months of summer holiday pay from my last teaching job.
  3. A spare bedroom to use as an office.

Fast forward six years, and I’ve only got one of those things left. I still work from the same spare bedroom.

We now have three businesses, half a dozen employees and part-time staff from all over the world.

But it’s all still done from the same spare bedroom. Granted, the room is full of a lot more equipment than in 2006 and is a lot busier now, but otherwise it’s unchanged.

Over those six years, I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with working from home. At times, I’ve been embarrassed about. At times, I’ve been frustrated by it and all the distractions that can arise. At times, I’ve investigated getting an office and almost put pen to paper on long and complex leases.

A lot of these feelings are still there, but lately they’ve started to fade away.

Embracing a Home Office

View from our home office
Deer wandering by our office

It started with the arrival of kids. When our first child arrived, I’d think nothing of being a flight to Seattle one week, New York the next, Tampa the next. It was habit. From the time I left England at the age of 18, I’d traveled relentlessly. It was fun for nearly 15 years.

Only since the kids came did I learn the value of being home. The advantages have started to outweigh the disadvantages.

Our girls are 1 and 3 years old now. Working from home, I have real time to play with them in the morning. They come wandering in and out during the day. We can have lunch and dinner together. It’s not unusual to swing my legs under the desk and hear a surprise “ouch!”

This year, I’ll travel to two conferences, both of which are professionally unavoidable: DrupalCon Denver and the Joomla World Conference in San Jose.

I’ve been a travelaholic. I’ve been a workaholic. The girls moderate both of those instincts. If I’m gone for a couple of days, they let me know. If I’m working too late, they let me know.

Placing a Bet on the Future

In the end, I’ve come to the home office as a statement of priorities.

I could go out and get an office. I could travel more and work later. The businesses probably would grow faster if I did.

Talking with our future selves?

But, I’m in mid-30s now. I’m placing a bet on the future. In 20 years time, will I look back and wish I’d grown the businesses more or that I spent more time with the kids?

So, lately I’ve been coming out the closet more. Sure, I work from home. All our staff do. So do many of the most talented people I know.

If we had De Loreans, I think our future selves would come back and thank our current selves.

More People’s Thoughts on This

If there’s one thing that’s changed my mind on this more than anything else, it’s “How Will You Measure Your Life“. The author wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma” , one of the most-read business books ever. This latest book is his perspective as a much older man.

You’ll find a lot of great modern companies thinking the same way. Toni, the CEO of Automattic, wrote on this topic. Jason Fried from 37Signals gave a talk entitled ‘Why work doesn’t happen at work“.

Over To You

Do you work from home? Do you have roller-coaster feelings about it or have you learned to love the home life?


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