In this installment of Town & Country, Margaret and Katherine share how they work from home.
Margaret: My turn to gush about standing desks
The TreeHugger editorial team doesn’t have a central office. First of all, it wouldn’t make any sense because most of our writers are spread out around the world. But our lack of office also fits with the TreeHugger ethos of encouraging multifunctional spaces, minimizing redundant possessions and reducing the energy use associated with a daily commute.
Working from home has its pros (no dress code) and cons (potential distractions), but for me creating a functional work space has been key.
I’m a big fan of standing desks, like fellow TreeHuggers Lloyd and Mike. In my last apartment, I had an ersatz standing desk consisting of books stacked on an old printer. When we moved into my current apartment, my boyfriend and I had sturdy shelves installed at elbow height that now serve as our desks (although he does go into the office most days). It’s easy to unplug my laptop and sit at the table or on the couch if I don’t feel like standing, but for the most part I work at my standing desk. If I spend most of my day sitting, I find that I’m more likely to get odd leg cramps or soreness in my shoulders and back, but if I mostly stand these problems go away.
Since our apartment is pretty small, the standing desk also has the advantage of saving a lot of space compared to a conventional desk and chair setup. We have book cases below the desks (the top shelf is used as desk storage), and is part of our larger entertainment setup with the TV, speakers and scanner. Above my desk is a little antique cabinet where I store pens and other office supplies.
Other than carving out a space in our home for work, my life as a telecommuter isn’t that remarkable. My coworkers and I are always connected via chat and I manage to keep pretty regular hours.
I spend a lot of my week out reporting, and there are always many things going on around New York. It’s nice to have my desk at home as a base, without the need to go to a secondary location like an office or newsroom. There are lots of great coffee shops in my neighborhood where I could work, but I find it’s easiest to brew up a cup of tea at home and just start writing.
Katherine: No standing desk for me; I'm just happy to have an hour to sit down and be alone!
The biggest challenge that I face in working from home is figuring out how to create time for myself. As a mother of two little boys (ages 3 and 5), I don’t think much about the benefits of standing desks or how to design a funky creative space in which to spend an entire workday. At this stage of my life, I can only dream of such a thing. Eight hours, uninterrupted, for writing? Sounds like heaven!
Instead, my days are a mishmash of raising children, running a household, cooking meals, and writing whenever I have some time. When those treasured moments of solitude arrive, I can work anywhere – computer desk, kitchen table, front porch, backyard, coffee shop, or library – as long as I have a cup of tea and a comfortable chair (no standing desk for me at this point).
The majority of my writing happens early in the morning while my family sleeps; it’s the most reliably quiet time of day. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., head downstairs into the darkness, make a cup of hot green tea, and sit down at my computer. I work quickly and efficiently when my head is clear and well rested. Strangely enough, I’ve grown to really love those hours; what started as torturous necessity has become a great source of pleasure.
In addition to finding time to write, there's the ongoing challenge of coming up with interesting material and ideas for TreeHugger’s readers. That task cannot be limited to set work hours, but rather occupies my mind all the time. It’s probably a common sensation for writers of all types, who rely heavily on their surrounding environments to provide inspiration. With every conversation I have, book I read, place I visit, and website I see, there’s always a question in the back of my mind: “Could this be used for TreeHugger?” I constantly scribble notes and add to my list of possible post topics.
Working from home does force me to be disciplined. I have to be diligent about planning ahead and know exactly when I’ll have child-free time to complete scheduled tasks. Still, it’s all worth it for the flexibility this job provides. I love being able to raise my kids at home while fulfilling my intellectual need to work and pursuing my passion for writing at the same time.