Why do people work in offices?

Come Blog With Me – Day 11

It seems weird when you think about it, doesn’t it? All over Britain there are people getting up, hopping into their cars, and driving to another building. They sit in front of a laptop there all day, go to a few meetings, and then drive home again.

But we have laptops and wifi. We can work from anywhere, we don’t need to all be in the same place anymore, not like the olden days (aka when I left university in 1996). So why do we? Part of it of course is that’s what we’ve always done, and it inevitably takes the world a while to catch up on new things. And there are jobs that you can’t do at home, like making Mars Bars or being a swimming instructor.

There is an ever-increasing number of people working on a freelance basis from home, or running a business on the move from different locations or even countries. In the last year I have done work in parks, National Trust gardens, cafes and art galleries, using technology to connect while I was out and about living my life and enjoying the fresh air or culture.

So why, as a relatively recently self-employed person, would I miss office life?

Well I definitely don’t miss the commute – in the last 10 years I’ve only had one job or contract that was closer than 25 miles away from my house. And as someone who concentrates best in peace and quiet, I don’t miss the constant noise and interruptions from other people.

So what don’t I have in my life now that I used to have when I was office-based?

I think I can sum it up by saying that it’s the company of other people that I miss. The random chats when everyone’s lost motivation at 4pm, the silly shared joke on email, the catch up on news while waiting for the kettle to boil, getting to know new people, sharing ideas for holidays or restaurants, the comparing of work traumas over lunch.

That’s the reason people work in offices, and the same reason that the self-employed congregate at networking meetings, or co-working spaces. Because we’re sociable creatures, and we need others around us for company and conversation, even if for only part of the day. Social media is great, but it can never replace face to face conversation.

Besides which, sometimes when life or work get the better of you, you just need a hug. And laptops really aren’t very cuddly.

So even as I enjoy the benefits of working from home, it’s on my mind to try and recreate some of that community in person somehow. Whether a regular day working in someone else’s office, or finding a good co-working group, or even just working in a local cafe where other freelancers busily tap away on their laptops.

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