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We ditched our office

Well, for a couple months anyway. I've been spending a decent amount of time lately working on the build out of our new office. It's 10,000 square feet, three floors, and full of awesome details that will help us define our culture and the way we work for the next several years (more on that later). Right now, the entire team, all 19 of us, are working from home.

This is actually not that crazy for Wildbit. When I started the company 15 years ago it was 100% remote. We did that for many years and in 2011 we moved into our first office in Old City, Philadelphia. We've learned a lot since. To gear up for the new space, we decided to give up our lease at the end of December and work at home until the new office is ready. It's been quite an experience for us.

I asked the team for feedback on how its been so far and here are some the responses:

I’m starting to forget how to speak English.
I miss seeing people and having all our quick kitchen conversations.
I forget to get out of my pjs some days.
Working from home makes me feel like Sméagol.
I forget it's lunch about 3/5 days a week
The thing I miss the most is the clear work/family separation.

To give some backstory, some of the team used to work remotely, even in other countries, before moving to Philadelphia and working from the office. Another group has never worked at home at all. The varying degrees of experience are drastic and so far it’s been educational for me in a few ways.

Habits change over time

Years ago when we worked from home our lives were different. Some of us were not married, we didn’t have kids, and we were in completely different time zones. The concept of separating personal and work time didn’t matter.

These days, we all want to put down the computer in the evening and hang out with our family. We’re older and more grounded to our location. By having an office it made it easy to leave work and have a clear separation. The late night work felt optional if you were inspired.

Burnout is imminent

Working at home on the other hand provides no separation unless you’ve established those habits. We used to have them, but a sudden switch from office to home is too dramatic. The truth is, I think most of us are more productive than we have been in a while. We are also working too much because there is not a clear separation at the end of the day. At Wildbit, we are pretty strict about only working 40 hours because we know burnout first hand. With all of us knowing this is a temporary environment there is no motivation for forming those habits at home. If this goes on too long we risk exhaustion.

We miss each other!

The last six weeks have been nostalgic for me. In some cases I might not leave the house for an entire day or maybe just to get the kid from school. After a while you start to forget how to communicate with people. I clearly remember this before we had an office. As Derek put it, you can start to feel like Sméagol. I think it was Eugene who said he is starting to forget how to speak English (he’s Ukrainian).

Understanding the good and bad

In doing the remote thing for 15 years I’ve always known the pros and cons. This is why Indy Hall was so important to me and why coworking spaces are growing so quickly. However, going from an office with 10 people to no office at all for six weeks has exaggerated these points even more.

Working from home can be extremely productive, relaxed, focused, and rewarding. It can also cause burnout, force you into isolation, and strip away your social skills.

Working in an office can be motivating, it helps separate work/personal time, and it can trigger inspiration and ideas that would never arise if you were sitting alone. It can also cause immense distraction, involve a terrible commute, and be stressful at times.

For these exact reasons, we are building a new headquarters to bring out the advantages of both environments. Each person will have a private office, breakout rooms are available for working together, we will continue our chef prepared lunches, and hours will be flexible. Not only that, but we are working on ways to make the remote team (almost 50% of the company) feel part of the environment whether it is instant video calls or having a space to work if they come into town.

At first our plan to work at home was just to prepare for the new office. It’s become an experiment that is helping us plan an even better environment in our physical space when it is done. I'm extremely excited about the new space and the results it will bring.

Do you work at home? An office? Both? What pros and cons can you think of?