i have now been a telecommuter for almost 15 years – nearly three times as long as I’ve spent in “traditional” work environments. Sure, I’ve spent time in the office on each of those jobs–some more than others. But it’s always been clear to me that I have been operating at a handicap by not physically being in the office–both professionally and psychically. The benefits to my family have usually outweighed those–we haven’t had to move from Baltimore, where we can afford to live comfortably (relatively speaking) and the kids have had stability; I haven’t had to deal with daily commutes, and have had more time to participate in my family’s life (at least until the last couple of years), and there have been other direct and indirect lifestyle benefits.
But I’ve been going out of my fucking mind.
My current company is at least geographically relatively close, compared to previous employers — a 75-mile drive, an hour-and-a-half commute off peak. I spend most Mondays in the office just so people know I exist. It’s certainly less of a grind than my last corporate gig, where I spent nearly every other week flying to New England, and the folks at the office park Sheraton knew me by name. That job drove me to the edge, to dark places I never want to go again, with the lost hours in airports, on Southwest, on the 128 to Needham, in a bad hotel restaurant, in cubeland trying to figure out why things were so fucked and what it was exactly I was supposed to be doing since nobody knew I existed even when I was there.
But I digress.
There is a great deal of what I do that is best done in isolation, with no interruptions. I find that I write best in the dark hours, when the house is quiet, and there are no interruptions– or at least that’s when I am *able* to write. But the inspiration for writing has to come from a more social world, and my brain needs other people to engage it sometimes.
That became clear to me when I stood up and guided a session at the recent SocialDevCampEast here in Baltimore, and then participated in several more. Part of it is ego, and part of it is just plain human need — I like the feedback that comes with gettting up and talking and thinking on my feet, and I like talking about things I’m passionate about. As solitary as I am most of the time, I am a social animal, and given my usual isolation, I find that I need approval and acceptance all the more so when I get the opportunity.
In other words, I’m a needy, egotistical serial loner. Quite the personality profile.
But, as it turns out, a lot of other very smart people are also needy, egotistical serial loners looking to be more social. One of the conversations at SocialDevCampEast was about co-working.
Dave Troy, who I used to occasionally co-guest with on the Marc Steiner Show (on what was then WJHU, along with Eric Monti) , is leading ab effort to bring co-working in the style of Philadelphia’s Indy Hall to Baltimore. Co-working, for the uninitiated, is a social approach to independent info-working, providing the professional and creative benefits of networking and idea bouncing for those who might itherwise spend the day talking to their cat.
So far, the Beehive group has been meeting at Blue House, a Fells Point coffee shop, and doing Tuesday and Thursday “jellies”-sessions where people loosely show up and work in each other’s company and leech off the establishment’s wifi. But plans are in the works for an actual shared space in Canton.
I, unfortunately, have yet to get to a jelly. But I think I’ll be trying to frequent the shared space when it opens, being as it beats driving to Falls Church for a day in the office.