Coworking, Cabin Fever & Counter-Productivity

by Kurt

A new coworking venture opened today in a beautifully renovated warehouse space sitting below the center of St. Paul, (evil?) Twin City to Minneapolis. So why I am here (at home) rather than there? The reasons are many, but none of them are good. I need to leave this apartment soon – and you should do the same.

The grass is always greener as they say (or, in wintertime Minnesota, perhaps ‘the snow is always shinier’ would be more apt). Though I cannot deny it is largely liberating, people in ‘regular jobs’ often overlook the downsides of going it alone – the gray cloud inside the silver lining of becoming a digital nomad (so far the sexiest term I have heard for a full-time computer geek).

One of the biggest drawbacks of this lifestyle, for natural extroverts like myself anyway, is the default position of physical isolation. Sure, your coworkers are loud, your boss is annoying, but that daily social interaction is also critical to your mental health.

Would I switch spots with the cube-dwelling suburban office worker? Not for a million dollars (or, likely, much more). Still, it is a challenge to force oneself out at times – but a necessary obstacle to overcome if one is to remain san, particularly during cold and dark winter days in the middle of the Midwestern United States.

My own solutions, for lack of many cowork-oriented spaces in the Twin Cities, largely involves local cafes and small diners. I am a regular. Like a 21st Century version of Cheers, everyone knows my name at the neighborhood coffee shop – from those working there to the others who frequently populate its comfortably rusticated rooms. There may be certain people who truly enjoy isolation and need peace and quite to get work done. I am not one of those. I can work fine (generally better, actually, than otherwise) in a crowded and active social space than in a room alone.

If you are just starting out and feeling the liberating sensation of freedom from office life, a word (or a few) of warning: do not let yourself get too cozy in your home office space. Consider creating habits around traveling to and from another work space much like you wood a corporate job. No worries, though – you can still set your own schedule, wake up at noon and take days off when you need to (though while likely working through some weekends by necessity). Personally, however, even on the coldest of days I feel the hot tug of potential burnout when I do not force myself to go out and interact with the rest of the world.