Achieving work-life balance has always been easier said than done, but the widespread adoption of mobile technologies - cell phones, tablets and smartwatches, to name a few - has created additional challenges for workers who find it increasingly difficult to unplug in today's "always on" society.
A recent Ernst & Young survey of 9,700 workers from eight different countries found that nearly one-third of full-time employees believe it's more difficult to manage work-life today than five years ago. In addition, more than half of U.S. employees said they have or would be willing to pass up a promotion for better work-life balance, with millennials the most likely generation to take this step.
For freelancers, entrepreneurs and other self-employed individuals who work from home at least part time, the obstacles can be even greater. As a result, many have turned to shared offices that make it easier for them to separate their personal and professional lives and maximize productivity.
Specific benefits of these collaborative office environments include:
- A physical separation between work and home: People who work in a traditional office environment probably wouldn't want to live there 24/7, yet that's the reality for most work-from-home professionals. While having dedicated "office hours" can help maintain work-life balance, many have a hard time stepping away from their desk when it's always just a few steps away.
By utilizing a shared office, self-employed individuals can draw a clear line between work life and home life. And in many cases, they're able to operate more efficiently than home-based professionals, who face a multitude of distractions, including everything from pets and children to household chores.
- A turn-key environment: A home office may sound convenient, but many work-from-home professionals underestimate the time and money that must be spent to get a workspace up and running. Existing phone and internet service may be inadequate for business use, and despite being labeled a "home office," a workspace may not be equipped with furniture and other office must-haves like a copy machine and videoconferencing capabilities.
Shared office centers allow professionals to hit the ground running by offering a fully furnished, fully equipped environment that is "work ready" at move-in. If any issues arise with services or technologies, it's up to the office provider to fix them, saving entrepreneurs and freelancers many of the headaches they might otherwise encounter if working from home.
- Support staff: Most home offices are a one-person operation, which can make it difficult for entrepreneurs and other self-employed individuals to take some much-needed time off. Those who do may find themselves glued to their smartphone out of fear they will miss an important call or email. One of the biggest benefits of a shared office is the built-in support staff, including a live receptionist who can answer calls when a client is busy or out of the office. Even if shared office users continue to spend part of their work week at home, they can reap the benefits of having a separate mailing address and phone line for all business-related communications, which not only adds to credibility, but also promotes work-life balance by reducing the number of business calls a person receives on their personal phone.
Because each person's real estate needs are unique, it's important for self-employed professionals to evaluate all of their options before going all-in on a particular office setup. As some will discover, the balance and flexibility commonly associated with a home office may not always be achieved by officing at home.
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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space.