4:16 am | Asia/Singapore

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Home & Away: Leaving Home for a Hot Desk

Home and away home

Journalist, editor and brand content consultant Christian Barker explains why he ‘left home’ for a desk at The Great Room.

Working where you sleep does have its downsides — as I discovered during a year freelancing from a home office.

It was terrific having the ability to send my kids off to school in the morning and greet them when they got home. However, disruption’s inevitable — if you’re parenting properly, your attention will be on your kids. They’re going to be, for want of a better word, a distraction. And at home, they’re far from the only one.

I’m lucky enough to live in a particularly green, leafy suburb of Singapore. Ah, the serenity… Yeah, not so much. Throughout the home-work day, there was always someone trimming those leaves or resurfacing the road. Or noisily knocking down a building to then noisily construct another. Or practicing beginner’s violin. Or playing Chinese opera at volume level 11. Not exactly conducive to concentration.

You need self-discipline to stay focused when you’re working at home, blocking out disturbances, avoiding the lure of social media — especially tricky, since it’s your main link to the outside world. Working from home is lonely as hell. Isolating. And since you’re alone, out of the public eye, you tend to let yourself go a bit.

I started getting out of shape, too, thanks to the irresistible proximity of the snack-packed kitchen. (Pringles: “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Now that’s truth in advertising.) And because the closest gym was miles away, I never worked out. It wasn’t working out. I was always at home, but I was always at work.

I hadn’t even thought about coworking — a concept I wasn’t terribly familiar with, to be honest — when one weekend, I was invited along to the opening party for The Great Room’s first space in the Singapore CBD. Right away, the design and ambience ‘spoke to me’ and I decided to take up a trial Hot Desk membership. I’ve been here ever since, two years on, and can honestly say trading a home-office for The Great Room changed my life.

I still get up in the morning and farewell my girls, but then I make like Barney Stinson and “suit up” (or at least, get dressed properly). Having a little bit of pride in your appearance makes a big difference to mindset. I leave home and hop on the train — okay, commuting isn’t exactly fun per se, but it provides a clear demarcation between personal and work life, which simply blur into one when you work from home. And then, I arrive at this beautiful Mad Men-ish office and grab a seat.

When you hear ‘Hot Desk’ — the level of membership I maintain — you might get the idea it’s a scramble to find a place to sit each morning, but that’s not the case at The Great Room. I’m at the same individual marble table, on the same leather banquet, nearly every day. The desk isn’t ‘mine’ exclusively, I have to pack up all my things and put them in my locker at night, but there’s something zen about that — I love the calmingly Marie Kondo-esque sense it gives me of starting and finishing every day with a clean slate.

What really sparks joy, though, is the community. I’m constantly meeting interesting people at The Great Room, making friends, picking up new clients and discovering potential collaborators. And none of it’s forced. Unlike a regular workplace, you don’t have to endure anyone’s company because of office politics. You may be coworking together, but they’re not your coworkers. You can take them or leave them. Don’t like the person you’re sitting next to? Fine, move.

Luckily, that’s rarely necessary — I find The Great Room attracts a pretty high standard of human being, many of them doing inspiring things in their particular field. Those community bonds are strengthened through regular networking sessions where the conversations and libations flow.

All up, operating out of The Great Room has made me more productive and focused, improved my sense of work/life balance, and given me a space where I’m proud to host clients, suppliers and guests. (You can hardly have them around to your apartment, can you?) It’s an inspiring environment, full of inspiring people, which makes for inspired output. Best of all, it lets home be the place I go to wind down when the work is done. Like right now.