For Valentine’s Day, the media fills with adverts and junk stories, free associating on the theme of ‘love’. The Freelancing movement is not immune to this illness. Sigh.
Actually, I am somewhat interested in the question of “work/life” balance in the “gig economy”, having experienced first hand the early days of being continuously connected can mean for home life. At first it seemed cool that I could work at home, and didn’t need to spend long hours in the office and lab. But then I realized that it also meant that there was no difference between “at work” an “at home”, mostly to the detriment of being at home with my significant others.
This is now a nearly universal challenge for workers, and I am eager to see how “kids today” work this out.
So I was interested in the headline in New Worker Magazine, “10 ways to utilize your coworking space for work/life balance” by Diana McLaren. I haven’t heard much about this topic, and honestly, I don’t know that coworking spaces are particularly good for work/life balance, at least if you have a family,
As it happens, McLaren isn’t talking about balancing family life with work, she’s worried about stress and burnout. These are real concerns, but not what I was thinking of.
Worse, her “10 ways” have precious little to do with coworking spaces, per se. For example, “2. Take a nap.” Good advice, but you don’t need a coworking space to take this advice. In fact, many coworking spaces are terrible places to nap.
Toword the end several items are a bit more relevant, especially item 10, “Indulge in your new community. This is truly all about your coworking space. It is good advice, and you’ll want to choose to cowork with people who enjoy helping each other relax during work.
Of course, all her advice works just the same if you work in a conventional organization—but not if you work alone at home. So that’s the main take away.
More directly related to the “romance” theme, the Freelancer’s Union offered a fluffy listicle by Kate Shea, “4 unexpected realities of dating a freelancer”. This is a bit more on the topic I’ve been thinking about, talking from the perspective of a two-freelancer household. (And it was a relief from the unrelenting barrage form the FU, telling the world “freelancing isn’t free”. Pay up you bums!)
Shea’s list is:
- Free time
- No free time
- Feast-or-famine mentality
- Realities of the self-confidence spectrum
As she implies in items 1-3, the “freedom” and “autonomy” of the freelancer lifestyle can make relationships and family life quite unpredictable, financially and time wise.
Actually, a two-freelancer household is a good case—both of you are in the same boat. This unpredictability can place serious stress on a larger household, or only one freelancer living with others. Balancing the needs of others with a feast or famine career is not easy.
All this may be within the general bounds of anyone with a demanding job and a family, but her fourth point, “the self-confidence spectrum” is very salient in the “gig economy”. One of the good things about long term employment is the very real psychological benefit from the security that things will keep going, even with ups and downs. Job security isn’t absolute, but it’s something. Sometimes, its a very big something.
Anyway, as Shea suggests, if the uncertainty is cruel and terrifying, the joy of success will be all the sweeter. Troubles shared are diminished, joy shared is multiplied.
Shea isn’t talking about coworking spaces, per se. But it is easy to extend her analysis to you coworking community—we’re all in this together.
I’m still worried about how the gig economy and coworking support family life, as in raising kids and caring for elders. But these two pieces give some insight into how workers are making the New Way of Work work.