Another in Our Continuing Series on Consulting After 50
I recently met a young woman who is writing her first novel while sitting on the sofa babysitting her nephew who was watching TV. I have news for her—she is losing out on two fronts. She isn’t multi-tasking the way she thinks because her brain is bouncing back and forth from her laptop to the TV to her nephew. In fact, multi-tasking, especially involving different forms of media, results in decreased cognitive control and more socio-emotional difficulties. Secondly, similar to an open-plan office, her busy family room is reducing her productivity and negatively affecting her memory. Open-plan offices make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure, according to Susan Cain, champion of introverts.
What Consultants Say
Several of the consultants over 50 that I interviewed made their home office a priority. Bob Lahey had a plan in mind and when he and his wife downsized to a condo, he said, Okay, I want an office, a real office, and a place that is comfortable. Gesturing to the large sunny window behind him, he continued, [It] is actually a great area to work in and I really enjoy it.
Martha Brown also gave it a lot of thought:
Where are you actually going to do your work? And how can you set that up so that you can focus and be as effective as you need to? ...I remodeled my home office last year and created this incredible, beautiful workspace and am surrounded by my hummingbirds, beautiful colors, and openness.
From the beginning, David McDonald was clear about his need for privacy:
…what I did do in the very early stages was I set up a quite formal home office, none of this ‘sitting at the kitchen table doing the work’ sort of thing.
However, not every consultant I talked to had made this decision. One with small children still worked in her living room but was eying her own space upstairs, because, as she said, her sanity demanded it. Another talked about the family pressures of being a wife, a mother, and a grandmother as well as a consultant. Every time family members cycled through her house, her work flow was disrupted. She longed for her own space.
If you can, plan to establish your own work space now. Here are some things to think about:
1. Privacy—Have a door to close off distractions.
2. Equipment—Find small scale equipment but be as up to date as possible.
3. Lighting—Have daylight or lighting that mimics it; bright but easy on the eyes.
4. Connectivity—Have good wiring and high-speed connections.
5. Storage—Organize your books, journals and files—everything at your fingertips.
6. Ergonomics—Be both comfortable and efficient.
7. Low budget & eco-friendly—Find good second-hand furniture; recycle.
8. Visually appealing—Make it a good place for your spirit. Inspire yourself.
Your creativity and exceptional performance require the right working conditions so plan your home office now. When you get lonely, head to the local coffee shop for stimulation. Then retreat to your own private sanctuary and get your work done!
Barrington, G. V. (2019 in press). Consulting After 50: Redirection and Reinvention for Career Evaluators. New Directions for Evaluation, Independent Evaluation Consulting: Approaches and Practices from a Growing Field (Winter 2019).
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking. New York: Random House.