Keepin’ it Professional With Coworking

by Janna Marlies Maron on November 7, 2011

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by ThinkHouse associate member, Rebecca Johnson.

Work infiltrates my life. When I get wrapped up in a project I love, I am completely engrossed. It becomes part of my identity. Probably, this is a bad way to live. But it’s part of what makes me tick.

I love strategizing and looking for ways to improve a project, and I can honestly say, there’s never really a time when my brain is “off.”  I notice and over-analyze just about everything in my path. I like to try new things, meet new people, and bounce ideas around.

Working as an independent consultant, however, was new to me.  I had worked at a school for 8 years, teaching, heading up marketing efforts, working with curriculum, and a bazillion other things I happily added to my job description in order to expand my skill set and keep me engaged.

So going from that busy life where I was around people every day to working alone from my home office or out of coffee shops all over town was tricky.  At first, I loved every minute of it.  The freedom!  Working in pajamas and slippers!  Peace and quiet!

But after a while, it began to wear on me.  I found it difficult to stay motivated and inspired without other people around, and it was even more difficult to take myself seriously as a professional when I was lounging around working from my couch or makeshift home office.

It didn’t mean that my work was invaluable or that I was being lazy, but there’s something about the setting that made me feel lazy.  And I think that’s partly to do with the fact that we associate home with recreation rather than vocation. We go home to relax and recuperate, and I was trying to make my home be both recreational and vocational.

People always say if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.  And there’s some truth to that. But sometimes we need to know that what we’re doing is actually work!  We need to know that we add value and are valuable.  That’s the part of me that started to struggle.  Even though I constantly think work, there’s a difference between constantly thinking work and constantly being AT work. And my mind was beginning to blur the two together in a really bad way: work became something I associated with lounging around, and that was all wrong.

So when I saw the opportunity to become an Associate Member at the ThinkHouse Collective, I jumped at it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it couldn’t hurt to be surrounded by a bunch of Sacramento’s most creative minds, and I haven’t been disappointed. I finally have a bit of structure and a place to interact and bounce around ideas. Being around other creative professionals helped restore the legitimacy of my work and remind me that yes, I am a professional.

Every day at the ThinkHouse is different depending on who is there for the day.  I work for a nutrition tech start up, so my job crosses all sorts of disciplines, and coworking has provided me with contacts and resources in food, PR, journalism, marketing, you name it; they have all added value to my life and work.

The spontaneous conversations that sometimes break the silence are often challenging, edgy, and filled with good, sound advice.  I like working in a world where people take slightly crazy ideas seriously; that’s my kind of place.  There’s no idea too wild that these folks won’t entertain it at least momentarily, and that makes me happy.

With the trend toward the cloud, I have a feeling coworking is going to become much more popular over the next few years. The way we work is changing, and it’s fabulous to be able to watch that change from a front row seat as new tools and new ways of working emerge out of difficult economic times.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience coworking yet, you should stop by for a day. I always walk away inspired and thinking great thoughts, wondering how I can apply them to my own little world.

But most importantly, I always walk away going home, where I can kick off my shoes, pour a glass of something tasty, and really relax after a day of work.  And that is so worth it.

Rebecca Johnson is an associate member at the ThinkHouse Collective. She works in marketing communications as an independent contractor and has spent the last 8 months on an exciting project with Honest Label Foods, a nutrition tech startup working to bring much needed transparency to the food industry.

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