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The Flipped Office: Work at Home, Relax Outside
The concept of the “flipped classroom” refers to a reversal of traditional teaching, where the lecturing part happens outside of the classroom (i.e. through videos, reading, etc.) and the exercise or interaction part happens inside the classroom.
While the “flipped classroom” is sometimes hyped in the manner of tech-evangelists, I believe that the idea is a valid one when understood as part of a broader trend. More precisely, it may not be limited to education at all but might illustrate general technology-induced changes in everyday living.
Work Outside, Relax at Home
A few years ago I was working as a teacher and spent at least 3 hours every day commuting. Fed up with hunting after buses and waiting for delayed trains in the snow I began thinking about a way out. Even the most respected, best-paid jobs would require at least a minimum amount of daily commuting and I just couldn’t imagine myself wasting away the next few decades in the commuting cycle. So I started shifting my teaching job to the Internet (as documented here) which allowed me to work from home or anywhere with an internet connection for that matter.
Slowly but surely things began to change. First of all, I gained a lot of time that I used to waste on commuting (which is basically a form of unpaid working time). Secondly, I noticed that I was now spending a lot of time at home, unsurprisingly perhaps, since building an online teaching business from the ground up required many hours of hard work and dedication, even outside the actual lessons.
In other words: my home, formerly a place to “crash” after a hard day’s work, now became my working place. I had gained a lot of free time, but I had lost a space to retreat from my work.
I’m sure many freelancers can relate to the fact that overworking can be a bigger issue when you’re self-employed than when you’re working for someone else and simply drop your tools the moment the bell rings.
On top of it I have to admit that while theoretically I could offer my lessons from any place with an internet connection, most of the time I continued to sit at my familiar desk at home. It might have been related to the fact that it’s very difficult to sit down and concentrate on a live-call in public wifi spots, or simply that the daily habit was becoming too ingrained. I should mention however, that online teaching did enable me to move to a foreign country while taking my job with me, but what I’m talking about here is daily habits, not geographical location.
And thus, while I had gained a lot of free time, became my own boss, moved to a different country and could theoretically work from anywhere on the planet, I felt I was missing out on something. And it took me a while before I noticed the missing link.
Relax Outside, Work at Home
One thing that always bothered me about teaching (whether offline or online) is that you have to show up at a certain time at a certain place (be it a virtual or a brick and mortar classroom). So I decided to shift my teaching activities to an asynchronous format, which is just a fancy way of saying that I started to write books which students could learn from in my absence. To make a long story short, I eventually arrived at a place where I didn’t have to slice my day into many different lesson slots anymore. And then, something interesting happened.
At first, I was continuing to live the way I had gotten accustomed to while teaching online, which basically meant working every day from my desk with a few holidays here and there.
Nevertheless, my home was still my office. I gained many great freedoms, but I still had “lost” my home as a retreat, so to speak.
Recently, I noticed another change. I found myself travelling a lot more, not just on “holidays” but on a consistent basis, as part of my weekly routine. And it was yesterday, riding a bus through the countryside when I noticed that I had (unconsciously) made a 180 degree turn from my early commuting life. Instead of travelling every day to work and coming home to rest, I was now working every day at home and travelling to rest.
As my wife put it, industrial man lived indoors and exploited the outdoors, while post-geographic humanity may work indoors and find new appreciation and life outdoors.
To make one thing absolutely clear: working from home is awesome, and I don’t regret my decision to quit the commuting life one bit. Nevertheless, I decided to write this article as a way to illustrate also the challenges. Also, I’m curious how other people relate to these challenges. Do you have a strict discipline to keep yourself from working too much? How do you find rest after working many hours from home? How do you balance outdoors and indoors?
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