Susan @ Office Nomads, Part I

March 4, 2008

I was walking to work one day in 2006, and had the thought: 'wouldn't more Seattlites be happier if they could have a walking commute?' My walk to work had become a simple ritual for me and a time for me to decompress, listen to music, and to be outside, experiencing the city and taking [...]

I was walking to work one day in 2006, and had the thought: 'wouldn't more Seattlites be happier if they could have a walking commute?' My walk to work had become a simple ritual for me and a time for me to decompress, listen to music, and to be outside, experiencing the city and taking some nice deep breaths either before the work day began, or to wind down the day after a long day. It was a critical piece in making my work/life balance happen, and actually made me enjoy going to work.

Space Needle - props to http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Kosich for the image

Once the idea had been planted in my mind, I started paying attention to the Seattle work force. I began to notice how many workers in Seattle (myself included, as an environmental consultant) had flexible work schedules available to them--either being able to work a few days from home a week or simply ditching the office altogether and working from the library or cafes instead.

It seemed as though despite the many perceived benefits of being flexible and free, these nomadic workers were being left to drift alone. There was no home for them and they had to sit scrunched in a cafe, tapping away on their laptops and ordering lattes to pay for their wi-fi. I'd hear friends complain of being bored and lonely working at home, and losing the benefit of having home as a refuge. Instead, home became just another place to get work done. I began dreaming of neighborhood-based telecommuting centers as a way to combine the 'walk to work' idea with this new nomadic workforce. Places for these workers to come together, share resources; to ditch their commutes altogether (well, except those few blocks of walking) and still have an efficient place to work.

For me, it was from the beginning an inspiration within a mindset of sustainability and allowing people the ability to telecommute (read: drive less) but making it more realistic, more efficient, and more comfortable. Key elements were getting cars off the road, working more efficiently, and allowing people to have a happier, healthier work/life balance. It grew in my mind into a neighborhood-building project as well - a way in which people could become more connected to local businesses and meet other independent/flexible workers near them. I felt energized with the ideas I was having. I remember filling time on my walks to work in the future calling my family and talking about it and gathering momentum but not really knowing how to get past the talk and take it into action.

Susan

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