The office

The office

Who needs an office these days?

It’s a needless expense. I currently work alone, and when I meet others I do it via video call or on a walk outside. Plus, private offices are expensive. A desk in a co-working space is 150€ — and not an improvement over my working-from-home situation — and private room rents tend to start at 300€. That’s 15-30% of my burn.

Plus, it’s annoying to commute. It turns out there’s very little commercial real estate near where I live, so any office is at least a 10-minute walk away. In wind and rain and sleet and snow, that’s not worth it. Biking in winter is not for the fainthearted, and a daily car commute would just add to the flight shame I started to feel in 2019, with ~130 hours I spent in the air in the year leading up to the pandemic.

And, there’s still nobody around, at least while corona lasts. Alone in my apartment or alone in my office — what’s the difference? Most people I know go to the office only sporadically, so I can’t easily grab lunch with friends or colleagues every day.

So naturally, I got myself an office this week.

Let me explain. Some of the most productive times in my life — late during my Bachelor’s studies in Tartu, and early into my Starship and Veriff tenures — have been at a desk, in an office. Also, the bad things I mentioned about having an office can actually be good.

In a way, the monetary cost turns my self-perception from an amateur to a professional. It feels like “hey, we’re taking this seriously, so you better start working for real”. My executive-thinking self is investing in my day-to-day self, and thus signaling that I should be taking this seriously. Of course, having an office is also an outwards signal of commitment, of taking a project or business seriously.

The commute helps put some emotional distance between home and work. It’s a ritual that starts and ends a workday and catalyzes a mindset shift. It increases the barrier of entry and exit from work. When I’m at work, I don’t want to find myself listening to a podcast in the middle of the day, in a way that feels related to work but actually isn’t. And when I’m at home, I don’t want to ruminate over a worry that could easily wait until the next morning.

There are more prosaic reasons an office is worth it, too. For the design sprint, I used post-its and sticky paper on the wall instead of a whiteboard. Unfortunately, the only reasonable wall space for that was in my bedroom, in the exact spot where I look when I’m lying in bed. Even though I’m excited to think about what I’m working on most of the time, I also want to keep some breathing space in the morning, before jumping into work.

This is also a symbolic moment in my life. I’ve never — not once — had a private office just for myself, with open-floor setups being cheaper and trendier. The decadence of having one at last, and the responsibility of putting my name on a door… It now feels like I’m in it for real.

Written sitting at my desk, in my new office, in Põhja-Tallinn.