“Balance is not something you find, it's something you create”
― Jana Kingsford from her book Unjuggled
As Barry Podob mentioned in the previous blog, more people than ever are working from home. He mentions that it’s great for work-life balance among other benefits, but makes sales presentations a bit more difficult than they used to be. Read his entry for the details.
I am part of this remote workforce. Since December 2015, my employer – L.E. Hotels – decentralized our offices at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel to create more meeting space. I must say I love it. And by love I mean the working-from-home part as well as the new meeting spaces at the hotel.1 As we were on property, to blend in with the rest of the hotel staff (and honestly, in fairness to them) we also dressed in full “hotel formal” – suits and ties for the men and dresses or suits for the ladies. I understood why, but still, I was in a windowless office on the phone or emailing. Lots of dry-cleaned suits and interesting ties and no one to notice but co-workers in the lunch room.
Working from home included not only giving up weekly bags of dry-cleaning, but the commute. I lived downtown and commuted to Westwood, losing 2 ½ hours a day in the car. That said I rediscovered my love of audio books and podcasts. Did you know the Economist magazine is available in audio format? I never missed an article. Now that I telecommute, I’ve completely lost track of the Economist and have no idea what Sandra Tsing Loh is up to.2 My commute now is about 10 seconds from coffee maker to home-office.
I’ve found that laundry can be switched between washer and dryer in the amount of time you would normally need to walk away from your desk anyway. Same goes for the dishwasher. But when there’s lots to be done around the house (a mountain of laundry, dusting, vacuuming, or a full-on kitchen/bathroom scrub-down) I need to escape, or it would distract and haunt me from the back of my mind.
For months, my escape would be Starbucks, or a few cool independent coffee places with fast WiFi.3 After moving to back to the Valley in 2016, I discovered the Muse Rooms. If you’ve seen anything about the coworking space movement, it’s amazing. If you are unfamiliar, it’s shared office space with other people from any imaginable industry. Generally, they feature open areas with desks to use on a first-come, first-served basis. For a little more you can get a dedicated desk, and for a bit more than that, a small private office, up to larger rooms for 4, 6 or more people. The Muse Rooms has accountants, social media specialists, writers, filmmakers, and me, the “hotel guy”. I get the benefit of having “coworkers”, people to have lunch with, or to bounce around ideas. It also costs less than my former monthly Starbucks bill. The Muse rooms and other coworking spaces typically offer free WiFi, snacks and - you guessed it – coffee.
I’ve been working in the hotel industry for all of my adult life. And most of that time has been with a company that supports and promotes independent and boutique hotels. The Muse rooms was natural for me because it too, is boutique, and independently owned and operated. Unlike the very corporate and global Regus, or the very cool “all-glass-and-steel-and-light-Scandinavian-wood-all-the-time” WeWork chain of coworking spaces, The Muse Rooms has the atmosphere of a boutique hotel. I like to describe it as HBO’s “Westworld” meets “Hogwarts” minus the robots and wizards.4
I found, or as Ms. Kingsford would prefer, I am “creating” my work-life balance in 3 phases. The first was luck that I happened to work for L.E. Hotels where the forward-thinking leadership decided to “go virtual”. This was a gift of almost 3 hours a day to me. Immediately I became a more efficient team member and morale increased. The second was the decision to sign up for a coworking space. I visited a few but found one with the atmosphere and “vibe” where I felt most comfortable. A place to get away from the distractions of home, but within a quick and easy drive, well within my budget. The third phase is in progress and the one I’ve had the most trouble with.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who likes to make things in his spare time – art and objects from painting, to creations made of wood, metal, or styrofoam. We discussed the human need to make something. I thought about this a lot. Many sales people in hospitality and other industries do a lot of what I like to call “slinging electrons” – in the form of emails and phone calls. We don’t make a product out of wood or metal, but we bridge clients and guests to the hotel room. We may very well put in 8 or more hours, and we may be very passionate about it, but we go home with our hands empty. The emails, phone calls, and meetings aren’t tangible things.
I believe therein lies the key to work-life balance. Referring back to the opening quote, “Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.” It may not be handed to you in the form of working from home or setting your own schedule at a local shared office. But the last word of that sentence, “create”, is something all of us must make time to do. I’m very bad at this but as I learn and grow I also encourage you to create your balance. Find a secondary passion (or a first if it isn’t hotels and travel) and create it. While writing isn’t much more tangible than emails or phone calls, it’s something I enjoy and is becoming more of my own creative outlet. I believe acting, singing, and other intangibles that we create count too!
And another thing - if we have a hobby that uses our creative energy (anything from acting to sculpture) it can be the catalyst to more passion in our careers. Imagine increased room-nights via a pottery class, a higher ADR through karaoke, new corporate accounts via gardening. Passion in one area can generate passion in another.
In conclusion, if you’re lucky enough to work from home, don’t waste any of the extra time you’ve been gifted. If you work from home and are easily distracted, find a coworking space or a coworking buddy. And whether you set your own schedule or not, use what time you may have to do something you truly enjoy. All areas of our lives can benefit from creative outlets. You never know what life and career enhancing discoveries lie ahead!
2 Check out Sandra Tsing Loh’s podcasts, The Loh Down on Science and The Loh Life, and let me know!
3 Coffee Shop working - I highly recommend Mega Bodega a block south of the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A., or Coffee Commissary in Burbank.
4 I have no idea what they do in office #8 so there may be robots and/or wizards in there. Find out about the Muse Rooms here – www.themuserooms.com