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Working at my home office vs working at my campus office

A few weeks back, Ingrid Delavigne on Twitter asked me about my thoughts on working at my home office vis-a-vis working at my campus office.

I don’t know if my followers on Twitter or my readers here know this, but I actually start writing at home early in the morning. I wake up between 4 and 4:30 am and start writing. I’ve had a practice of writing for two hours every day. I do this even if I do not have “generative text” (e.g. “new” text) every single day. I write memos about research, transcribe field notes, interviews, build datasets, etc. I write stuff that will move my research forward.

Home office in Aguascalientes at night

Again, I am well aware that I write from a place of privilege and I acknowledge my arrangements may not work for every single academic out there. I live in a three-bedroom house (which for a single man like me, it is more than enough), and one of these bedrooms has been converted into a home office. This arrangement has one drawback: where I live (in a gated community), internet access is sometimes quite spotty. But having a home office to work has many advantages: I can write in my pyjamas, nobody bothers me because I write too early in the morning, and I can focus on my work.

My policy is as follows: unless I have to be on campus early for meetings or to teach, I arrive to campus AFTER I have completed a task or series of tasks. I do try to spend at least 6-8 hours on campus because I like to be available for my students in case they want to drop by. I have decorated and organized my campus office so nice that spending many hours there is actually enjoyable.

The only time when I don’t follow my rule is when I need to be on campus for Skype/FaceTime meetings. Given that our university’s internet is WAY, WAY faster than my home wireless network, I try to make it to campus super early so that I can get some writing done before my meetings. I also work on campus when I am writing a literature review or preparing a syllabus because it’s easier to download articles when online databases recognize my laptop as being associated with my university network.

Working at my CIDE Region Centro office

Also, I work on campus for the LONGER period of time. That is, I don’t work at home for a longer period of time every day than what I work on campus. This may sound counter-intuitive to those who feel that they are more productive working at home (particularly writing). My logic for this is as follows: I work at home to achieve a goal (getting X number of words or pages written). Spending the entire day at home wrecks my division between home and work, and therefore, enables a bit of workaholism. If, on the contrary, I decide to *only* write at home only for as long as necessary to achieve a certain writing goal, and THEN I move on and continue on campus, I already got my academic writing kick-started.

Regardless of where I work, my strategy is ALWAYS to make my working space my own. I decorate both my home office and my campus office. I make sure to add personal touches (photos of my nieces and nephews, paintings from the cities where I have lived or visited, etc.) Also, as many people may realize, I am a little bit obsessive when it comes to physically organizing my books and journal articles. That’s the only way I can feel at peace and do my work. So, my recommendation is, whether you work at home or at the office, having the best setup is the smartest strategy, and the most conducive to being productive.

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