BLOG: Leaving Work at Work

For any creative beginning a career from the comfort of their own home, it can be extremely difficult to differentiate work from home life.

This was even more apparent for my business partner and I who began planning our business while living in a villa on the edge of Lake Como, Italy. What was the difference between work life and normal life? Working from a small cafe, sipping a cappuccino while looking out onto the Grigna Mountains wasn’t really work, was it?

If we ever doubted it, it soon became obvious. Work came in, days in the sun lessened and the reality of knowing how underprepared we were to begin a business from a lakeside cafe soon became obvious.

So, we returned to England with high hopes and the basic foundations of a new business. However, despite having traded Italian sun for English reality, we still didn’t have a permanent workplace. We tried working separately from our own homes but it was just another case of not splitting the work/home balance.

Working off laptops in our lounges didn’t really instil the feeling that we were on to the next McCann Erickson. And when was it time to start or stop a working day? We soon found a studio and with it an immediate relief that we would no longer have to work from home. Or so we thought.

As it turns out, a studio space is not the be-and-end-all of ones working life. Not taking work home in its physical form is easy once you have an office – just don’t transfer any files to your home computer – but how do you walk away from the mental strain of business?

Our projects often come in from America or Australia and so we are occasionally forced to work unconventional hours. This can mean Skype meetings from home, conference calls on holidays and replying to emails at unsocial times. It meant we were ‘on’ 24/7, which just wasn’t sustainable, and we had to learn that clients can usually wait that extra hour.

Taking time to relax and switch off has now become essential to any success we’ve had. Allowing ourselves time off means that when we do pick back up with a client we’ll likely be fresh-faced, enthusiastic and ready to go. Allowing ourselves that time off enables us to approach clients in a more positive and productive way. We’ve learnt to leave work at work, and ultimately save our best for when it matters the most. We don’t check our emails just before bed or redesign something while at dinner, and guess what – our clients are just fine with that!

Still, for any imaginative, over-thinking, creative all this is easier said than done. You might not be checking your emails but your brain is still wrestling with all the questions you have at work. Many sleepless nights later and I’m gradually beginning to get a grasp on how to differentiate work from home life: distractions!

My hobbies used to be art and design, but when you do these things for a living it’s probably best to find something else. I still design in my part time, but inevitably it soon moves on to a branding project that isn’t quite finished or some web layouts that need a little attention which isn’t exactly relaxing. Instead, I have found other creative hobbies to satisfy those urges.

This all probably sounds a little too simple. The truth is, any self-employed person who is passionate about their career and their staff will inevitably bring work home. This isn’t necessarily to say they work from home, but that work will very often be on their minds and a recurring subject of concern.

There’s a happy medium that I now aim to achieve and while the thought of work may never leave me on days off, I try my best not to act on those thoughts. The key is compromise… and a little calculated calm.


Orca Design is a Bristol-based graphic design company specialising in bespoke typography, illustration and branding. Their clients include The Big Issue, Orchard Bloom and Dynasty Records.

Illustrated by Joel Rosen

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