In the time of Carmageddon, I insisted on having an office

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Don’t Drink And Write

IN 2010, after years of driving through EDSA traffic from my house in Parañaque to my workplace in Quezon City (then later Mandaluyong), I decided to rent a condo unit next to my office building. This allowed me to walk 200 steps every day to report for work, while saving my car a lot of mileage in the process. In other words, I heeded the advice of living near my place of employment just to avoid the soul-sapping effects of driving.

My problem resurfaced when I had to quit my previous company two years ago. Where would my next employer be located? How many hours would it take me to get there? And would it all be worth the exasperation?

Thankfully, I ended up starting my own business — a motoring website ( — and my partners were kind enough to base our office in my neighborhood (presumably to lure me into spending all my waking hours there). We’ve only recently wrapped up interior work, and we’re now starting to move in. It’s just a five-minute drive from my condo — less at certain hours. I guess I could walk or bike if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. Mostly because I’m out of shape.

There is so much upside to living near your work (or working near your home), but my favorite is being able to show up in the office fresh, happy, enthusiastic and extremely motivated. My officemates also live in the area, so our company (I think) is overflowing with freshness, happiness, enthusiasm and motivation.

The digital nature of our business probably has some folks questioning the wisdom of having a brick-and-mortar office in the first place. In this age of wireless everything, my team and I could have opted to just communicate online and just meet at some hip coffee shop to address a pressing concern here or a fiscal issue there. We publish a Web site, after all. What aspect of it requires our warm bodies to congregate at a common address?

But perhaps more crucially, having a physical office seems to defy present-day logic. The concept of telecommuting — or working from home — has never been more popular than it is today. With traffic congestion being a literal pain in the ass (from having to sit inside a car for hours on end), even profit-minded employers are now okay with allowing people to skip an office day each week if this would mean lighter vehicle volume out there and less stress for everyone on the payroll.

So why insist on putting together and maintaining an office?

I got my answer the other day during a meeting with clients in our new abode. We hadn’t officially opened shop — the paint had barely dried — but I asked them to come visit us anyway. Even in our office’s unfinished state, I was already proud of what we had accomplished. I wanted to gauge from our clients’ reaction if our efforts (and resources) had been worth it.

They looked and sounded impressed — not so much with the tangible attributes of our humble headquarters as with the implication that such a corporate domicile signified. The implication that we are serious with what we are doing. The implication that we value the creative process. The implication that we give our best in everything that we do. And yes, the implication that we’re here to stay.

Make no mistake: Setting up an actual office — versus simply debating on Viber or Messenger — is a truly monumental task. It will drain you. Financially, emotionally, psychologically. But it will also reward you in ways telecommuting cannot. I gaze on a wall and it energizes me to beat never-ending deadlines.

Then again, maybe all this excitement comes from the fact that our office is a stone’s throw from my house. Maybe I wouldn’t be this thrilled to go to work if I had to labor my way through rush-hour gridlock. But nah. I’m sure I’m ecstatic because I have a legitimate chance to realize a dream — two years after everything in my life was a nightmare. I’d drive through any kind of traffic for that.