Learned the hard way: Leaving the office for a better quality of life

A friend shared this story with me:

A few years ago I started feeling subtle aches and pains throughout my body. The lower back, wrists, and shoulder aches were at their worse upon waking. They gradually subsided to a dull, nagging pain as the day wore on.

Chalking it all up to “old age”, a fast paced, high-stress environment, and long hours, I pretty much ignored the discomfort, keeping myself at pace with coffee, sugar and occasionally anti-anxiety meds to shut my head up at night and a catch-as-catch-can, once a month massage to alleviate some of the strain. I was collecting a hefty salary but not enjoying a very healthy, or serene, quality of life.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: After 17 years with the company I had helped to build from the ground up, and having scrambled my way to a top level executive position, I was left quite suddenly unemployed. After a few days of allowing the shock to wear off and sufficient time to gather my thoughts, assess my economic situation and consider my options, I decided that, regardless of the connections I had in my industry, or my good reputation, it was time for a change.

I loved what I did and wanted to stay in the same field so I decided to go freelance. I’d long dreamt of the freedom to travel whenever, wherever and however often I felt like; also, the thought of trading in my office attire for the delicious comfort of working in my pajamas sounded like heaven to me. At the beginning it meant tightening the belt for bit but that soon changed after I signed up a few clients.

After some extensive research, I learned that there are some mental, physical and emotional advantages to doing things a little differently than they are normally done in regular office environments.

  • Lighting.

I immediately decided that I was absolutely no longer willing to put up with harsh florescent lighting. I situated my home office in a room that boasted plenty of natural sunlight and installed lighting that allowed me to work, but was much less harsh on my eyes. Finally, I installed a dimmer so that for breaks, I could dim the lights and chill for a while.

  • My desk.

I read about the advantages of being able to sit, or stand, during working hours as the need arises. To that end, I created an L-shape desk set-up and worked at two different levels throughout the day, sometimes standing up for the entire process of creating a marketing piece.

  • My office chair.

This was one area where I did not skimp. I spent a little bit of money and invested in a good, posture supporting desk chair. The current state of my back indicates that this was the most positive decision I could have made.

  • Life’s little luxuries.

I set up a nice little snack bar complete with water dispenser, electric teakettle and fridge. A lounge area in the corner, complete with Yoga matt, throw pillows and a music station to dock my iPod, have made my many, small yet mandatory breaks throughout the day more enjoyable and beneficial.

The switch to freelancing wasn’t easy at first. Nevertheless, I have said often and will say again: I wouldn’t trade the freedom, comfort and tranquility of working for myself for any super high paycheck. Over time, I’ve let go of the fast pace, the anxiety meds and mandatory coffee. The positive impact on my family life, available time for the kids and my peace of mind is irreplaceable.

Hope you enjoyed,


Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.