Go There: Jim Olson Images courtesy of Jim Olson

Jim Olson — New York City

Jim Olson had been working from home long before the entire world found itself doing so this past spring. But after he began to feel cooped up at home a few years back at the age of 69, he decided to add an office and a commute to his daily life, which built in exercise and myriad other benefits to his life.

As told to William Tracy

I’d been working from home—I’m a private investor, I can do my work any place I have a computer and a calculator—but there’s no social interaction other than just over the computer or phone. I found that that was really getting to me. It was bothering me. And then the key problem is that the refrigerator is about 15 feet that way, so I found that not only was my mood dropping, but my weight was going the other way!

My wife, who is a residential real estate broker, her firm was renovating so they temporarily moved into a WeWork (a shared work space) facility. I visited her there one day and the place was alive! It was just great. There was activity. There were other people. There was a coffee bar and all sorts of amenities. I thought, “this is just great,” so I looked around for a WeWork that was a sufficient distance away from home to build in a commute.

It turned out that the sensible commute was to go across town—I live in the east side of New York—go across to the west side and pick up the Greenway along the Hudson River all the way down to the end of the island. I found a WeWork located at the southern most part of Manhattan. People ask me why I found a work space so far away. It’s because it automatically built in the exercise. Not only does it clear your head, but you’re getting exercise and it doesn’t feel like an imposition—it’s just what you do to get to the office. Most busy people have a hard time fitting exercise into their schedule. Bicycling is a way to do that.

It goes without saying that riding to work every day addressed all the things that were annoying me, to put it mildly, about working out of my study. I was outdoors. I got exercise. If I did a round trip it was about 16 miles. If you get 15, 16 miles of cycling in a day, it’s just very good for your disposition. I think friends and family alike probably appreciate this.

As long as you don’t pick an unreasonable distance, it’s absolutely something anyone can do, barring individual health conditions. There really isn’t anyone who can’t bicycle eight miles then come back eight miles at the end. In terms of weather, you just get used to bicycling in all kinds of weather. If it was pouring rain, I probably wouldn’t take the bike that day, but everyone gets caught in the rain from time to time and you learn that life doesn’t come to an end. You acquire rain gear that works for you over time. Same thing for the winter. I bicycle year-round, and there’s really no major impediment to bicycling when it’s cold. You just have to learn how to dress for it, and that’s not a difficult process.

The work space worked out really well. There’s a bike room downstairs. It was a great mix of people. Most of them were much younger, but that was great because it tended to keep me current and it was always nice to have people to talk to if I wandered out to the common area. It wasn’t that I spent a huge amount of time chatting out in the common area, but any time I did go out there I knew I could have a Coke or a cup of coffee or something, and just visit with somebody for a little bit. The whole thing has worked out really beautifully.

I don’t consider it over. It’s over just because of the pandemic. But when life returns to something that approaches normal, I’ll reach out to that again, either that location or another one. Since the pandemic, one thing I miss is the cycling, logging that much cycling on a regular basis. Is there any reason why I couldn’t go out cycling on my own? Most of the time, no. Right now there’s snow on the ground so that’s one of the few weather conditions that pretty effectively keeps me off the bike. But if you have a destination, it makes the whole thing different. I do use a bicycle for all sorts of local errands. Whenever I can possibly justify using a bicycle, I use one.