Where do you get your work done?
At first glance it’s an easy, straightforward question. My immediate reply would be my office but, when I start thinking about it, very different locations spring to mind. I create my mental “to do” list when driving to work, my best ideas surface when walking my dogs, strategic papers and presentations are created at my kitchen table, and the shower often proves ideal for solving problems.
So is the office dead? Once upon a time people went to the office because that’s where colleagues, phones, computers and documents were located. Nowadays, work is something you do, not somewhere you go as technology allows us to to work anywhere, anytime, and is increasingly dissolving the boundaries between our private and professional lives.
Whilst technology is offering us more flexibility to work the way that suits us best, office environments seem to be lagging behind. Judging by your comments and feedback on my blog “Desktop Detox”, the office environment seems to hamper your efforts to create a more efficient worklife, reduces your productivity and, apparently, is a source of much frustration.
When we look at today’s office buildings, we still find the same open-plan architecture that was first developed in the 1960s. It was originally designed to enable more interaction between different managerial levels , to encourage communication, integration and dialogue, and – last but not least - to save occupancy cost in square meters compared to expensive private offices.
Has this approach worked? Well, yes and no. If the open plan layout has been designed with different roles and needs in mind, paying attention to the acoustics and dedicated spaces for social interaction, quick phone calls or meetings, then yes it can no doubt offer a pleasant and productive environment. But more often than not we are faced with old(er) buildings that were not designed to be transformed into open-plan spaces and therefore only offer limited scope for the sort of changes we need today. This usually results in a work environment that is counter productive, often too noisy to concentrate, or too quiet for comfort, with irritations over shared blinds (up or down?), air conditioning (on or off?) , food at the desk, colleagues cocooning themselves by wearing headphones, etc.
What about the home office? Should we simply shut the door on the office and work at our kitchen tables or spare room desks? Not everyone feels comfortable with that, not in the least the old school managers who still measure productivity by our presence in the office. Personally, I try to balance working in the office and at home, selecting the best location according to my specific tasks. Working on a strategic paper, creating a presentation or attending back-to-back conference calls I like to do from home. Exchanging ideas, discussing actions and preparing initiatives I prefer to do in the office where I can meet my colleagues share a coffee, socialize, and catch up on the latest office gossip - all key ingredients to help me deliver my best and make me feel at home and a valued member of my work community.
Recent discussions on remote working versus back to the office, argued that the best ideas and innovations are developed when colleagues spend more time together. But should that be in the office? Perhaps we could have a meeting while walking in the woods, and get inspired by nature. Or meet at a colleague’s home and brainstorm some ideas with a slice of home baked cake and a (good!) cup of coffee. Or rent flexible office accommodation for a few hours for the weekly team meeting. And what about online collaboration and idea generation, the latest social business networks facilitate working in communities and sharing expertise much more effectively. I feel we need to think outside the office walls and start to revolutionize our workspace to support a well-balanced 21st century work life.
So where do you get your work done?
I would like to hear your view to start shaping the workspace of tomorrow now and browse to my survey: