The Myth of You Can Work Anywhere, Anytime
How amazing is it to be able to work anywhere without regard to outlets, wires, walls, offices, or bosses? Latest statistics reveal the average American uses up to 3 mobile devices daily (source: McAfee.com.). The untethering of people to computing has made productivity shoot up. But just because we can work anywhere, anytime, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. That’s because no matter how mobile we are, different kinds of work still require different kinds of environments. Strategic planning, brainstorming, creative projects, and large group work thrives in open spaces with lots of light and windows and plenty of space to spread out. Loud talk, patching in people via Skype, and lots of input that might otherwise be considered interruptive are welcome in this scenario.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is intense, solitary work such as analysis and writing. This is best accomplished in smaller, quiet spaces, such as study cubbies at the library where you turn off your cell phone and interruptions are held to a minimum. A client of mine does her professional reading in the lobby of a local hospital across the street from her office. “That’s where I hide,” she tells me. Another client checks into a hotel for two days to do her taxes. “Only my family knows how to reach me. After working a few hours, I can take a swim, workout in the gym, or get a massage. Meals are convenient and the whole idea of a dedicated place seems to make me more productive.”
Kind of in the middle of the spectrum is purposeful small team or committee work that benefits from a lot of collaboration, decision-making and accountability. This is best accomplished in an environment of small tables, chairs that swivel, and an easy way to take notes or minutes.
The benefits of technology, especially computers, are crucial for any kind of productive work, but the physical environment also plays a huge role. Teachers in classrooms have known this for years. Steelcase recently conducted research on this topic concluding that even an ergonomically comfortable chair on rollers attached to adjustable work surface improves kids’ concentration.
When choosing the best place for working on a task, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the task to be accomplished?
- What level of focus does the task require?
- What physical setting would best support the task?
If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.
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