What’s your ecosystem for getting your best work done?
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m in a meeting outside on the roof garden of London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (pictured above). For my parent’s generation ‘work’ was a building people went to. Now work happens everywhere and anywhere. Whether you’re an employee in an organisation or you work for yourself, many of us have the freedom to head to a variety of spaces. We are no longer restricted by that old fashioned notion that we must do all our work at that rectangular shaped piece of furniture, the office desk.
What I have learned from 20 years working for myself is that choosing the right space for the right task can make such a difference to energy and productivity levels. Yes I have a desk in a home office, surrounded by my documents and books. And it’s a good space for calls and admin. But most of the time, I’m elsewhere.
Finding my own ecosystem has worked for me throughout my career as an independent, and organisations are catching up. An executive who attended my roundtable at The Next Web in Amsterdam last week was very comfortable with the notion of working from a variety of spaces. He had told his employer recently he didn’t need a dedicated desk in the office anymore. The challenge now is using his freedom carefully, and tuning in to exactly where will make him tick. It’s a thought for all of us - to identify the right space for the right task. On the day I found myself on the roof garden, I also worked out of a member’s club (for deep work), a cafe (for some buzz and invigoration) and hotel lobby (ditto, plus it was convenient).
Earlier this month I was the guest speaker at Carbon Law Partners’ annual meeting. Each of the partners works independently, building their own legal practices. Like many independent workers in 2019, these lawyers have their own ecosystems in which to work which include coffee shops, kitchen tables, client offices, co-working spaces and Carbon Law’s own network of hubs. The lawyers told me that being able to pick and choose locations suits them.
Simon at Microsoft has a similar choice. He told me that his working week divides between working at home, working from cafes, Microsoft’s London office and its Thames Valley campus. And within those offices, there are numerous spaces to choose from for the task in hand. Those environments all make up his ecosystem.
So what does your ecosystem look like? Consider all the places and spaces that you can choose from, which are best for meetings, for deep work, for ideas. Jot them down, so you know where to head to. Plan out your day, where you’re going to go for each element of your work schedule. It’s often easy to default to a desk. But moving around can make a huge difference. Keep a note of what you like about each space, and how productive you are. Where is best for collaboration? Where suits solo work? Keep experimenting. Move around. See what works for you.
And if you’re in an organisation that’s not quite woken up to the idea of different spaces for different tasks, try making the case to your employer or boss how much more productive or energised you’d be if you weren’t shackled to your desk.
After all you can’t just plonk a human being anywhere and expect them to do their best work.
P.S. I’m writing this blog post in the summerhouse at the bottom of my garden, which is ideal for 6pm escapes.