“The goal is to be able to walk into your workspace every single day with laser focus.” - Michael Hyatt
In September of 2018, I moved offices. I don’t mean I moved down the hall or across town; I moved from one state to another. When I had finally packed up my cubicle, I left the office with one bag and FIVE boxes. I had worked in this particular building for five years and somehow collected enough stuff to fill five filing boxes.
I couldn’t believe it. But over time, I began to understand something about people in office settings. There are two types of people – those who decorate and customize their workspaces and those who do not. I am clearly part of those who do. In my workspace, you will always find items which represent who I am and what is important to me. These items encourage me and help me do my best work.
When we moved, I was able to start working from home part of the week. Now, I had two workspaces to spread out my five boxes of things. Or so I thought. As time went on, I realized most of the things I had kept in the old office were really particular to that location.
And so the great purge began.
Slowly, I whittled those five boxes down to one for home and one for the office. And I didn’t even completely unpack the office box because I shared a cubicle.
This experience helped me understand that there are some major pros and cons to different working spaces. Prior to my current company, I worked for a non-profit where I could work from anywhere: office, home, coffee shop, etc. Over the last five years, I have been working in an office setting only. And now, I’m back to the office and home. I now understand something that drastically affects our productivity:
The pros and cons of working from home are different from working in the office. There are different types of needs and distractions. As we take great strides at becoming successful at productivity and moving away from being stressed about work, we need to understand how much our location impacts our successes and failures.
In this chapter, we will learn about three primary work locations as well as the importance of organization and cleanliness in our workspace. Office locations, workspace organization, and workspace cleanliness impacts our productivity and our ability to do our best work.
Three Most Common Work Locations
Over the past ten years, I have worked in various environments. Right after college, I worked for a university athletics program. This was about 50% office work and 50% venue work. It was fun, but I had to have systems set up to get my work done in both locations.
After that job, I worked for a nonprofit as an event planner, and I could work from anywhere. Whether it was in the office, from home, or in the coffee shop down the street, I could do my job without being anywhere specific.
My current company where I have been for almost six years has been predominantly office-based until recently; now I can work from home about half the week.
For most of us, our job locations are primarily in a traditional office, a home office, or a remote location. I will share how to be productive in these particular spaces.
Traditional Office - Cubicle Land
Until working for my current company, I believed an open floor plan with cubicles as far as the eye can see was only something depicted in the movies. I was wrong. In my workspace, we are tethered to these small territories in the middle of a large room with dozens of others around us.
I remember it was hard getting used to hearing every little thing the first couple of weeks. But after a while you just tune it out.
There are some really great things about working in this office space. We are provided with everything we could possibly need. Typically, a desk, filing cabinet, chair, and computer comes standard in every cubicle. All of the resources are at our fingertips with a well-stocked supply room, and there is a built-in community in the office.
Some of the difficult aspects of these workspaces come with restrictions due to space or company policies on what we can and cannot have in our cubicle. Also, it’s easy to be distracted by watching people or being watched. And just about anyone can walk up and chat with you.
There are a few helpful items for being productive if you are required to be at work in your cubicle.
First, decorate your cubicle. Yes, I am one of those people who keeps things in my cubicle that are not work-related. Even if you have just one thing in your cubicle that brings peace or joy to your day, it is a must.
I also tend to keep motivational quotes, pictures from my daughters, and a few simple items that are a representation of me. This way it becomes “my” space.
Also make sure you are positioned facing away from the opening of your cubicle. This way you can focus on the work you need to do and be less distracted by those who walk by.
When we work in cubicle land, we need to make positive choices that are within our control and design our space so that it is a symbol of who we are. This helps people get to know you, and it helps you feel comfortable within this space.
Home Office: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
Some would call those who work from home “pajama workers.” It is true that you don’t have to get dressed in business attire when you work from home. However, I would actually suggest doing just that because it provides a more defining start to your day. I love working from home, and there are a lot of fun benefits to it. There are also some drawbacks that sometimes come up.
Whether or not you thrive in a home environment is truly a personal preference. I know plenty of people who dislike working from home and absolutely refuse such an arrangement. It is important to understand what makes you most productive.
For me, working from home is my ideal situation. It removes your commute right off the bat. At one time, I would drive 45 to 60 minutes one way to work.
Some other pros to working from home are how you’re in your own space, you are close to your family, and you never feel like someone is watching you (other than pets and children sneaking into your workspace).
There are cons for this workspace, like how resources and office supplies must be self-filled. You have to bring them home from the office or pick them up at a store yourself. Also, there can be a lot of personal distractions at a home office, and some people feel like they don’t get out much when they work from home.
If this is your work situation, there are important things to remember about working from home. First, it is essential to have a designated workspace. An office or den helps, but if you don’t have those spaces, make sure you are set up in your bedroom, especially if you have a family. Small children in particular don’t always understand why we cannot play, so sometimes it is best to be out of sight.
Second, it is important to arrange the room to your preference. One of the most difficult realities is when your dedicated workspace doesn’t help you be as productive as possible. For example, don’t keep supplies in a hall closet. Make sure the things you need are right at hand.
Third (and probably the most important for me), treat working from home the same as you would going to work. Get up and do your normal routine. Take a shower and actually get dressed. I find that when I am wearing my pajamas and trying to work from home, all I want to do is go back to bed.
These three strategies will help you find productivity success in your home office.
Working Remotely: Blowing in the Wind
When you’re working remotely, your office is where you are at any given moment. Sometimes it is in your car. Other times it is at your local coffee shop. And sometimes it is in the middle of a venue for an event you are running. For me, this is probably the most difficult workspace.
While I worked remotely for years, I learned that I had to bring a lot of stuff with me just to make sure I had everything I needed. On the other hand, if you are a salesman and drive to a lot of sales meetings, then it may be easier to keep things in your car.
Also, some companies are 100% digital, and nearly everything they need is stored in the cloud. However, if your work requires a lot of physical items, then it will be much more difficult.
Pros of working remotely are that you are free to move about your area, you don’t have someone watching your every move, and it may help you feel like you are getting your best work done, too.
If you are a person who likes change, then this is definitely the spot for you. You can go where you want and follow up on important meetings at any location you choose.
Difficult aspects of this workspace start with always being on the go and carrying everything you need with you. You may also have to pay for your workspace by purchasing a meal or beverage. Of course, some folks will go to a coffee shop and not buy coffee, but I think it is a common courtesy to do so.
And then there is the entire issue of transition, meaning getting to where you need to be, making sure you are all set up, securing your belongings and being able to easily use the restroom if you need. And of course, there is the transition to pack up and go home.
However, if there is one thing we can do to help make working remotely a success, then it is important to have some very good routines. Routines will help make the transitions easier and allow you to begin and finish work more efficiently.
Also, it’s nice to be a “local” at a few places. This way the staff of wherever you frequent will become familiar with you and your work, and you might even receive discounted coffee or meals.
Working remotely definitely comes with some pros and cons. However, to perform well in your environment, you need to make sure you tailor it to your needs and what makes you most comfortable.