Laptop. Power cord. Bluetooth. Blackberry. Mouse. Project Files.
Today is my last day in the office for the week. While I strategically chose to live less than a mile from my office (I don’t want to own a car in the city. Its not an environmentalist thing. Its a lazy, too young, and immature for the commitment mentality), with teleworking to start and end each week, I don’t plan to be back in the office until Tuesday. Each week I spend 4-5 days away, being vastly more productive working from home or at project sites.
I’m not alone in spending this little time in my office. The organization I work for has committed to telework/mobile work to try it to reduce our office space and utility costs. Everyone who chooses to use telework sees their own benefit in it. For many its the time, money, and frustration saved by not having to commute for a couple days. Others are able to spend more time with family members they are caring for (young or old). For me, its working next to an open window and away from the distractions of an office environment. Whatever the reason for trying liking it, it seems normal now to spend only a few days in the traditional office setting.
It fascinates me to think about how this will change physical and urban patterns as increases in teleworking and mobile work ripple across our society. As Matthew Yglesias points out in his article in Slate this week, it isn’t a question of having the technology to spend more time out of the office. “Digital technology—email and smartphones most of all—have vastly improved workers’ capacity to be productive outside of a traditional office.” (Matthew Yglesias, Slate). I have always carried my cell phone home, answering emails and calls well outside my working hours, and often taking advantage of a silent weekend hour to complete a project on my laptop. It’s a question of shifting how we use tools to work together to collaborate on projects. Eventually, I can even see it leaking further away from the restrictive work environment, more openly allowing me to shift my working hours to when I am more productive (Right when I wake up is my best time, be it 4:00 a.m. or 9:00 some of my most inspired, creative moments come when I spring out of a deep sleep) and having more of my team meetings in less traditional locations.
Last week I cited a quote from Tony Hsieh, ”When you’re in a city, the bar or the restaurant becomes an extended conference room” (Leigh Gallagher, Fortune Magazine). The more I think about that, I wonder how telework and mobile work increase the importance of non-traditional meeting sites. The coffee shop isn’t just a spot where I will stop in for a quick off-site chat, but needs to be available for team collaboration while being quite enough to take a conference call. Happy hours even become more important. While they have always been a part of how business gets done, they will increasingly carry more importance as they provide rare face-time. As the city is transformed to be our office, our expectations of service environments change as they will need to create a more perfect environment.
The coffee shop and bar are the greatest examples of where I see potential in creating the non-office business environment. They provide a social setting where work already gets done. Also, their peak business hours hardly overlap, so they can operate out of the same establishment. By day, a high end coffee shop, providing a quite, collaborative environment for teams, meetings, or calls. By night, a little more social environment to lose the tie and enjoy a drink, while still discussing new business potentials and direction. One space, more operating hours, while creating a comfortable yet productive work environment. Through a slight transformation in what either currently is, this will be the first site that I will explore in the next few entries, to see how a high end coffee shop and bar can better meet changing professional environment needs while becoming more sustainable through other symbiotic urban relationships.