Summary:

Remote collaboration tools and connectivity promise to unleash us from the office, but despite these advantages most of us still spend the majority of our days in drab spaces. Perhaps the New Year is the perfect opportunity for knowledge workers to reconsider where they work.

cube farm

Remote collaboration tools and constant connectivity promise to unleash us from the confines of the cubicle farms where many have spent so many years churning out good work despite often miserable decor. But despite the best laptops available, a host of promising new communication tools and even the rise of the co-working movement, if you’re perfectly honest, you probably have to admit most of us still spend much of our days in what is recognizably a pretty drab office.

And that, according to a recent post by former Harvard Business School professor and partner in FutureWork Forum Jim Ware on the WorkSnug blog, isn’t just bad interior decorating, but may also be bad psychology. He writes:

I, like most “knowledge workers” spend almost all my work time in a fairly traditional office environment – four walls, a desk, some filing cabinets, and shelves full of books. Sure, there might be a family photo or two on the wall, and maybe a picture drawn by a child, but the fact is that no matter what I am trying to accomplish on a given day, the place where I am is almost always the same (yes, I usually hold team meetings in a conference room, and sometimes I even have a meaningful “meeting” in a cafeteria or a coffee shop, but let’s face it, most of the time I use the same place to read, write, analyze, list, sort, file, talk on the phone, and even meet with colleagues – at least when I’m not on airplane or in some drab hotel room far from home).

What if I had lots of places to choose among, and could move from one to another as I moved from one task to another? My instinct tells me I’d be a lot more creative in some kinds of places (rooms filled with art work, or with outdoor photos or large windows – or literally outdoor places), more analytic in others (a library, or a bare-bones office?), and thoughtful and reflective in yet another place (a church? a mountain retreat? a sailboat? a café?).

The interesting post, which is well worth a read, detours into office design before concluding with a question for reflection for all of us knowledge workers with the technical capacity to roam far and wide but work habits that hold us back from taking full advantage of that freedom: “When there are so many different kinds of knowledge work, why do we so often try to do it all in one kind of place?” As 2011 draws to a close, it’s an interesting New Year’s thought to ponder and perhaps spur improvements in our work style in the coming year.

Are you stuck in a rut when it comes to where you do your work? Could shaking things up and getting out of your usual spaces improve your productivity?

Image courtesy of Flickr user mark sebastian.

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