Our brains don't understand the concept of being 'clocked in' at work. Ideas, solutions, and memories surface during waking hours and even when we’re sleeping.
Most workers today solve problems and find solutions, instead of performing repetitive tasks. These kind of formulaic and repetitive jobs are being replaced by automation. For creativity, however, we still want to interact with a person. And I’m sure many of us would agree that we aren’t our most creative in front of a monitor and keyboard, distracted by emails, phone calls, and other interruptions.
Instead of becoming automatons, workers are becoming more human. Work and life are blending, and a static, structured workplace is becoming antiquated. While we need facilities and tools to gather, collaborate, and socialise, we also need privacy to focus, relax, and recover. And with burdens like a long commute and supporting regular on-site workers, being able to work from anywhere is increasingly important.
As I described in a past blog referencing a survey report from Virgin Pulse, millennials are demanding flexibility. It’s not just this younger generation that can benefit from flexible policies, though. Seasoned workers can also take advantage of this by beginning to work from anywhere – starting right within the workplace.
Here are some ways I made it work for me:
I started with baby steps, like forwarding my office line to my mobile. I began standing and sitting at my desk and away from it, and when possible, I stretched, strolled, and made meetings mobile. For private or focused work, I scheduled or squatted in a conference room, and when meeting face-to-face, I focused on giving 100 per cent attention. I reduced my workstation to what fits in a briefcase, so I could grab and go. Keeping batteries, chargers, devices, and even paper on-hand meant that I could work anywhere.
These changes required a project management-style focus on deliverables. I obtained agreement on timelines and designed for scalability. I leveraged existing tools like teleconferencing, shared calendars, WiFi, and remote access to increase reach – and then reached out regularly. I made sure I was easy to manage.
I had to make hard decisions – like whether time spent in meetings (especially recurring ones) was truly collaborative, or if it could be reduced or eliminated. I regularly shared my priorities and commitments with managers, coworkers, and customers. I started scheduling breaks, times to be creative, and outlined what I could do when I knew I'd be distracted. I respected "hard stops," weekends, vacations, and the time of others.
While writing this, I was having difficulty turning a collection of thoughts into a cohesive piece. So I decided to move to a nearby coffee shop. I don't know if it was the change, activity, fresh air, beautiful day, or caffeine, but the words began to flow. Sometimes getting out of your typical workspace is all you need.
Rather than taking time away from work or life, we can take control of both. When we do this, we can harness inspiration when it happens. We can give our best selves to coworkers, family, and friends. And we can also give ourselves the flexibility of a new way to work – anywhere.