I take the word “from” in “Working from Home” to mean that I can work anywhere within easy access of my home location. While I have a place in my home where I primarily work, I do not regard it as the only place where I can work.
The organisation I work for is quite flexible about my working location, I could work almost anywhere, but I like my home. I’m conscious in writing this post that there are people whose work doesn’t look anything like the pattern I’m about to describe. Some of that is because your work needs you to be at a screen all the time, I’m also conscious that some people work in organisations where your screen time is being monitored all the time. What I am about to say probably isn’t overly helpful if your work looks like this. If you work in the later type of organisation, I would seriously question the motivation behind that monitoring.
For many of us, our work includes times when we could be somewhere other than sat at our main screen setup – and there are times when we should. A change of location can have a significant impact on how we see things.
There are times and types of meetings that require us to work in our “office” location. It’s not good manners to do a video call in your local coffee shop. My main reason for saying this is that you don’t want to be that person who disturbs all the other people enjoying their daily brew. Here in the UK we are mostly too reserved to say something, but there are times when we want to walk over and unplug you or push you out of the door. There are also, probably, good security reasons, but most of the time the issue is good manners.
For the other times there are good reasons why you should consider working in different places, even if it’s a change of location within your home.
Within the traditional office space many organisations have been embracing an approach known as “activity based architecture”, or “activity based working” for some time. This approach defines areas within a location and designs them to encourage distinct types of activity. There’s quite a lot of thought gone into that trendy new office with spaces for quiet working, stand-up meetings, one-to-one spaces, etc. Organisations aren’t doing this just because it makes for a cool looking office, they are trying to create productive places.
Our surroundings can have a significant impact on our how we think.
A simple example may be to think about ceiling height. Yes, even the height of the ceiling can have an impact, in this case, the impact is on creativity. There are studies that have shown that a high ceiling increases people’s ability to think creatively. How high should the ceiling be to make a difference? Preferably over 3 metres, or 10 feet, it’s known by some as the Cathedral Effect, I’m sure you can understand why.
Speaking personally, the only place in my house where the ceiling is anything like that high is halfway up the stairs. What I do have, though, is a garden, and there the ceiling is significantly higher than 3 metres. Some of my best thinking is done outside, sat at a table with sheets of A3 paper and a pen. However, rain is a characteristic of the weather where I live, and it’s not always possible to work in the garden, that’s when a local coffee shop provides me with some headspace.
For everyone wondering. Yes, low ceilings are supposed to produce a different effect, and that’s the ability to focus.
The effects produced by high or low ceilingsJ. Meyers-Levy, R. Zhu (2007) The influence of ceiling height
actually occur because such ceiling heights increase or
decrease vertical room volume, which in turn stimulates
alternative concepts and types of processing.
Another example. There are times when I need to review a long report. My normal place of work is a place prone to interruption, not by family or anything like that, but by the screens and the constant flow of notifications. This is when I choose a place in my house where there’s an armchair and the notification noise is minimal (and the ceiling is relatively low). It’s a wonderful place to give something some extended focussed thought. I’m someone who prefers to review material on paper and with a pen.
I’m also privileged enough to have a comfortable seat in the home office which I use when I want to think differently about something. It’s still close to the screens and tends to be the place where I corelate several thoughts together. I often use this seating to do my daily planning, something about sitting in this seat helps me to order my thoughts.
Each working space come with a frame, sometimes the frame is visible, in others it’s not. Changing the frame can be an immense help in changing our perception and helping us to think differently.
Different people are impacted by different elements of a frame, it may not be the ceiling height for you. For some people it’s the light in a location, for others the smell, colour also has an impact, so does clutter and tidiness. The important part of this tip is that you start to recognise the frames and use them to your advantage.
Have you thought about the frames that you are working in, and how a different frame would help to create a different outcome?
The biggest challenge I have is motivating myself to get up and move to another space. I know it will do me good, but that doesn’t stop me procrastinating.
This tip has been about static space, some work is better done on the move – perhaps we’ll go there next time.
Header Image: Sunset from a local swimming spot, local enough for an evening dip. It’s a popular place in the day, leave it a little later and we get the place to ourselves.
New to Graham’s WFH Tips? Here’s a handy list to help you catch up.
- Graham’s WFH Tips – Some Advice for a Changed World
- Graham’s WFH Tip #1 – Routine is your friend
- Graham’s WFH Tip #2 – Wear Work Clothes
- Graham’s WFH Tip #3 – Put your Superpowers to work (but don’t overuse them)
- Graham’s WFH Tip #4 – Thinking Music
- Graham’s WFH Tip #5 – Enjoy You Spaces (this one)
- Graham’s WFH Tip #6 – Plan your first day back before you leave
- Graham’s WFH Tip #7 – Make Time to Stand Up and Get Moving