Last Monday, I walked to work.
I walked out of my front door, down the hill, across the footbridge over the railway bridge and along the seafront path. Then I walked back over a bridge, up the hill and back through my front door.
(Yes, I was working at home that day).
In my thirteen years working as an independent, juggling multiple roles, disciplines and activities, my relationship with work has changed. And this is what I’ve learned:
Work is a mindset, not a place I go.
Adopting the right mindset when I’m working at home means I need to place some punctuation marks between having breakfast with my family and starting work in my attic. Hence I choose to walk ‘to work’….
But ‘work’ is not one place, I work from a variety of spaces: coffee shops, members’ clubs, client offices, but more importantly, all the places in between: train carriages, pavements and bus seats.
For my father’s generation, work was a place he went to. My Dad traveled to an office to work, he came home (mostly) not to work. Today even those of us who have traditional offices, still work from our sofas and bedrooms.
The boundaries have been torn down.
That creates some challenges. I’m getting better at placing distance between work and non-work (such as last Monday’s walk-to-work). I’ve introduced rules about using my iPhone in bed, about how much I work at the weekends. I think I’m luckier than my father’s generation. I’m writing this in a creative, social space — a members’ club in central London — where looking around you can’t tell who is at work and who is at play. It’s all mixed up.
Working where you work best is about finding those places that provide the most creative energy, where you’re in your element.
Last week my most productive work spaces included a terrace outside a coffee shop and a record store cafe in east London (photo above). I acknowledge that a terrace buzzing with conversation and a loud record shop may not be everyone’s ideal workspace, but that’s the whole point. Because they were ‘me’, they are where the ideas flowed, where things got done. They delivered the right mindset. Here I got my best work done.
Remember the days before wifi and smart ‘phones when we’d activate ‘out of office’ email alerts when we left our desks for long periods of time? Shortly after I went independent, I went to visit a client for the day so set my ‘out of office’ response. My friend David replied:
“What do you mean you are out of the office?? You ARE your office”.
And he was right; I am my office. Like most of us I have my best ideas walking to the train or in the shower. And the idea that we’d do all our best work in a single location, sitting at a desk in an office, seems very flawed.
Ian Sanders is an advisor, a Financial Times writer and a business storyteller. He’s driven by coffee and curiosity