Knowledge workers don’t need machines — thanks to digitalization, there’s no need for paper files either. All work tools and information are available digitally that can be accessed from anywhere (if the company has a reasonably up-to-date IT infrastructure).
So what does this mean when choosing a workplace? What does the ideal workplace look like? And does the ideal workplace even exist?
I’ll jump directly to the last question and respond with: No.
There’s no general suitable workplace
The optimum workplace very much depends on the current task. It differs significantly between different knowledge workers, but above all between the specific tasks. Bringing a rather boring topic to an end requires a different environment than developing new creative ideas together with others. And focused working on a topic requires a different environment than approaching a new topic with an open mind.
We can see that it’s not only about the necessary tools (such as a whiteboard) and the people, but it’s also about the environment. Because this has a considerable influence on the way we think and the ability of the brain to focus or open up.
In the classic world of work, I’ve often had the impression that many managers believe that work shouldn’t be fun. And that work should take place in a strict environment. Complaining about stressful working conditions is part of good manners. The office is the default workplace.
I’ve never heard anyone say that they go to the office to work on something in a concentrated way. If this statement is made, then it’s meant by off-peak hours or the weekend. But especially for knowledge workers, there’s often the requirement to concentrate on something.
Just try out new workstations
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that Frontastic is a remote first company with no fixed location. It means that in the last 2 years, I’ve worked in very different places and have had many positive experiences. For example, I prefer to write articles like these while out walking with a smartphone in my hand. While complex tables are best edited in my home office on 2 large monitors. But if I need to work on a project that requires constant attention, I succeed very well in the garden on the deckchair with noise-canceling headphones on my ears and the notebook on my legs. And if I get stuck, a change of location usually helps — a walk is the 2nd stage of escalation, anyway.
Last winter, we did a “ski-and-work” as a company and had very positive experiences. I’ve done several “bike-and-work” sessions by myself and have also had some positive experiences. But the crucial thing with these forms of working is that the tasks fit the environment. Having a lot of personal video calls scattered throughout the day while attending “ski-and-work” is rather unfavorable. While topics such as concentrated collaboration and creativity are in good hands here.
It’s not about the time we spend working, but using our time to produce a lot of good output
Especially in very busy times, it’s simply good to leave the ordinary four walls and continue working at a different place. I can highly recommend trying a park bench with a nice view or a stylish café or cozy restaurant. Depending on your personal needs, noise-canceling headphones are an important companion.
Of course, I always try to balance my personal well-being and the goals of my company. And I assume that every employee who is managed sensibly does the same. However, if one leads solely through pressure and control, this may not work so well. But that’s a different topic for another article.
Henning is a Software Expert with strong enterprise skills. He’s worked in many management positions like Product Management, Marketing, Business Development, and Digitalization. He’s one of the Co-founders of Frontastic and works as Integrator and COO.