The office is pointless: The case for working from anywhere else

Where do you go when you want to get something done?

And yes, by “something” I mean work.

The answer to this question is often something like…

  • A place (e.g. kitchen, home-study area, coffee shop);
  • A means of transport (getting work done on the commute, the plane or train);
  • You might even hear a time of the day as a response (early morning, late at night or catching up at the weekends).

What’s missing here? Oh, that’s right, the office.

Why is work not the most productive place for work?

Simply, it is difficult to be productive when people keep pulling you aside all the time. The boss, meetings, helping out (or just chatting) to colleagues.

This is particularly true for creatives.

You can’t ask someone to get creative in 15 mins, come back in for a meeting, a coffee, a chat and get creative for another 20 mins before we start the cycle again.

Creatives often require long periods of uninterrupted time to get going. I know I do in my job.

A work day is typically 8 hours, right? But how many of these are spent on uninterrupted work? Usually very little. This is why people get there early, stay late or end up getting work done at home or during the commute. (Sleep and work are also very closely related – so this cycle doesn’t help matters, either).

How can you be expected to go to work, simply to be interrupted all the time?

Employers say they don’t want people home-working due to distractions – but I find that the distractions at work are often so much greater…

Home/Travel distractions

As Jason Fried so eloquently said in a great Ted Talk on the subject, what you have at home tend to be voluntary distractions – turning on the TV, sitting at the couch, Facebook, etc. These are all things which are capable of distracting you, but these are also things you can turn on or off, or manage.

I often get asked how I manage to work from home or while travelling.  If you have deadlines and you want to hand someone a bill, you will certainly find a way of motivating yourself.

He is cute, so let’s call this a voluntary distraction…

Work distractions

Meanwhile, work is full of involuntary distractions – which you rarely have control over and which literally hamper your ability to work when you are at your most productive –  managers and meetings.

When managers aren’t interrupting you, they are organising your next meeting.

Guess what? meetings lead to more meetings, often with plenty of people who don’t actually need to be there.

Meetings are expensive…

1 person x 1 meeting x 1 hour = 1 hour wasted.

Taking 10 people out for an hour each = 10 hours wasted.

So, back to the question…

Where do we go to get stuff done?

My answer: Not at the office because it usually isn’t going to be where we are at out most productive.

I suppose we could all work in the office and just not talk to each other. But I’m not that miserable! Distractions are a normal part of life and it is better (and more productive) if you have the ability to control them. Comfort, sleep and inspiration with few involuntary distractions – these things all have positive effects on our productivity.

So, a more reasonable response would be to work from wherever you are at your most productive – from the comforts of our home, the coffee shop, and indeed anywhere in the world.

Surely this is the case for most office workers?

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