Friday, 26 June 2015

Walkabout

This month I relinquished my office and became a mobile worker...without a permanent base.  In this blog I'm reflecting on the experience and how I'm adapting to it. 

I'd also be interesting to hear others experiences of mobile working and whether it has worked for you and your organisations. 

I'd had my own office for longer than I care to remember and had got used to sitting on my own. I'm an introvert and that suits me, I don't need interaction with others in order to do my best thinking or my best work. My favourite office was undoubtedly the last one I had...designed almost for me and with my personality stamped on it. 

But realistically I had a low occupancy rate, probably only being in the office at my desk for about 50% of the time over the last year and every likelihood that this would reduce further in the coming year. So there was no sense in me having an office. 

And so I gave up my office, and have spent a month hot desking at different locations, and working from both home, hotels and coffee shops. Oh, and the car. 

Before I did this I looked at what was happening from a mobile working perspective in the wider economy to try to see what challenges I'd face and what I might enjoy. One of the articles I read was THIS.  Another was THIS. Have a read yourself then come back and compare my experiences. 

So how's it been?

It's had its ups and downs. 

I should qualify what follows by saying that I'm in favour of mobile working and that on the whole I'm glad I made the switch, and it's helped me to understand the transition and feelings of many staff in organisations I've worked in who have gone through the transition too. 

But here's what I had to get used to and what was hard at first...

- no desk means no pedestal/drawers and therefore no storage. Now I hardly used paper anyway so it's not filing I'm talking about. But where do you put your phone, spare pens, charger, and anything else you need to put away somewhere?  

- no drawers means no storage full stop. When people give me paper I have to ask them for an electronic copy or get it scanned myself. Training courses and conferences are the worst for this, they assume you have a filing cabinet to put their laminated brochure in or the printed copy of the slides 

- it also means not carrying a pen with me or having easy access to one so having to beg, borrow and steal these items

- it makes printing difficult on the odd occasions I need to do it, and scanning too. I have to consciously go and log on to a desk somewhere and access the print in that way. But I might not be near a desk for a couple of days

- it means no landline desk phone. I still have an extension, but might only log on to that one day out of five. So I have to use my mobile, which is fine unless I am at home where the mobile signal is terrible. It also means that I'm using my mobile and iPad more in the office, draining its battery and not having access to chargers so I have to charge both in the car during my commute or make sure they are charged overnight

- it means no car park space at the office, which means longer walks from a further away space and which adds to the commute

- it means I don't know where I will sit when I get to one of the offices each day, or even which office to turn up at some days. That can be good (see later), but it means that as I'm hotdesking I can't guarantee there being a desk available at any given location on any day, or even if a desk is still available when I come back from lunch

- it means I can't swear when I put the phone down from a difficult call or when reading a tense email, as there are people around me who can hear! And believe me my solo office was privy to both these things

- finally, by far the worst thing, and if I'm honest the only thing that really bothers me (all the above are tongue in cheek) - I've nowhere to put up a photo of my kids, upon whose faces I would gaze multiple times a day and smile. 

But its been a good thing in general...

- its given me a lot of freedom in terms of where and when I work - I work across three or four offices, plus home, and am not necessarily tied to the times when those offices are open (although the majority of my work is in those times)

- it means traffic jams on the way to work in one office become opportunities to divert and work at another one, so I don't get annoyed at these any more

- its made me more flexible and adaptable to meet customer demands - I can turn up at any office almost at the drop of a hat and not feel like I am a stranger

- the time I get whilst spending more time in the car driving from office to office is actually quite productive, I get a lot of thinking time to plan stuff out and reflect, and I can make and receive plenty of phone calls using the bluetooth connection to the car, meaning I clear a few tasks also

- my use of (and reliance on) technology has gone up, and that's good because I'm constantly connected now to what's going on in my organisation and in my wider networks, and feel I'm only a couple of clicks away from an answer, or at least a question

- I get to see and work with a much wider range of people than before, sometimes different every day, and therefore building more relationships 

- I have access to photos of my kids on every device so they're always with me no matter where I go

- I get to work in the "coffice" (coffee shop / office) and have meetings there as I don't have a meeting table in an office any more, and notice how many other people do the same - its a genuinely nice environment

- And, to my surprise, despite not being tucked away in my own office and being exposed to chit-chat and gossip, I find I am more productive.  I find myself having to work in short bursts rather than one long day, and get more done, and use the extremes of the working day to good effect in this regard.

So has it been good?

Yes.

Would I go back?

It was nice having my own space, but I've needed to redefine what "my own space" actually means - its about relationships, whether virtual or IRL, and its about use of technology to stay connected.  Its about having several spaces and feeling comfortable wherever that is as long as you're connected.  And its about making better use of the time available to be productive.

So I'm all for mobile working.

But I wonder what the future holds if others start to feel the same way.  Already at GGHT over 50% of staff work in this way.  If that's a growing trend, maybe future offices will be more like shared spaces for meetings and collaboration.  Maybe the "coffice" will be a second home to some?

What do you think?

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, the holiday surrounding the wedding is booked, and a honeymoon destination chosen (a cruise to Norway).  And my fiancee goes back to work next week following the end of her maternity leave, meaning a) a change of jobs since she had to leave her previous one when she couldn't return there part-time, and b) Poppy goes to nursery at the tender age of 8 months!  All change!