- Workplace design greatly influences the way people feel and work in any given environment.
- However, individual preferences also dictate how we interact with a workspace and how productive we are.
- Here are 3 steps that helped Robert Kropp identify where, when, and how he works his best.
More resources are being spent every year on making our workspaces more productive.
Increasingly, we’re seeing how workspace experts are creating spaces with various types of seating, standing, and desk options. They’re also building out different sized meeting rooms and equipping them with whiteboards, markers, and new tech.
By creating these spaces, organizations are hoping to enable and better support different types of work: deep-focus, collaborative, administrative, creative, etc.
However, design changes by themselves aren’t enough.
When we work, we tend to fall into habits. These habits are typically just an order of doing tasks that haven’t been critiqued on whether they actually help us be more productive, maintain our focus, or communicate better, etc.
A Smarter Way of Working
Whether a knowledge worker is self-employed or an employee, the first step for any person to work better is to actually understand how, where, and when they work best. Once a person knows this, then he or she can use each of a workspace’s features in the best way.
It took me almost 2 years of traveling and working from many different regions and workspaces around the world to start asking myself where and how I do my best work.
My original lack of process:
Year 1: For most of the first year, I didn’t take into account what I needed from a workspace or really how I worked. I was mainly focused on checking out new coworking and shared workspaces, earning a living, meeting people, and exploring the cities I was living in for the week.
I didn’t think about what types of environments I needed for calls, how many breaks I should take throughout a day, where and when I should have meetings, or even when I should start my day. I had a few rules focused on courtesy in the workplace that I followed, but nothing that truly focused on my working needs.
Year 2: Once I pushed into the second year, I was living in Japan and fighting the challenges of large time zone differences. However, what this did was force me to really look at how, when, and where I work my best.
For a few months, I was working at home which wasn’t good for me. There wasn’t a proper office area separated from my living space and I often felt disconnected from people since I had no real work environment. I also ended up working the 3rd shift (10 PM to 6 AM), which limited what I could do during the week with others and forced a different rhythm of living.
Year 3: As I am closing up my third year now, I have finally started to find my rhythm of when I should do my creative work, where and how I should do my focused work, and noticing when I need a break. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but my new focus on introspection and self-reflection has helped to further refine how I look at using a space and working more productively.
Don’t do what I did.
Make a change today instead of waiting years.
Understanding What is Your Best Workspace Today
1. First: Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between?
Introverts are people that lose energy while with people and extroverts gain energy from people.
There are extremes and moderates of both of these, however, understanding how people drive your energy level is a great start for selecting the best workspace for different kinds of work.
Personally, I need to be surrounded by people to stay productive.
The energy of people moving around creates a more focused version of myself. If I am home alone instead of at an external shared or traditional workspace, I notice my mind wandering more and moving toward watching videos, cleaning up, eating, etc. Basically, my mind is searching for stimuli if I work alone and it is difficult to focus on the work I need to get done.
2. Next: Get up and walk around your office
Whether it is a cubicle or office in your government or corporate office, a desk in an open floor plan of a flexible workspace, or even at home, just walk around your current office and review the workspaces you have available.
Where is it louder or quieter?
Are some coworkers, if you have them, louder, more chatty, etc? Do you need to stay away from those areas during certain times of the day?
Is there too much or too little light in a space?
How comfortable is the furniture, the meeting room space, the phonebooth, etc?
How long could or should you be in that type of space?
I noticed in some countries and workplaces that the hot desks specifically have seats and tables that are less ergonomic and seem to be meant to be sat in for a shorter time period.
They look nice, but are hardly meant for 40 hours of work a week. Unless you have an elevated monitor and a computer chair, your back will likely hurt at some point, and I tend to get distracted after working in these spaces for too long.
Do windows have a distracting or calming effect on you?
Where are the break rooms, kitchen, etc? How loud are these spaces when busy?
With all of this and more observations, start to make a few assumptions about where you would do your best work:
For some of you, all types of work can be done well in one space. For others, moving around to different spaces throughout the day will keep you more productive.
I generally break down my day like this:
- Early morning – Creative work in an open space surrounded by people.
- Mid day / early afternoon – Focused work away from windows. I also tend to move in and out of a phonebooth or meeting room in order to have calls.
- I have a dip in productivity around 2 or 3 PM. I should take a short break, walk outside, talk to someone, have a coffee, etc.
- Mid afternoon / Early evening – Move back to open space surrounded by people to finish up the day. I often will still have calls which will put me back into a phonebooth or meeting room. I should also wrap up any remaining focused work, admin, emails, responses, and prepare for the next day.
Note: Since I am a digital nomad and work remotely with many different organizations, I don’t really use any in person collaborative space. Besides, I generally collaborate online through video chats and screen sharing. I do move to big open tables and close the laptop sometimes if I want to draw out an idea. However, this will vary based on how you work.
3. Lastly: Once you come up with how you work best, test it out and tweak it.
During this short test, try to pay attention to when you unconsciously change screens to your email, an entertainment site, your phone, go have a snack or anything else more than normal.
Do you have a habit that starts showing when you get more stressed or tired that shows you need to change locations in the office or take a few minutes to have a coffee or grab a glass of water?
Even subtle breaks can be helpful for reenergizing and refocusing.
The key is to start paying attention more to yourself and how you are feeling.
When you start noticing a change, ask yourself what brought on that change. Did it make you feel better or worse? If you are able to identify what it was, you’re on the right path towards smarter working.
As you start to do this introspection and self-reflection more, you can build different habits or even a schedule of changing the workspaces that you work in throughout the day so that you can become more productive.
As you can see from my experience, breaking out my best working schedule took some time and definitely some trial and error. Get started today on what works for you and even your teams. You won’t regret it.
What do you, your employees, and your coworkers plan to do during the day to help determine what works best for each person? Tell me about it.
Remember: people don’t naturally fit into uniform boxes. There is likely a slightly different approach needed for each person.