Work Is Not A Place

I read this tweet today, quoting outgoing Citrix CEO Mark Templeton :

Having worked on collaboration services for decades and promoted virtual team working, mobile working and home working for almost as long it’s my inclination to agree.  But I also find myself disagreeing, because if we only think of work as an activity that can take place anywhere we have a screen, or dial into a conference call we are missing something.  A well designed work place can add so much to the experience and the effectiveness of work.

2013-10-23 09.05.53I think work is best thought of as both a place and an activity, designed to be better together.  A good work place should be designed to maximise the effectiveness and enjoyment of different types of work activity in a way that’s very difficult if not impossible to fully achieve virtually.  Just because technology enables us to work wherever we are, we should not assume that wherever we are is the best place to work.

For example my preferred approach is to always provide the processes and tools to enable virtual participation in teams, whilst at the same time encouraging team members to co-locate in a collaborative workplace whenever a high degree of common ground is required for success. 

In my work I think of a good workplace strategy as having three components:

  1. the services that enable effective mobile, co-located and virtual team working
  2. the services that enable flexible, collaborative, space efficient physical workplace
  3. and the working practices that glue them all together

Over time technology gradually chips away at the advantages that can be provided by a well designed workplace, but it’s not there yet for many work activities.

The photo shows the Beach Terrace Cafe where I will be working over breakfast.  It’s the perfect spot for solitary reading and writing, but later today I will be in the office with a group of guys all in the same room as a whiteboard. 

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. Vince says:

    I would strongly agree but I would add that work is not just a task and a place – it is also about people – notably relationships with people. Whether trusting colleagues, or garnering respect from customers, earning the ability to be heard from managers, etc.

    The test is how effective people are in an environment where there are good relationships comported to those with poor ones.

  2. I agree completely with your point about work being the right mix of people+place+activity one of the reasons I work a lot in cafes is because I intentionally choose a place for an activity (reading/writing) that doesn’t require people. I choose a place at Chorley (the comfy chairs) because it’s fairly private, casual and relaxed and that encourages discussion and debate. So choosing the right place, for the right activity and the right type of engagement with people is key.

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