I am working flat out to write the Guidebook to go alongside the ‘Finding your Campfire’ webinars. Through this week i will be #WorkingOutLoud to share my progress. Today, part of the first chapter, on ‘Packing your Backpack’. Please note that this is not intended to be perfect work, and is shared un-proofed and at speed.
Part 2: Packing Your Backpack
The weight of the move to remote working will be carried by us all, as individuals: organisations will see an impact in terms of productivity and profit, but the emotional and social cost will be carried by the team. As we set off from the office, with laptop tucked under one arm, and our pot plant held in the other, in this section we will explore the foundations of successful remote working.
Creating your Space
Without an office, we must create our spaces for work, to avoid working in our spaces to play.
One of the most important things for us to do is to create our space: space for work, and space for home. We must separate our spaces.
Offices are curated spaces, which separate space by power, and function. When you ‘join’ an organisation, you are typically ‘given’ a ‘space’ to work in. And you pretty quickly learn which spaces you cannot work in (e.g. the Boardroom or CEOs office).
So it stands to reason that as you remote work, you may wish to do the same yourself: give yourself your working spaces, and decide which spaces are forbidden to work in.
When work happens in the office, and family and Netflix happen at home, our lives are segregated, and aside from emails on our phone, it’s reasonably easy to maintain a perspective and separation.
But now all that has gone: and without deliberate effort, we may end up swamped in a grey space where nothing is truly ‘offline’, and everything tastes of work.
The risk of this is that there is no ‘up’, and no ‘down’, we just grind away and forget which day it is.
The Importance of Separation – no sofa surfing
Separation allows us to work and play: it gives us purpose, and the foundations that will allow us to achieve that purpose.
Having an office and a home is one way of separating the spaces: geographically. But when we are all remote working, geography is not an option. So what will we have instead?
Start by creating separate spaces: for example, if you are working at your dining table, choose a chair and place to work. But make it different from the chair and space that you sit in for dinner. Create separation.
Of course, our home spaces are small, so we cannot physically separate them very much at all, so some of the separation will take place in other ways:
- We can separate space by naming it
- We can separate space by time
- We can separate space by artefacts
- We can separate space by ownership and control
- We can separate space by membership
For example, i am writing this from ‘The Lab’. The Lab is not a high tech, white floored space, which i don a lab coat to enter. It’s just an Ercol dining chair at an oak desk. But when i say to my family, or to my Sea Salt Crew Mates that i am ‘going to the Lab’, then understand that it means i am working. So work rules apply. This space is separated by name.
Similarly, you could separate things by time: so maybe 12:00-13:00 is always lunchbreak, so the kitchen table becomes the canteen.
Separation by artefacts is super important, and can best be summarised by your laptop cable: when you are working, have your laptop and papers out, and when you are done for the day, physically remove it, box it up, and put it out of sight. Don’t leave your laptop on the bed, on the kitchen surface, or next to the TV. Separate your space. Perhaps you even have a ‘work mug’, and a home one.
You can give your children control or ownership of their school desk or space, and you can create separated spaces that require membership to enter. For example, one friend has created ‘Security Badges’ for the whole family, and they wear these to enter what used to be the dining room, but is now the school/office.
All of these are small things, but small things are what create culture, tempo, and momentum. And stick to them rigorously. Separation of space may keep us sane.
I am running the ‘Finding your Campfire’ webinars for at least the next three weeks: you can sign up on various timezones here.