I remember when in 2000, I took a settlement package from the company I had been working at and set-out on my own. At the time this was quite scary but also appealing. The idea of having a backpack with laptop & charger, notebook & pen and being a “digital nomad” seemed like an incredibly exciting thing to do. I was free. Free of the shackles of working in an office. Free of the 9 to 5 grind. Free of having the same desk in the same room every day.
Each morning I would leave the house and go to one of the local coffeeshops sit myself in a corner and start “work.” By early afternoon I was finished for the day.
That always used to make me feel guilty. An 8 hour day was finished in half the time. Without countless interruptions and chats with colleagues I was free to work. To be efficient.
In the 20 years since I started working that way I have had a couple of “jobs” and worked on secondment to a couple of companies and to be frank I found the constant stream of interruptions incredibly frustrating.
John Cleese once spoke about this (I have searched for the interview on YouTube but can’t find it) but he said that to come up with some really good and creative ideas required uninterrupted time. He asserted that it took 30 minutes to get in to “the zone” where you could be creative and the biggest challenge that he ever had was his wife offering him cups of tea. 20 minutes in to him starting to ponder, his wife would knock at the door and say “fancy a cup of tea love?” he would say “no” and she would go away, then he would start relaxing and getting in to that creative frame of mind then, half an hour later just as he was starting to be effective when lo and behold his wife arrives with a cup of tea.
Now, whether you think that period to get in to the right headspace is 30 minutes or only 10 doesn’t matter, what matters is that it takes time and in a crowded office time is something you never get. So away from the office we can all be massively more productive.
Self isolating could be everyone’s chance to discover this for themselves. Remove the interruptions and perhaps we can get something positive from this whole experience. Perhaps the new 8 hour workday becomes a 5 hour workday and everyone gets to have more free time.
Coronavirus is an awful scourge to be faced with. The spectre of 12 weeks isolation becoming 6 months becoming 12 month becoming…who knows how long is not a cheery thought. However, perhaps there is something positive that can come out of this situation. In a conversation with Tim the other day he said “we could be looking at the death of the office as we know it” and perhaps we could.
So what positive work practices can you take from this situation?
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