Workers had offices not too long ago—fabric-box cubicles for most, maybe a door if you were important enough. The décor might have been drab, and the walls might have felt like they were closing in on you, but at least they shielded you from the hell that is other people.
Today, you might be stuck sitting on a bench with a sliver of workspace—the “open office.” Your computer screen is in any peeper’s eye line, and you might as well put your calls on speaker.
Critics of open offices say they are a scourge. Employees report feeling less connected, more distracted and less productive. Illnesses spread as in a kindergarten class. Some days, you give up and work from
or your dining room.
Luckily, getting to work no longer means going to work. Work happens over videoconference and Slack, on smartphones and laptops. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace survey, 43% of people spent at least some time working away from the office. If you haven’t, maybe you should: Employees who worked remotely as many as four days a week reported being more engaged in their jobs than those in the office every day.
“When we work solo, which is about half our time…we can do that anywhere,” says Janet Pogue McLaurin, a principal at design firm Gensler. “The real reason to come to the office now is to connect with people, to be part of a team.”
One crucial way to survive in an open-plan office is to actually use the space. “It’s not so much that we need to change the desk itself,” says Lisa Iwamoto, co-founder of architecture firm IwamotoScott. “It’s more like, what are all the other spaces people can get away to in order to work?”
You’ve heard it’s healthy to stand up and move around, but research also suggests that changing spaces and even changing your posture can boost productivity. Read on the couch, chat around the table, focus at your desk, duck out for a phone call. Your desk is a home base, not your only workspace.
So now I bet you’re wondering, if you’re bouncing between coffee shops and couches and co-working spaces, where do you keep all your stuff? Let’s get into that.
Your porta-office starts with a bag. It doesn’t have to be suitcase-size, you just need a padded spot for your laptop plus plenty of zippers and pockets. For your spine’s sake I recommend a backpack. (Don’t worry, adult backpacks are cool now.) I love my $68 Everlane Modern Commuter backpack and also recommend the $109 Timbuk2 Division.
Now you need a packing list: All requisite power, connectivity and productivity tools, plus privacy safeguards, are with you at all times. They’ll all fit, I promise.
You may want an extra laptop charger to ensure you always have one with you. Maybe a mouse, too, such as Microsoft’s $80 flat-folding Arc Mouse, if you don’t love your trackpad. If you’re particularly power-conscious, you could toss in Mophie’s $150 PowerStation USB-C XXL battery pack, which has enough power to charge both your phone and your laptop, if it’s a newer USB-C model.
You’ll need lots of dongles and accessories, starting with one for connecting to a monitor or TV if you like a bigger screen at work, one for Ethernet when that’s your only option and one for plugging in all your USB accessories. A good home for all that stuff, like Bagsmart’s $20 Universal Cable Organizer, can help keep everything untangled and accessible.
Other than power, nothing is more important than ensuring connectivity. Using your phone as a portable hot spot is simple, though I’d recommend adding an LTE-capable iPad to your arsenal: It’s better than a laptop for taking handwritten notes and reading long documents, and it’s a less conspicuous way to knock off early and play some games than, say, a Nintendo Switch.
Going mobile also means going paperless. Instead of hanging pictures of your children, make them the wallpaper for your phone and laptop: You’ll look at them more that way anyway.
Download an app like Scanbot to your phone and use it to photograph every piece of paper that comes your way. The free app does the basics, and the $7 Scanbot Pro can convert documents to easily shareable text. Not only will it help you declutter, you’ll be able to file and locate everything more easily.
If you put everything in Google Drive,
or Evernote, you can even search through the contents of your documents. Just in case, keep a flash drive around for when you need to share files offline.
When you really need to focus, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones goes a long way. A pair of earbuds like the $250 Bose QC20 is a bit less conspicuous, but I recommend a big pair of over-ear cans like the $350 Bose QC35 or $400 Bowers & Wilkins PX. They both drown out ambient noise—and practically scream “Leave me alone!” to anyone nearby. For added concentration, try one of Spotify’s white-noise playlists, or apps like Coffitivity or Noisli, which simulate among other things bustling coffee shops and babbling brooks.
I have a folder on my phone called “Work Anywhere” that includes those apps and a few others: Calm, for when I need a meditative break in the middle of an airport lounge; Slack and Zoom, for when I want to keep in touch with my co-workers; and Flush, a public-restroom finder—I don’t think I need to explain that further.
With all that packed in my backpack, I can sit down almost anywhere and be immediately, fully at work, whether I’m stuck in a waiting room, for a car repair or dentist appointment. As long as my backpack’s within arm’s reach, so is my workplace. Bad for work-life balance? Maybe. But I don’t pine for a quiet office with a door to close; my office is already way bigger.
Source : WSJ