How Does Your Work Environment Impact Your Productivity?
A sense of community increases productivity. Working in isolation tends to drain energy, brain activity and productivity. The world of work is evolving. Modern office design is quite different than it was in the early 90s when I entered the workforce. At that time large offices and walled off cubicles were the norm. The nature of work was quite different as well. We were tethered to our desks by our land line phones, there were lines of people waiting to use copy machines and the fax machines printed a steady stream of correspondences. I recall having a microwave size amber screened dummy terminal as my first work computer. Wow have times changed.
As I sit here writing about the world of work I am typing on a super slim laptop untethered and wirelessly connected to high speed internet. Sitting next to me is my mobile smartphone which keeps me connected to clients, colleagues, friends, family and prospects. I could be anywhere. In fact, I worked just as productively last week from a patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Panama, Central America. I had the same capabilities there that I do wherever I work thanks to technology.
After 20 plus years of being an office worker, having worked in large private offices in cube farms and even in a dingy basement for a tech startup at one point, I find my current work environment to be the most flexible and rewarding. Groove Managementis a virtual organization. Having worked from home for a couple of years leading my consulting firm, I found that while I was productive I was missing something. Community. I believe that we are most productive when we are surrounded by other productive people. Last year I was looking for conference meeting space to host client events in Charlotte, NC when a friend asked me if I had checked out the Advent Co-Working space. The next day I visited Advent which is a super cool co-working space. What I found was an eclectic work environment with a very positive vibe. The space is one large open room with large work tables, cool artwork, a table covered in Legos, a ping pong table, mellow mood music, comfy couches, 2 private telephone closets, a patio, a conference room, a podcast studio, a large meeting space and gender neutral bathrooms. While the physical space is great, what makes Advent and the other Charlotte co-working spaces special are the people.
I mentioned community. As an entrepreneur leading a small consulting firm, what I missed and craved while working from home was community. Each day I work at Advent I choose to sit at a different table which brings me a new perspective and an opportunity to meet and interact with different people. I bring my laptop and phone which provides me with everything I need to be productive. The founders Ryan Mitchell and Kevin Guriunas have done a great job of creating a culture for their space. There is a fish bowl of rubber duckies with a not that says that if you want to work in peace and not be disturbed, place a rubber ducky next to you, that tells others in the space to “quack off”. There are also small signs that you can put next to you that includes phrases like “I’m looking to brainstorm”, “I have good news, ask me about it” and other conversation starters. The mission for Advent is “Build a community of creativity to better ourselves and the world.”
The notion of community in the workplace is often overlooked. Community and culture go hand in hand in the workplace. While in graduate school completing my master’s degree in Organizational Development at American University one of our required classes was titled “Community Time”. This class was one of the most impactful because it created a community of learners. The class involved an unstructured ninety minutes in which we as a class sat in a circle of 20+ participants. There was no agenda and no teacher. In a world filled with structure, deadlines, competition and deliverables we were required to sit together in a circle for a free flowing conversation as a course requirement. The dynamic created by the Community Time class taught me and my classmates so much about human behavior and group dynamics. I have been applying the learnings from that class to teams and team dynamics ever since.
Working in a co-working space has provided me with a new community of friends and business contacts as well as serving to further motivate me to grow my business. Forbes magazine published an article “Why You Should Surround Yourself With Productive People For Success” which highlights the fact that productivity is contagious. I have found that the routine of commuting to the co-working office sets me in the right frame of mind to be productive and get more accomplished. My recommendation is to explore the times when you are most productive, most creative and most engaged. There are probably some common themes and your work environment most likely has great influence. Co-working filled a missing void for me and boosted my productivity.
Whether you work in a big company or you are an entrepreneur in a start-up, community plays an important role in your productivity. The modern workplace is designed to foster community and collaboration. If you work in isolation, try shifting your work environment. It will most likely lead you to be more productive and happier at work.