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Workshifting Goes To Ground

I’ve been workshifting since before there was a term for it. I started back in the late 90s, when I convinced my office that I could manage most of my project details remotely. By the early 2000s, when the company where I worked acquired a new building, I even built workshifting (then called telecommuting) into the desk counts for the office space. Years later, I brought workshifting to my marketing company, New Marketing Labs , because my home is 67 miles away from my desk.

But recently, I picked up an office space closer to home because working out of coffeeshops was getting too disruptive. And in so doing, it gave me pause to reflect on the differences between being 100% nomad and having a desk. It also gives me a new way to workshift, so I’ll share that, too.

The Immediate Stretch Out

The first thing I noticed upon getting an office is that I’ve stretched out my stuff again. I bought a second monitor right away (because living inside a laptop lid is restrictive). I had to buy all these “supplies” like an easel board and dry erase boards, so that I could have some “object permanence.” When we’re workshifting back and forth to different coffee shops, we can’t do that kind of thing.

Planning Board

Oh, and I had to start thinking about refreshments and breaks, because when you’re at a coffee shop, you’re surrounded by things to snack on and drink, but in an office environment, especially if you’ve rented your own, there’s nothing unless you bring it in.

New Benefits for Workshifting

One thing I noticed right away. The moment I had a desk in my office, I didn’t want to be tethered to my cell phone all the time for communication. I turned on Skype right away (though I roll in invisible mode all the time). I’m also renewing my GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar usage (they’re a client and the sponsor of this blog).

The benefit of having my office is that I’m not worried about all the loud noises and interruptions of others around me. It doesn’t matter when the espresso machine runs, because there’s not one in my office. So, I can use remote communications tools much more effectively here.

Having an office space away from my main office (but not a coffee shop) means that I can have more team-minded meetings again. Because I can use remote communications software, I can see everyone’s frustrated heads more easily, and that sometimes helps (because nonverbal cues are important to better understanding).

Still a Nomad at Heart

I still have to leave this office behind sometimes. Not counting airports and hotel rooms, I still have to get out to coffee shops and bookstores sometimes. I can’t stand too much silence. And hey, sometimes a change of locale helps the experience of thinking and understanding.

When all is said and done, there are benefits to having some kind of office space from time to time. Workshifting isn’t about giving up offices entirely, nor is it about staying out there away from the mothership forever. What it is about are options. The more you can work in ways that best suit your role at work as well as your roles in life, the better it is for everyone.

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Chris Brogan
Works in coffee shops, hotels, airports, aboard planes, and once or twice at the beach. He has 16 years telecom experience, but now runs a sales marketing and media consulting company. He blogs at [chrisbrogan.com].
  • Jay Hagstrom

    I like those pine tables!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

    Those are Vika Amon tables with Vika Curry legs from IKEA. Very inexpensive. Like… $60 all in for each table.

    • http://dbthomas.com David B. Thomas

      You can also buy the IKEA Numerar butcher block countertop for $89, I think, and put the same legs on them. That way you get a solid wood desk for about a hundred clams. You have to drill the holes yourself. I also put a couple of coats of polyurethane on it. Very solid and handsome desk.

  • http://my168project.com/ Matches Malone

    Great post, Chris!! I notice you’re running something to follow tweets on the second monitor. You’ve got six columns, so, I’m guessing Seesmic. Also, asked you question earlier, but it looks like you missed it :)

  • http://www.pamelahazelton.com Pamela Hazelton

    My office is at home – but it is setup like a real office and so is my husband’s. I do work remotely (usually at Starbucks or Panera) at least twice a week. Despite the fact that Joe and I work in different areas (and use the intercom to transfer calls and such), I still need to a change of environment regularly.

    For me, it’s going from 2 screens to one; on the other hand, the dog’s not there begging for attention and the cats aren’t wanting a massage.

  • http://artlifework.wordpress.com/ AnaDataGirl

    Curious: why haven’t you considered a coworking space instead of getting your own office?

  • http://twitter.com/globalspex globalspex

    Sounds a bit like coworking which I find fascinating. But the difference is you share your space with other like minded individuals. I’ve been a workshifter for years (and didn’t know it). I have an office at my home and often work at Starbuck’s (for the external chatter) but am dying to find a true office space that I could afford that would not jeopardize my bottom line.

  • Chris Snell

    Great post Chris! I wonder though – you mention that you’re not worried about all of the loud noises at the coffee shop any longer, but do you “miss” it? I think sometimes we don’t recognize how we get used to “background” noise, you know?

    Also, what do you think of Ultimate Avengers 2?

  • http://www.booksonthenightstand.com AnnKingman

    I’ve been thinking a lot about working and offices lately, too. Following up on AnaDataGirl’s thoughts, coworking (where available) is another alternative — kind of a cross between cafe/bookstore and private office. I’ve worked from home for over 20 years, and the one disadvantage for me is the lack of collaboration. It’s nice to be able to ask for a quick opinion on a design, use a colleague as a sounding board, or just unwind with a human being (though twitter has become the water cooler replacement for me). It’s the reason that my husband and I are exploring starting a coworking space in our town — I think it’s the future of work.

  • http://about.me/sueannereed Sue Anne Reed

    Chris – Interested in why you felt it was important to have an office in an actual building vs. just converting a part of your house into an office? I think that’s a question a lot of people wonder about.

  • http://www.resultsrevolution.com/ Marianna Chapman

    I took a break from the road last October – and stayed off the road other than family holiday travel for four solid months – so I was curious if you were doing something similar. But for me, there was never an office – just a break from the road. Then, in April, I added back some travel (on my own terms) but also a dedicated office space. I don’t work here even half of the time – but when I do – I spread out, write all over the whiteboards and get a LOT done. For me – my office is my space to think and spread out – I feel like I can still go somewhere (whether another office, the coffeeshop, etc.) to meet other folks and do the co-working thing when I need it.

  • http://threethirtypm.com/ Jim Gray

    i have an office here at home, but still try to get out to a coffee house at least once a week.