Where Work Happens

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In reading Remote: Office Not Required, I had my first revelation moment right in the first chapter of the book. Remote is broken up into parts and each part covers a specific meta-topic related to working remotely with mini-chapters within each part drilling down and covering individual points about the larger topic. In the first part, Jason Fried and DHH discuss how right now is the best time to consider and even make the transition to leaving the office behind in a traditional sense and embrace working from wherever. The very first chapter: “Why work doesn’t happen at work” made a lot of sense. I didn’t realize how right they were until I started reflecting on my past office experiences and how often I struggled to be productive.

from page 13:

If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office”…they’ll include a qualifier such as “super early in the morning before anyone gets in” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left” or “I sneak in on the weekend.”

They go on to discuss why that might be and future chapters and parts discuss how to overcome that. At the end, they pose the question to the reader: “where do you go…to get work done?” I thought about this for a bit, and realized it was never the office.

One of the biggest distractions I faced in an office was having somone approach and command time, regardless of the task at hand. Up until a few years ago, Microsoft was known for offering private offices to all its employees. Everyone got a room with a door. If the door was closed, consider coming back later or sending whatever unimportant questions and statements you wanted to blab out loud in an email. (This whole concept is covered later in the book so I won’t touch on this too much and will instead wait until we get to it to unleash some feelings on the matter.)

What makes these interruptions most difficult is that they’re not something the recipient can control. Being able to filter out the rabble from the world around you for a couple hours to focus on an important task or hammer out a solution to a coding problem you’ve had is cathartic. There’s very little going on in the office that requires someone’s immediate attention. Yes, meetings included; that’s also a topic of discussion for later.

When the day is broken up by a 10-minute interruption here and a 15-minute interruption there, it ends up being that the 8-hour work day contained 2 hours of actual work. The rest was filled with interruptions plus time to get back into focus plus more interruptions plus meetings. While I don’t mark myself as “away” all the time, I’ve tried to mitigate some of this in the remote work world I’ve curated.

Some interruptions might be necessary, but I’d bet most of them are not. There’s a reason the stereotype “developers that sit at their desks with headphones on all day are introverts that don’t want to talk to people” exists. That stereotype is half-right. They don’t want to talk to people. They know there’s better things that can be done with their time. Some of them might be introverts, but I assure you not all are. That’s your defense mechanism talking.