020: Physical Spaces for Work



The space you work in is just as important as the systems you use. In today’s episode, Justin discusses considerations around a few common work locations.


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00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about physical spaces for work. In today’s modern workplace we’re thinking a lot about deep work and that often means that the place you’re working needs to fit the work that you’re doing just as your systems do. If you’ve worked in a traditional open concept office environment full of cubicles and all of the like, you understand that in a place like that it can be a little difficult to get work done. In fact, it’s part of the reason why remote work is so attractive both to people working in a corporate environment and people working in a remote only type company. You can work wherever you want to, you have flexibility and that means you can also have space to focus on getting the most important work done.

00:58 Now, as I’ve mentioned in the past, had been a remote worker for about the last seven years or so. And I’ve been putting some thought into the pros and cons of different types of spaces that I’ve had experience with working in. The first space and one of my favorites is the quote unquote coffee shop. Now this can be a coffee shop proper or it can be a library or some other place that’s not necessarily a dedicated workspace, but it usually has wifi, some kind of Internet connection, uh, and some places to sit for a longer period of time where you can actually get some work done. These places tend to be fairly inexpensive to use. I mean, you can go to a coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee, you can go to the library, especially if you have a library card, you can, you know, research materials while you’re there if you need to or just hang out and use the internet.

01:42 It’s easy to change things up and go to different places throughout the day or throughout the week. The other big thing too, especially if you’re working remotely, is that coffee shop type venues tend to be semi social. You can either run into friends while you’re there, you can meet people over lunch period very easily or just chat with the people that are around you. However, coffee shops do have some downsides. They can be loud and distracting because frankly not everybody is there to work. If you go to a coffee shop proper, it does require you generally to buy food. Sure, you can go in and squat a table at a coffee shop, but you definitely won’t be making friends there by doing that, so it’s better to buy a cup of coffee or buy a sandwich for lunch and hang out for a little while. Additionally, you might not be able to stay at a place like that for more than a couple hours depending on how busy it is.

02:33 Now where I live, traffic is pretty low because it’s a fairly small town, but in larger areas, especially with buildings that are smaller, where there’s not as much seating, it might not be polite to sit in a coffee shop for four to six hours to get your work done. So it’s something to consider. The other big thing too with coffee shops is that it’s going to require a mobile computing device to get your work done. And depending on the type of work that you can do that might be inconvenient. So if you are trying to edit some 4K video on a laptop that might be slightly under powered, your, they’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new more expensive laptop or you’re going to have to deal with what you’ve got until you can work in another space. Lastly, in these coffee shops, and this is the one experience that I’ve had more consistently with them, is that the Wifi might be less than stellar.

03:22 Usually what happens in coffee shops is that they have one wireless access point installed and with the way wireless works, the more devices that you have connected to it, the lower your connection speeds and so it causes a pretty big problem there for people who are actually trying to get stuff done. Something to consider, but coffee shops are kind of my favorite place to go, especially when I need to get out of the house.

03:43 The other place that you can go if you need to get out of the house to do work or you don’t have a space in your home is a coworking space. Now, not everybody has access to a coworking space, but even in my small town, we have one available here which is really great, but not every community is going to have one available. If you do, there are some definite benefits to using it.

04:05 For example, everybody there is going there to do the same thing, which is to work. It’s a dedicated environment to get work done. Additionally, if you need some extra space such as if you’re doing a video conference call or if you need some time to brainstorm some stuff out on a whiteboard, usually these coworking spaces have meeting spaces that you can check out for a couple of hours to do that. The other benefit of coworking spaces that you can often collaborate or connect with others that are in different industries or have different roles. It can be a great place to make connections, especially if you’re self employed, to develop relationships with other people in other industries or other facets of the same industry that you’re in. And also coworking spaces tend to prioritize quality connectivity. However, one of the things with coworking spaces is that they’re often distracting because many of them are open concept focus unless you want to pay a premium price to get a dedicated office space, which that also lends into the next point about where coworking spaces can have a drawback is that they’re often expensive.

05:11 You need to have a budget to be able to afford to work consistently at a coworking space unless you’re planning on working there just one or two days a week. And the same deal with the coffee shops is that unless you have a dedicated office, you still have to use a mobile computing device. And again, depending on the type of work that you’re doing, that might be an inconvenience for you.

05:31 The beauty of both the coffee shop and coworking spaces that they’re flexible, but the ultimate flexibility comes in the home office. And this is my go to, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a dedicated home office. I have my desk set up in my bedroom right next to my bed and I’ve been doing that for about the last two years and we’ll talk about that in just a little bit. But one of the benefits of having your in your home is that you’re in full control. You get to choose what equipment you have there, the Internet that you have, the aesthetics of the room, including the colors and decor and configuration. If you want to have a cool sofa behind you that you can sit on and do other type work ,and plus you can do pajama days. No one’s gonna yell at you if you crawl into bed and go over to your desk. Whereas you might get some scowls and odd looks if you’re going to the coworking space like that, unless some coworking space out there has pajama days. Ultimately the home office is a great solution. If you need a place to consistently work, you have the ability to put your brand new $5,000 Mac Pro on the desk there, leave it there and not have to worry about anybody stealing it and getting the work done that you need to get done.

06:42 You can record podcasts, you can do videos, whatever you need to do in that environment if the environment you have created is suitable for it. Whereas in coworking spaces and coffee shops, usually not the best places to record podcasts. However, there are some downsides to working at home in your own office. And the number one that I have run into is that there’s often very little social interaction. You might have a spouse or significant other children at home, so they’ll tend to be the ones that you’ll interact with throughout the day. Um, but otherwise, unless you’re very intentional to get out of the house, you might not have as much interaction with people on a day to day basis. On the flip side, even though it can be a little quiet when there’s not many people around, and that’s great for getting some good work done, it can be really loud if you have young kids at home during the day.

07:31 The other downside too is that if you really want to get invested in having a nice aesthetic in your office or having really nice equipment there, it can take some time and some money to get things set up the way you want. The other main thing which we’re coming back to, I mentioned earlier, is the heavy space requirement. You either need to have a whole room or part of one that you can dedicate to an office environment. So as I mentioned earlier, I have my desk next to my bed in my bedroom and some folks say, especially when you’re working remotely that you need to have a dedicated room. I say, no you don’t. If you can be disciplined about it. I’ve had my desk next to my bed for the last two years and one of my main qualms with making that move initially when doing that was, man, I just don’t want this to affect my sleep.

08:19 I don’t want to be working in the same place that I am sleeping. And I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t affected me one bit. I haven’t noticed a difference in my sleep patterns after making this change after two years. Maybe that’s because I have young kids at home and I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I did previously anyway, but I can kind of say conclusively for me that it hasn’t made a big difference. And that’s because I have routines in place and clear work time boundaries. If I’m sitting down at the computer, I’m doing work. If I’m not sitting at the computer, I’m not doing work. I don’t do work on my bed. I don’t do work generally in the living room. I don’t do work at my dinner table. I don’t do work generally after five or six o’clock at night.

09:03 I don’t do work generally before eight o’clock in the morning and I’d generally, unless I have to catch up on something, don’t do work on the weekends. It’s really easy because I’ve made that decision in my mind already ahead of time that that between eight and five Monday through Friday are my work times. I don’t always stick to that, but that’s the general frame of reference that I have. I also have a startup routine that I go through in the morning and I try to go through a shutdown routine before I’m done with work at the end of the day. So if you want to have a home office, if you don’t have access to a coworking space and you need a space that you can go to to do work, or if you don’t want to go to a coffee shop every day and be forced to buy something, to utilize the space just to be courteous.

09:47 Having a home office, even in a corner of a room is a good idea. There are other options, but when looking at these three, how do you decide what to do? I mentioned that I really like having a home office and going to coffee shops. It gives me enough balance in my week to have focused on uninterrupted space, but also go out, get out of the house, maybe see some people and have some social interaction throughout the week. What I have found most important isn’t necessarily the one particular environment that you’re working in, but the ability to change it. Since I work at home most days I need to get out of the house just to stay sane sometimes. But for you, maybe you need the routine of going somewhere else every day. Maybe you need to have that commute time between your house and a place to get your work done to actually get your body and your brain to transition from sleep mode to work mode and work mode did not work mode.

10:42 Then maybe something like a coworking space would be a good option for you. Ultimately, when you’re making decisions about physical spaces that you’re working in, you have to factor in a few variables. One is the amount of deep work that your job requires you to do. If your work requires you to focus deeply for longer periods of time, such as if you’re a developer or you’re editing a particular piece of audio such as a podcast, you might want to make sure that you have a place where you can go to do some deep work focusing such as a home office or our coworking office or even at a coffee shop that is fairly quiet and you can kind of get away from people. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that you have a computer or mobile computing device that does exactly what you need it to do when you’re out and about.

11:30 I know of people who tend to do a lot of video editing, but they also tend to work out and about a lot and they’ve just made the concession that they’re going to work on their video editing when they’re at home in their home office on their nice powerful computer and when they’re out and about, they’re not going to do that stuff. However, if you need that mobile computing power, there’s plenty of computers and laptops that are out that can do very CPU and graphics intensive tasks while you’re out and about. If you’re going to work from coffee shops or other places like that, you need to know if you can survive on variable internet or not. It’s very common for these places to have the Internet go out when people are using them and so either you gotta be prepared to have your phone for a hotspot or be able to work without Internet for a period of time.

12:18 Another consideration is the number of meetings that you need to have via phone or video. If you’re on a role that requires you to be on conference calls with people all day, going to coffee shops to get your work done may not be the best choice. You might want to look at having a coworking space where you can rent meeting spaces or using your home office. And the last two are focusing on kind of some practical items. One is your budget. If you can’t afford a coworking space, can you afford to go out to a coffee shop or can you afford to have space in your home dedicated to a home office? When we’re talking space in a house, you really equating that to money because the more space you have in house, the higher cost the house is or a higher cost the apartment is. So that’s, that’s definitely something you need to consider.

13:03 Ultimately you need to decide what’s important for you when you’re looking at where you’re working, whether you’re a remote worker working for an all remote company or you work from home for a few days a week, or if you’re just looking to get out of the office for a little while to get some work done in a different environment. There’s a number of items that we’ve discussed today that are important to consider in doing so. It is absolutely amazing the things that we can do today through the Internet and with technology. We can work with people that are all around the globe in the same company on the same task at the same time. It’s absolutely amazing. And with that gives us all of these options of where we can work.

13:48 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more, consider signing up for our Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using code PROCESS19 when signing up at productivityguild.com/courses. Lastly, if you liked this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.


Literally the day after I recorded this episode, I was at a coffee shop and about 25 college-aged girls came in and just trashed the wifi as they all connected…

be prepared

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I have enjoyed every episode, great job Justin. I can even imagine the amount of time is needed to prepare a podcast, but hats off.

This was a good episode yet I do not feel that I fall into this category. I work at work in my office and live at home. I try to keep each of these as distinct as possible, but we know how life is. I still found a good amount of useful tips and tricks, thanks for sharing.

I have noticed recently that with the amount of projects, tasks, and responsibilities that I have assumed, I have become quite a bit overwhelmed. My task manager does a good job of reminding me of things I need to accomplish. What I found interesting in this episode is when you discussed your start up and ending routines, can you go into detail on these? I have an ending routine setup, but I can never figure out how to start it. I usually work straight up until I leave the office. Having an understanding of how to slow things down and focus on quality over quantity would help me physically and mentally.

Thanks for posting these podcasts, definitely one that I look forward to each week.

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I’ve followed something that I noticed at many of my local banks. They close up the bank at 4:00 pm but the employees stay up until 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm to reconcile.

I set up a Due app reminder to ding at 4:30 pm every day and have it ding every 30 minutes. I reserve time to do my shutdown ritual which includes processing my inboxes and choosing the first 3 tasks to work on for tomorrow. I also prepare my Mac to open the proper apps open the proper documents to work on for the next morning. When I start the new day, I can hit the ground running and can immediately start. I also set up my desk by putting out the physical folders and office supplies needed to immediately start work on tomorrow.

I’ve found that I try to get all my work finished before my 4:30 pm shutdown ritual. Compressing that amount of time I work on my daily duties gives me a sense of urgency to try to finish before 4:30 pm instead of the actual end of workday at 6:30 pm for me.

In Justin’s case, he finishes work at 5:00 pm. But I’d probably start my shutdown routine at least 30 minutes to 45 minutes before. Reserving the last part of my day to prepare for tomorrow helps me reduce the time needed to get started the next day.

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Thanks so much @Brenaud10. I’m so glad you have enjoyed the podcast!

This was my hope – that even folks who work in an office would still find the thoughts helpful. There are many situations when I worked corporate where I wish I had prepared for poor wifi or a day I worked from home.

Yes! I wrote up an article previously on the subject –

However, it’s a great subject for the podcast, too, so I’ll stick it on the docket for this week or next.

Yes this is exactly the idea – the trick is remembering to wind down before I need to be done… :slight_smile: