All those empty offices

When it comes to discussing what to do with all the empty offices of today, there are several schools of thought of this.

The Executive’s Plea

The Executives at many companies plea for everyone to return to the office (RTO). Regardless of any new perks (carrots) or threats to fire/layoff those who do not RTO (sticks), many office buildings remain empty. How many quarterly losses will it take to realize most commercial office buildings are no longer needed for the number of people that are willing to RTO? How many egos will need to be checked before they offload most of this burden that was once considered an asset?

I keep telling employers if you want me to come to your office as a 100% virtual digital knowledge worker, I will resign.

Virtual employee and employer working from home

Over the past few years, many have learned how to work from home (WFH), regardless of who their employer happens to be. Many of the tools to do the work virtually have been there for years well before we took WFH seriously and even as a necessity.

The major exception involves work have to move physical objects as part of our daily work whereas virtual work is not possible: brick-and-mortar stores selling physical products including restaurants, hospitals, factories, warehouses, shipping, and delivery, etc.

Why are they happier?

More choices. Their own individual choices. Not choices made for them.

Ultimately, work wants work done. If you can get the work done virtually, it no longer matters where you are to get it done.

No more waiting for a meeting room. A scheduled meeting is 2 clicks away. An unscheduled meeting is 1 click away. Collaboration is virtual and more visual for clarity today.

The employee’s distress and employer’s disconnect

For those who long for the commute, time at the water cooler (mostly alone), the shared bathrooms, concessions, or a presumed sense of belonging by being in a shared office space or cubical farm, many of the offices still remain open today for you come to in and work just as you did at home. Once there, you may have plenty of space to reconnect via Teams or Zoom, with the rest of your local, regional, national, or global co-workers from your office desk. Maybe you will realize the difference between home and office as well as the advantages of each. Maybe you can list them both out and see for yourself.

Maybe you miss the printer, copier or fax machine. Maybe it missed you since it needs a good dusting. My printer went to the trash a few years ago and I have no reason to get a new one since I don’t print anything, even as a published author.

You might have a short-lived thought that being in the office is better than being in your workspace at home. This is likely nostalgic or a space issue. Maybe we had a few years to figure out a better way while working remotely and take those steps to improve our own workspace.

Maybe you are assuming you can impress someone by RTO, being the first one there or the last one to leave. Maybe you think someone will notice or care. Maybe you think it shows that you are dedicated while most don’t see you except on virtual video conferencing calls and through your own work results.

Maybe the technology is too complicated to connect when a scheduled event occurs. Maybe the employer never checked with employees to ask if anyone needed help with the “new” technology. Maybe the employees never spoke up to ask for help or seek it within the software’s help menu.

Maybe you miss the whiteboards. Maybe no one shared that this feature exists on virtual video conferencing calls, allowing remote collaboration among participants. These virtual whiteboards can be saved and shared after the call unlike physical dry erase boards that require a smartphone to capture and send at the end of the meeting.

Architect’s Dream

The architect’s dream is the present state: beautiful office buildings untouched by people.

Is it worth the expense of the art? Is the art of the office building dead yet?

The hard questions to answer

Are the intended purposes of a commercial office space overstated, outdated, or simply unnecessary at the present scale?

How will we continue to justify the commercial real estate burden for unused commercial office space year after year?

When will we do the hard thing, even when something was purpose-built for yesteryear, and stop ignoring the obvious next step? Dump it. The next question is how much do you need to keep if any? Keeping read

Since there is no compelling reason to RTO in order to do the work, why do employers need employees to RTO when they are happier and more efficient while they WFH?

Stop imposing.

Ask what everyone in the company wants to do (WFH, RTO, or a hybrid of both) and the obvious next step can happen from the results.

What do you think we should do with all those empty offices?

How do I: pick a space for deep work

Doing deep work like writing a book, or planning out the details of a new project can be some of the solitary work we face at some point. There are a number of factors that help you find or create the right space for your own deep work. See if these factors apply to you.

Work Space

You decide how much room you need to work. Working remotely has its advantages since a desk is optional. If it is just enough space to hold a drink and a laptop, go for it. Some prefer an airplane seat with that size table just for their laptop. If you need a massive table, seek one out or use the floor. Having a focus-friendly workspace is key.

I finished a book in a matter of a few days at an outdoor cafe where I was able to order breakfast, lunch, dinner, and limitless drinks since that was just what I needed for that amount of deep work in order to be more efficient.

Limiting Distraction

A door can (sometimes) keep with distractions with legs on the other side of it.

If a door is not an option, noise-canceling headphones reduce noise distractions.

Mentioning to people around you that uninterrupted time to focus on a deep work task for a scheduled period of time can be respected. After all, respect is either mutual or non-existent. Don’t forget to respect your own time when focusing. Do not waste your own time.

Seating

Having comfortable supportive seating is key. Nothing too hard or too soft. High enough so legs do not fall asleep. Not causing back or neck strain. Ergonomics is a domain that I won’t cover here beyond seating.

Standing desks can work for those brief “stand up” meetings if the standing desk option is used.

Some people believe having some discomfort may actually help motivate you to get the work done, however, I don’t believe suffering from bad seating or poor posture due to seating should not be part of that. Your neck and back will thank you if you pick a good ergonomic seating option for your workspace.

Lighting

Find a well-lit spot for work. Not too bright that you need sunglasses. Not too dark that you need a flashlight to see the details. The right amount of sunlight can be very beneficial to your state of mind.

Sound

Quiet is excellent, if obtainable. The white noise of a coffee shop is sometimes welcome, but not optimal. Sometimes I need to wear noise-canceling headphones or listen to music with no lyrics (that does not put me to sleep). Deep work is not sleeping, however, rest is very important.

Temperature and humidity

Regarding temperature, I noticed that I get significantly more productive when it is cooler, but not too cool. Above 55 degrees and under 82 degrees is my preference, especially when working outside.

The air should not be too humid or dry. The humidity of 50% to 60% can feel great.

Airflow

Air in motion is a big factor while in a deep work state. Stagnant air rarely helps deep work.

Well-ventilated area. An open window. A ceiling fan can be ideal whether indoors or outdoors.

A screened-in porch with a ceiling fan works well too at the right time of the day in the right weather.

Other factors?

What other factors help you find or create the right space for your own deep work?

Also, this book about Deep Work by Cal Newport could help too:

Launched: 9th podcast and 9th book

Happy to have launched my 9th podcast series on January 5, 2022 and published my newest book on February 2, 2022. Both are titled after the niche topic of interest that you will hear a lot more about… Synthetic Media

What is next after 9 podcasts and 9 books?

More. Already more consulting. Already more speaking. Already more writing on the next two books. Already more podcasting.

There are multiple projects going on at different stages in the calendar, Gantt chart, and other goals.

Life, as well as work, is not just one project at a time. It is not about having only one project to work on at a time. That seems too boring to me if it were.

If you need to get started, yes, start with one project, but watch for that boredom and burnout before it kicks in. You will then understand the need for more than one project to work on at any given time. This will provide you a change of pace regularly, instead of the same daily monotony.

Want to discuss how to accomplish more? Schedule a call with me.

How do I: deal with doubt

Progress towards any goal or vision erodes doubt, whether fast or slow. More people will believe it will be when they see it, hear it, understand it, and want it too. Not everyone will share your doubt. Even fewer will share your goal or vision. Don’t let that stop you.

Will I take missteps? Yes, reevaluate when that occurs. Doubt does not result in failure. Failure occurs after starting due to a lack of persistence and forethought. Doubts might derive forethoughts or considerations.

You can move in baby steps, a leisure walk of progress, and eventually, in full sprint forward.

New ideas are sometimes like infants, so treat them like one. Hear, see then move just like a baby does. Remember crawl, walk, run. Yes, there will be falls, and then you get right back up.

Doubt should be a brief pause and think, not endless stalling due to “I am not ready because [fill in the excuse]”. If your target market is not ready, the market will give you clear signs that say so. When we believe in it more than doubt it, we should act on it. Even if we go at it alone until we have something to show for it. Move forward around constraints, obstacles, and most importantly, your own doubts.

If your idea is solving a problem, if it has an audience, and clients willing to pay for your solution, keep pushing forward despite doubts. We will not free everyone from doubts, and that should not be anyone’s goal.

Perfection does not exist. Stop stalling and doubting whether you are ready to launch something if your idea’s minimum viable product (MVP) works and sells. You can continue to iterate and improve it as you move forward and need to in a prioritized manner.

Doing something new is not about waiting for anyone’s acceptance or permission. We do something new despite our fears, uncertainties, and doubts (FUD). We do the uncomfortable things to finish a phase we started, be first, win, and keep moving forward toward what we still need to improve.

Doubt can cause frustration. Frustration can be refocused as fuel toward that progress we need to see. We want that thing to become real to the point that we manifest into some form we need it to be.

Make a list of the pros and cons of doing what you think about doing.

Take account of the ‘what-ifs’ to get them out of your head and note them as documentation in your little book of doubt. Some doubts might be risks or just opportunities to tackle in the future. Many doubts you can laugh at sooner than later. Enjoy the journey even if you don’t travel.

How do I: deal with uncertainty

Take the unpopular perspective that when it comes to uncertainty, I would prefer to deal with uncomfortable unknowns than comfortable knowns. Why? It is more challenging. It makes us think and do more. Dealing with uncertainty is more fun to work with than even chess or puzzles because the outcomes and rules are already known for both of those games. Making things that don’t exist yet is far more uncertain and more challenging. Embrace uncertainty and immerse yourself in it like a pool of water. Bring some hypothesized outcomes to test. Learn to swim in a shallow pool of uncertainty before exploring the deep, dark underwater caves of uncertainty. As you explore the depths of uncertainty, be sure to leave proper markers along that new path to get back to reality as we know it. Document your journey as well as your escape.

Avoid drama and ego. Question all fears, not just your own. What partly matters during the journey is that you are being listened to and valued by the few, not because you are right, for your vision of what could be and/or should be. This will evolve over time into something recognizable, useful, and valued. Clarity and conciseness will eventually hit the right chord.

Multiple perspectives matter more, not to reach a consensus, but because we need to understand multiple diverse points of view of how to see, hear, and feel something new, even if it may be partly familiar. While it could be so new and unknown, does it matter, to whom and why?

No matter how much is uncertain, there will be known unknowns and unknown unknowns. We should plow forward toward incremental improvements, iterations, and baby steps because this is how we get through it and make that new path. This path may be taken by a few others who want to do this work, to follow up, and even improve upon. By bringing the dark areas of uncertainty into the light, we may find possibilities and value to more.

Our future audience may want or need this. Having conversations and experiencing this are the only ways we will know if and when those barriers of uncertainty have been broken. How else will we reveal that certain need or certain desire for this that you build?

Keep making new things and create new paths. New uncertainties will follow up.