WaLK series: the WHERE of work

Today we begin a 7 part blog series exploring the WHO (x2), WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of WORK.  These work interrogatives are a tool for thinking – and these weekly WaLK prompts are designed to get you thinking about one in depth by doing some quick, reflective writing for a Pomodoro – or put another way, as long as it might take you to drink a cup of coffee – as activities that generate momentum and good serendipity.

We’ll start today with the WHERE and continue through the rest of the questions as the coming weeks unfold.

I have already engaged some thinking about WHERE as a valuable tool here at Career Linguist in my post “the geography of networking” in which I treated the zipcode aspect of the WHERE, but in interrogating work, we really can and should be thinking much more broadly and creatively to include questions like – do you prefer to work from home or in an office?  If in an office, what kind of an office – an open space, shared office, or private?  If you have a private office, do you work with the door open or closed?  Do you find that you tend to move your work into a shared space like a conference room, a lobby, a lounge, or a library?  If you don’t have an office, where do you tend to set up your workstation?  In the kitchen?  At a library or coffeeshop?  Each of these factors are significant in that they can shape the contours and rhythyms of your work, and so to the extent that you can know as much as you can about your preferences to control or select for these and negotiate for the environments that best support your productivity, the better!

The WHERE can also involve how much travel you want to do as part of your job and whether you will be moving into other people’s spaces to do the work more frequently than you will invite them into yours.  As a trainer, for example, I am in a different space (office, conference center, hotel) weekly.  I thrill to this aspect of my job – it energizes me to be able to explore and discover little nooks and crannies, some of them even in my own city.

Some ways to learn about your WHERE:

  • Get some models When you do informational interviews, ask to meet in the office of the person with whom you will be speaking.  Not everyone is able to host outside visitors at their office, but you can ask. Or you might just suggest to meet at a coffeeshop, restaurant, or park nearby.  This is good informational interviewing etiquette, as it displays attentiveness to your interviewee’s needs, but it also makes the topic of environments available as a topic of conversation and affords you the opportunity to observe things like how are people dressed, etc. Being in someone else’s workspace you can learn a great deal about the culture of an organization.
  • Reflect on your workspaces: past present and future
    • Notice the details of your current workspace – how do they support your productivity? what is ideal about it, what would you change if you could?  This should include details like furniture, light, noise, temperature, access to food, bathroom, etc.  Think associatively – for example, do you wear headphones while you work?  If so, why?  Is it because you like to have music to help you concentrate or is it to block out noise / to signal to others not to disturb you?
    • Reflect on the workspaces you have created in the past – for example when you were in school and you may have had to create spaces where you could concentrate for long periods of time. What did those look like?
    • Visualize your ideal workspace – soup to nuts. Where in the world would it be?  City or country?  Big organization or small?  What would your office look like?  Where would you have lunch?

Visualization is a helpful tool in that in frees up other ways of thinking and decision-making.  For example, think about the pictures at your workspace – what information do these carry about the kinds of places that you like to be in, activities that you enjoy being engaged in?  Are you getting enough of these? Work won’t meet all of these needs, but to the extent that you can design the work that you want, design it in ways that speak to those (a view from your window, opportunities to telework and spend time with your family, maybe a work environment that supports the causes that speak to you, gives you paid time to volunteer in your community)As a thought exercise for any of the above (past, present, future), perhaps you will wish to make use of the SPEAKING grid tool.

  • Returning to the zipcode Take stock of a place.  People move a great deal these days, and one of the best things about LinkedIn is that is works for you in keeping track of who is where.  I call it a self-updating rolodex.  Take stock of a place by popping in the zipcode of your dream location to see who among your connections may have moved there since you last investigated.  Has anyone moved away?  Use the WHERE as an excuse to reach out – “I noticed that you just moved to X, would love to hear more about what you are up to these days”.  If they are now far away, maybe you will want to propose a skype / google hangout happy hour or coffee chat.    

Ultimately, these work interrogatives will help you evaluate opportunities, or even to identify them.  They can be used to deconstruct a job ad, or at your performance review: when you are given an opportunity to discuss with your manager the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW of your work, you can better take the initiative, something along the lines of: “reflecting on the WHERE of my work, I have identified some new opportunities for me to help me grow and to help the WHY and HOW of the organization”