Flip the office

Have you ever heard of a ‘flipped classroom’?

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. Wikipedia

Flipped teaching appears to be a good approach that engages teachers with their students, instead of just delivering content, which technology can do fairly well now.

In a recent conversation with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues, we were talking about how much time is wasted in commuting to work, which none of us do. Charles Jennings told us about his days of leaving for work at 06:30 every morning and usually returning around 20:30. A grinding routine, which I am sure many readers share. We also agreed that an open office workplace is often a place with too much noise to get any work done. It was noted that in some offices, employees booked meeting rooms for themselves in order to work in peace. Perhaps it’s time to flip the office, I suggested.

Why do we have physical workplaces? To get work done, one assumes. But if you ask people, especially knowledge workers, where they are most productive, it’s not likely to be at their office. You waste a lot of time at work, the main culprits being email, meetings, and constant interruptions.

It’s incredibly hard to get meaningful work done when your workday has been shredded into work moments.

Meaningful work, creative work, thoughtful work, important work – this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone. But in the modern office such long stretches just can’t be found. Instead, it’s just one interruption after another. —Remote: Office Not Required (2013)

It makes little sense to ship millions of people to offices every day in order to be less productive than they could be. So what are offices for in the network era? They should be for collaborating, discussing, and getting to know each other better. People should not have to go to an office to work alone.

Nancy Dixon says that, “Forcing people back to the workplace [to be more productive] is not the solution because too often when they are in the workplace they are either sitting in a meeting listening to endless presentations, or in a cubicle sending emails to each other. Neither of those activities is worth the cost in time or travel.”

We know that many collaborative activities are best conducted face to face. The physical workplace should support and encourage meaningful conversations, among ourselves or with our clients. We have the software to handle scheduling so that most workers could have the opportunity to be productive for most of their days. It’s time to flip the office. Instead of going to work, we should be going to socialize, converse, and collaborate. Productive solo time is not for the office. Knowledge workers can be productive anywhere but at the office.

flip the office

5 Responses to “Flip the office”

  1. Kay Fox

    Agree with your article. Another good thing about the flipped office is that it would lessen the carbon footprint of commuters.

  2. Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn)

    Thanks for this post Harold. I had to have a chuckle. I’m one of these types who need my own space and silence to make me think. That’s why working in such an open, flexible environment has its disadvantages – but some advantages as well.

    Personally, I enjoy the informality of some of the spaces – to go and find a colleague (when you can) for a bit of a chit chat. We also have some nice cushions and pods to sit in, good tea and coffee making facilities. Yes, some biscuits too….

    But on the whole, walking into a noisy, open plan office where you can see every computer screen and have no personalised work spaces tends to make me ‘scattered’ and unproductive.

    For example, we are encouraged to move around and not use a desk if we are at meetings most of the day. Instead, we have long benches where we drop our laptop and set up work.

    This is akin to me settling to read a classic novel in a play ground full of noisy children. Impossible to concentrate. Totally unproductive.

    There are days when I simply can’t even get an email response out because of the noise and disruption.

    As a result, I’ve had to change my routine and block out days where I need to focus, reflect and do actual productive work so that I can work from home – or go in early, to seek out a meeting room so that I can work with my thoughts. Luckily, our employer is open to flexible arrangements so they’re happy for staff to do this – and there are plenty of meeting rooms where you can go and seek solace.

    So my flip is to just work from home as much as I can as I can pump out more productive, meaningful, relevant work that helps my clients 2 hours at home than I can 8 hours in the office.

    Here’s what it looks like http://lnkd.in/bsu7Xk8

  3. Steven Scheer

    Good idea! I work as a freelance consultant and teacher, because I cannot work well ‘in the office’. I often wondered: am I a loner? Although I sometimes work for several days without actually meeting anyone relating to my work, i can say: No, I do like meaningful exchange with others (and of course, having a laugh from time to time!!) Since I am familiar with ‘flip the classroom’, the idea to ‘flip the office’ offers a direct new perspective to my work. Gives me a more positive view on my preference for my working in ‘solitude’.

  4. Jon Harman

    This was very timely, last year I added up that I had spent 50 whole days purely in unproductive meetings, I spent 4hrs a day commuting to work at a cost of £10k per annum (you have to earn £14k just to pay for that travel!) – I was supposed to be doing “innovative” work, I was tired, despondent and fed-up. So I quit and moved to Norway to remote work for people, I’m more productive and happy (I get to see my children grow up now!)
    This is my office now: https://twitter.com/kaoticoddchild/status/440051355861139456/photo/1

    One day I think I’ll write my manifesto of “Work Globally, Live Locally” as a new model of work for the modern age.

  5. Inette Dishler

    Nice provocative idea! It makes sense for leveraging the best of what can happen in the workplace. Now workplaces have to re-think their design to really take advantage of this – away from cubes where you can’t really get work done because of noise and distractions, and into collaborative and creative spaces.


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