Not necessary relevant for all authors, but certainly of interest to authors with day jobs.
From The Wall Street Journal:
For much of the past century, work has been a place where people went. For big organizations, a workplace meant “concrete, steel and glass monuments built to service commerce and Mammon; commanding the skyline of the modern cityscape and dominating the lives of the millions of people who work in them.” So observes corporate real-estate veteran Chris Kane in “Where Is My Office?” But now, he says, “the world of work is changing.” Office work especially is “no longer anchored in one place.” Indeed, he notes, work has become a thing that people do and not a place where people go.
So what is to become of those monuments to Mammon? And how about all those workers whose lives were dominated by them? Mr. Kane explores this question in his intriguing, if meandering, book on “reimagining the workplace for the 21st century.”
Much has been written on the future of work, mostly by management gurus. Mr. Kane comes at the question from a different angle, with a background in the property business—mostly, though not exclusively, in the U.K. He calls himself an “industry provocateur” who has spent his career persuading the people who finance and build offices to think about what their tenants will actually want. (Oddly enough, they don’t seem to want the “uninspiring spaces of beige, grey or off-white” that the industry delivers.) He has also helped large companies rethink their property portfolios, urging executives to see that property can be converted “from a cost centre into a value creator.” He observes that “a well-designed and well-run workplace has beneficial effects on the performance of its occupants.” They collaborate. They feel inspired. They don’t quit quite as quickly. Handled well, property can be a strategic tool.
. . . .
Mr. Kane is also keenly aware that many past attempts to rethink office life have resulted in ideas that are questionable at best: Witness seas of soul-deadening cubicles or the attempts to do away with assigned seating completely that ended up with much-hated “hot desking” policies—everyone has to fend for herself every morning to score a workable spot.
While noting that companies will want more flexible spaces to scale up and down and shorter leases, Mr. Kane wisely doesn’t endorse no-personal-space policies that seem unaware of human nature; nor does he recommend shrinking square-footage requirements to save money and then hoping for the best. He argues that smaller, fluid spaces can’t just be about cutting costs; they should be “about choice of how and where we work.”
The options include renting space in commercial co-working spaces such as WeWork and working from home—something companies were loath to allow in the past, since “many managers insist on being able to see their staff and have them physically present in the same office.” Managers fear that “no work gets done unless they can see their staff at their desks.” Mr. Kane is quick to argue against this fear, but 10 months into Covid, much of this debate seems moot.
The proportion of Americans who had ever worked from home doubled in the span of about two weeks in March 2020. There is every reason to think that, even if “normal” life returns, many companies will aim to keep at least part of their workforce away from central hubs and office towers and that many employees will refuse to endure commutes after a year or more of skipping them. To what effect? one wonders. While Mr. Kane refers to the pandemic from time to time, “Where Is My Office?” feels as if the bulk of the manuscript was written before this game-changer. He says that “the corporate sphere now needs to take a Darwinian approach—adapting and evolving in order to cope with uncertainty.” But the BBC’s new spaces were created with the idea that employees would show up at them more days than not. Now it’s unclear how many organizations really need a gleaming headquarters—no matter how well-designed the headquarters happen to be.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)
PG has seen more than a few articles discussing how former office workers should set up and outfit their home work spaces. This type of information can also be helpful for any author who writes some or all of their work at home.
A short, non-comprehensive list for PG would include the following:
- A comfortable chair that won’t make you ache if you sit in it for several hours a day.
- A good keyboard.
- As a sidenote, at his mother’s wise insistence, PG took a typing class in high school and became the fastest and most-accurate typist in his class (it was a very small class).
- PG’s typing skills were valuable for him in college since he earned money by typing papers for other students at exorbitant prices because he could start typing a 20-page term paper at midnight and get it finished in plenty of time so the procrastinating student paying him could turn it in at 8:00 AM and PG could get some sleep before his own 8:00 AM class the next day.
- PG typed the answers to all of his law school exams (essay questions were standard) as well as the essay portions of his bar exams. Since he could type far faster than he could write (legibly or illegibly), PG could put a lot more of the extensive information he pretended to have in his head into these exams.
- While PG did a lot of dictating while he had a more typical law practice than he has now, he also did some typing on documents, or parts of documents, that required particular attention and detail that was not conducive to efficient dictation.
- When computers first came into law offices, PG bought the first computer for himself so he could amply explore its potential uses in his practice. Typing well meant he could experiment quickly. After this learning process, PG gave his computer to his secretary and provided suggestions about how she could use it efficiently (PG always hired the smartest secretaries he could find and paid them well so they stayed with him for a long time). Of course, PG bought the latest faster and more powerful computer available for himself to replace the one that migrated to his secretary’s desk. Whenever he bought a new computer, his secretary got the one he had used before that was typically about a year old, so everybody stayed up to date.
- This is a very long explanation of the basis upon which PG recommends a good keyboard for anyone who spends much time typing. The difference in cost between a good keyboard and a cheap one is relatively small. PG has used ergonomic keyboards for a long time because he finds them more comfortable and faster. Currently, he uses a wireless keyboard to reduce the substantial clutter on his desk a tiny bit. If you want to do all your writing in a coffee shop, you will want to use a laptop. For PG, however, the keyboard on laptop computers (he has owned and used many) are definitely second-rate. At times (like on an airplane), using a separate keyboard is not feasible. However, it’s not difficult to slide a small cordless keyboard into a canvas briefcase, backpack, carry-on bag, etc., so typing is better when your not on a plane or in an airport.
- For fellow keyboard nerds, yes, PG does miss the old Northgate keyboards with their lovely key-switches, but we all have to move on from tragic losses like that.