Just last evening I was conversing with a friend of mine who commented on my (bad?) habit of posting photos to my Facebook page when I’m working “in my outside office.” I have a gazebo attached to my rear deck that enjoys views of the surrounding trees, sometimes the lake across the street and quite often the wildlife that comes around. My friend made the comment that when he’s at work (in a machine shop) and he sees those posts he thinks, “Frank… you’re being an @$$hole.” He may be right, but the conversation started me thinking about work spaces and what we make of them.
The company that I work for is largely decentralized. I work from home and have a dedicated office. It’s comfortable and there are two windows. As I type this I have music playing in the background. It’s not loud but I don’t have to wear earbuds or care if anyone else likes it. Even this is a far cry from what many people have for “office” space as they are in a cube, less comfortable space or have no windows in their office. There have been plenty of studies done about work efficiency as it relates to workplace comfort but that’s not what this is about.
As a team leader I have three people who report to me. As I thought about work comfort I realized that it means something different to the people on my team, but I also realized that how they perceive what their work space should be impacts their enjoyment of the work day. Let me give you a few examples to help you see what I mean.
Person 1: Works from a home office but takes advantage of the flexible schedule we enjoy provided the work gets done. He has been known to work from his phone (posting content to a website) or even a laptop on a cruise ship if there is connectivity available. He has worked from a beach and from the patio of a hotel room at Disney World. It’s no wonder he has few complaints about work.
Person 2: Works from home and lives in the Rocky Mountains. Quite often when I would call her, one of the first things she would say would be, “Pardon the background noise. I’m in the local coffee shop working.” She and her husband had a small home and she enjoyed the ability to get out sometimes. Cabin fever is a real thing. She’d work from the local coffee shop and even, sometimes, from the local mall. Whatever her chosen work setting, she never complained and seemed to take enjoyment from her job.
Person 3: Works from a home office but I get the impression that he is very strict about his use of it, his hours in it and how he views his work schedule. I sense that when he’s in his office at home he takes it as restricted as if he was in his cube at the office (where he used to work daily). When he “goes to work,” it’s on a strict time schedule and he takes structured breaks. I can’t complain about his dedication to our company and his employment expectations, as he perceives them, but it occurred to me that he seems to enjoy the job far less than the other two people on the team and certainly far less than I do. When I tried to figure out why I realized that it had everything to do with how he perceives his work space and his self-imposed restrictions.
Now, let’s take that to an entirely different set of circumstances. I mentioned my friend who works in a machine shop. He thoroughly enjoys his work but not his employment if you can understand that. Part of happiness in your profession is satisfaction with your leadership. All too often we don’t get leadership at work though; we get management. There is a huge difference between a manager and a leader (which I’ve previously discussed). My friend enjoys his work but not the current management he has to answer to. His option is to find a different employer who can appreciate his work, his work ethic and his productivity, understanding that better leadership will guide him to even greater work production. A manager will never understand that and will not inspire him to higher levels.
The thing is, if you enjoy your work but not your work environment, sometimes that’s all about the employer and the work conditions they set. Some jobs obviously can’t be done from a home office – like being a machinist. But if you CAN do your work from a home office yet still find yourself unhappy with your employment, before you complain about your supervisor, your employer, your work load, etc. – maybe you should take a step back and think about how you manage yourself. Are you really unhappy with your job? Or are you unhappy with work conditions that you artificially create for yourself? If the challenge is your own perception, it’s well within your power… in fact, it’s exclusively within your power to change your work conditions by changing your perception.