For over two years now, I don’t have a home. Not a home as in a house of course, but at adidas I don’t have an office, a desk or a landline any more, all I have is a nice bag – and the freedom to work from wherever I want. And I have to admit it’s wonderfully liberating!
OK, I do have an exceptional job at adidas, as the Think Tank Future Trends and Innovation Director in the HR Strategy Team. My job is to try and look two, five, 10, 20 years ahead, analyze the mega trends like demographic change, glocalization, future technologies, production and business models, and draw conclusions what that will mean for the future of work and the future of organizations. In order to do that, I have to try out and experience future working models – and I have to admit that I love it!
Journey into the future
My job consists of a lot of research, networking, conversations and collaborations, and since I’ve liberated myself from the constraints of a fixed, physical work office space to a flexible and dynamic work model, I feel that I get much more done in less time and that I have increased my efficiency and productivity.
Instead of a desk in a small room, I have a large bag with everything I need inside, like laptop and tablet, headphones, cables, pens, battery pack, sticky notes, tape, my main paper calendar and paper notebook – I still love to write and draw. Everything else is on my smartphone.
So how does an average work day look for me?
If I don’t work from home or travel, I come in in the morning with my utility bag, grab a coffee and settle at one of the standing tables in my favorite work area in the middle of the atrium: the marketplace or agora of our main building called Laces at the World of Sports, the HQ of the adidas Group in Herzo.
This open space called ‘Elvis’ is directly in front of our café ‘TimeOut’ with great coffee, healthy snacks and drinks. Elvis also hosts the stage on which we run our weekly Speaker Series and an assortment of standing tables (with power cords hanging down from above), colorful collaboration boxes and a living room as open meeting room. The perfect environment for me.
I have much fewer hour-long meetings, but instead 20, 30 ‘creative collisions’ each day, when colleagues just grab me for a coffee when they see me standing at one of the desks, and most issues you can solve in five to 15 minutes.
If I do want to concentrate and work with focus on something for a while, I either go to another more private area, where I’m less visible and approachable, or I put on headphones to signal that I don’t want to be bothered right now. Of course we have team meetings regularly, but for these we come together for a very focused hour, to then flutter off to our individual work environments again. And if I do need a room once in a while, for telephone or Skype conferences, for example, I just grab an empty desk in any department – a great way to meet new colleagues, by the way – or I get a short-term meeting room, if available.
Another great side effect of my nomadic life is that, since I don’t have an office any more, I have become almost paperless: when you carry your office around with you all day, you do consider carefully every additional gram you want to have with you. And I’m very digital. For most things there’s a great app that automates my workflow, I take pictures of essential documents or drawings, so everything is on my Evernote or in the cloud. And whatever is missing I can google – or borrow.
So what are my main recommendations?
- Firstly, what works for me doesn’t have to work for you – and vice versa. Everyone has to find his or her personal working model and balance, and that allows you to do your job best. Different jobs also require different working models and environments.
- Secondly, it’s about choice. Choose the environment that supports what you want to do in different moments of your working day best, be it concentrating, calling, meeting, collaborating, thinking, resting, digesting or creating.
- Go as digital as possible – but find the right balance between digital and physical. Everything that can be digitalized will be digitalized – but not everything that can be digitalized actually makes sense or is the better experience. Get a good pen or sharpie and doodle while you google…
- Be open and bold and go out and experiment, try out and experience different and new work environments to find out what works best for you and your job. And don’t limit yourself to options within the company: go out and co-work, crowdstorm, collaborate…
In the end it’s only a matter of perspective: the other day, a senior executive grabbed me in Elvis and asked me “Christian, do you actually still have an office?” And I replied: “Tom, look around: my office is not only nicer than yours, with better coffee, but it’s actually much bigger than yours as well!”
So honestly: when you finish reading this article, look around your office and ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather like to trade places with me…
I have to admit: I wouldn’t – and couldn’t – go back to the old office I had a few years ago!
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