Where do you Work?

A look at where software developers "work" away from their desks

Where do you Work?

This morning, I solved a bug in a client’s microservice. It wasn’t a simple bug and I solved it by fundamentally changing the mental model used within that software. (I’ve talked a bit about the importance of mental models in a previous article.) It wasn’t a trifling solution and it will require changes to the API and to the way failures are handled.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about this though. People solve bugs in code all day, every day. So why am I bothering to write about this?

Many companies (at least here in the UK) are currently in the process of bringing their employees back into the office. What’s interesting about the bug I solved above isn’t the bug or what was needed to solve it (though that is a little interesting). What’s interesting about it, is where I did that work.

In the garden. While jumping rope.

Now, however flexible your working policies are and as great as the office environment you provide may be, how many employers would consider the time their employees spent jumping rope as “work”?

This isn’t a rare occurrence for me either, in fact I’ve written at least once in the past about ideas that I’ve developed while training. Reflecting on it further, I’d go so far as to say that more than half the work that I produce takes place away from a desk. If I think about the creative work I need to do (new architectures, new system implementations), that probably rises to more like 80%.

The work of actually developing ideas or mental models takes place largely away from my desk, or even a computer

That might seem strange for a role that is primarily desk-bound. Yet the truth of the matter is, the time I spend at my desk is only the time that it takes me to extract the ideas from my head and place them into some medium that lets me share them with others. The work of actually developing those ideas takes place largely away from my desk, or even a computer.

While you may try and argue that this is easier to do with architectures and system design that with writing code, I would disagree. I’ve done my work this way since I was a graduate writing code all day long. Largely because designing architectures isn’t really much different to writing code, it’s just at a different scale. So, even when writing code, much of what I write, the most important parts that shape the code and create the mental models, take place away from a desk.

Bringing this back to working from the office, ask yourself, ‘why am I bringing the employees back in-house?’ Are you really going to improve the productivity of your workforce? Have you really thought about what you need to provide for that to be true?

I’m not suggesting that everyone should work remotely on a permanent basis, but I am suggesting that employers use this opportunity to take a much needed look at what they consider is “productive” time, where that happens and what a fruitful, dynamic and creative office needs to look like. Ask your employees, their answers may surprise you.

As a final note, I wrote this article in the garden too, and the previous onewas written while sitting under a tree in the middle of a forest (yes, a real forest, without electricity or an internet connection).

So, if your job involves a lot of thinking, where does your work actually take place? Comment below and let me know.