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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Deskless Office

A short while ago I visited the research headquarters of Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Interestingly enough, some department heads in this robust big Pharma occupied cubicles.  A rather egalitarian strategy. More interesting was the large section where the desks had no assignments.  The operating theory was that you arrived and sat where you chose for that day.   At the time it seemed to be a rather itinerant approach to take.  More recently, when visiting the headquarters of Assurex Health (<200 employees) near Cincinnati, Ohio the department heads occupied low-rise cubicles contiguous to the non-management employees, spanning different job functions.  It was obvious that the collegial environment was quite conducive to collaborative discussions.  Several months ago two cube-dwelling colleagues had standing desks.  Clearly the standing desk helps with posture and a number of other positive health issues.

I have a long history of desks: Sometimes private; Sometimes in a cubes;  Sometimes with a big window and conference table.

When I had a desk in a large office and in it’s prime location within the organization it could be isolating at times.  Being anchored in one location, it was quite convenient to neighboring directors and localized departmental functions.  However, for most other activities it was a fair jaunt to get to an activity or to have people make “the walk” to meet with me in my office.

But I have no desk. Nor do I have an office.  Equipped with a MacBookPro and a satchel [man-purse] my office is where I land for a few days or weeks.  Areas which require added attention get my full attention, in person.  The locals at first find it to be a distraction, but they adjust within a few days. I get to witness their daily challenges/offenses, but am also present for their immediate consultation/consolation.

The benefit of the deskless, officeless office is the need to stay organized.  Noted organized guy, Blain Lam, keeps organized using the method outlined by David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”[ISBN 978-0142000281].  The method is straightforward: don’t make a pile, make a file [er… electronic file].  So given my wandering desk it is necessary that I do not have a pile of papers on my [phantom] desk. Thus is born the paperless office by necessity and convenience.  More web-based tools are employed than at many facilities and this enables a bit more freedom from stacks of papers.

So while this approach is fairly unique in life sciences, it works perfectly.

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