Workspaces – “Office” is Where the Laptop Is

I must be the perfect modern employee. In my 20+ years of working life, I have rarely had an office or even a cubicle to call my own, and haven’t particularly wanted or missed one.

my office at home in Milan

In the three-room apartment that was our home in Milan for 13 years, my workspace (when I wasn’t in a shared office) was a corner of our bedroom. The temporary cubes I was assigned on my visits to Silicon Valley were a comparative luxury!

But, even in cramped conditions, working at home had advantages: if my daughter was sick and had to stay home from school, or if public transport was on strike (as happens frequently in Italy) and I couldn’t get to the office, it just didn’t matter. As long as I had a computer and an Internet connection, I could be productive wherever I was.

with my laptop on a P&O Ferry

I began travelling extensively for work around 1994, so I always had a laptop (in addition to or instead of a desktop computer), and was accustomed to working anywhere, anytime.

This became a standing family joke: we would stage pictures of me working in unlikely places: on a P&O ferry from Calais to Dover, at the top of a snowy Alp, on a beach recliner in Martinique.

working at my in-laws' home in Roseto

I did not actually work in any of those places – I do know how to take a vacation. But not being tied to a desk meant that I could work, when I chose, anywhere in the world. I didn’t have to take vacation time to be present at the obligatory family holidays halfway across Italy: I could spend time with the family and still get my work done.

In our new home in Lecco, I have a small home office with a spectacular view – who needs a corporate corner office?

the view from my studio, Lecco

But that’s not enough to keep me in one place. My colleagues at Sun don’t much care where I am physically located (and are scattered all over the world themselves, both in Sun offices and at home), so I can pick up my laptop and go wherever I want to. With my Sun badge, I can waltz into any Sun office in the world and use a desk and high-speed Internet – but I don’t have to.

Right now I’m in India, visiting my daughter at my old school. Thanks to the hospitality of a classmate, I’m in a comfortable home with a more-than-decent Internet connection. I can even use Skype to keep in touch with my colleagues. The only thing lacking is a desk, but, hey, I’ve still got a lap.

working from the Bothwell Bank guest house, Mussoorie

And the view ain’t too shabby, either.

How about you? Are you ready to give up a cube or office?

6 thoughts on “Workspaces – “Office” is Where the Laptop Is

  1. Alice Twain

    Due to the job I do I need an office with some structure and an address where the paper can be sent after proofreads. Having said this, this office could be a part of my apartment if I hd room enough, but this would also mean the purchase of very costly hardware (high-quality printers in particular). yet, if my job were different I would really enjoy being able to carry my office in a backpack anywhere I went. I honestly beleive that I could do a better job on a beach recliner in Martinique… Heck! A towel in Liguria would still be better than my semi-subterranean office.

  2. vangie

    A motivated person can work anywhere, anytime, and finally technology supports that. I just wish people would not do their office work while driving down the freeway…I’m serious. But in response to your question, where was the “having it all” option? I love my office, but I equally love being (theoretically) able to plug in anywhere in the world and work or play on my laptop.

    I am bummed to say that on my recent business trip to the UK combined with vacation in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, my laptop was simply a cinderblock in my suitcase. In the UK, the hotel’s network didn’t work and I couldn’t find a properly working power converter outside our corporate office, so my battery ran out. In FVG, I could charge the battery but could not find a network. I had planned to use my laptop to finalize some arrangements once I arrived, so unfortunately I ended up missing some people and places.

  3. Alice Twain

    vangie, sorry, but that’s not true. it may be true for those who deal uniquely with “soft” materials, but when “hard” materials walk in those make a difference. In some cases that’s more obvious, like the builder who just cannot build walls in his living room for a living. In my case, 80%of what I do has relationship with paper proofs. Suppose I was adding corrections to a Ventura document on a nice sandy beach in Greece, reading those from a four inch pile (geee! imagine CARRYING the pile of proofs along each day, and each day a NEW pile!) of proofs and, immediately, a gust of Meltemi wind scatters all of my unique, irreplaceable and single-copy proofs in the sea, making them impossibile to read…

  4. vangie

    Alice, I’m sorry if you took my sunny overstatement as a suggestion that since you can’t do all you work online, you’re not motivated. Your post had not yet appeared when I began writing my post, so I was not addressing your post but rather, Deirdre’s original question re: desk vs. freedom. Of course I was referring to the type of work that can be accomplished online or stored on a laptop. A chef or a home remodeler, no matter how motivated, does not have such latitude. Understood. 🙂 I’ve also spent some years as an editor and tech writer, and I’ve never been able to get fully away from hardcopy.

  5. Qt

    As for my job, i’m a programmer, so location is not so important (when there are no boring meeting to attend). “psychologically” i could leave my “cube” at the office… well, we have large cubes… we call them naves 🙂 . But i have a problem… i hate laptops (maybe it’s just that i didn’t ever used them extensively to learn to love them).
    I would love things like the Flybook and its touch screen (the main part i hate in laptops is the trackpad) but, maybe, for prolonged sessions it’s too small.
    I would not travel all around the world… i’m lazy, but sometimes i just dream about being at one of the two public parks near home and be connected (and in one of those two park they are even building a free wifi network just now).

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