If you’ve spent much time at all reading Steve Jones’s blog posts and SSC editorials, you quickly glean that he finds working in solitude to be an interesting challenge. I’m sure that others could tell a similar story, but I had not experienced this for myself until recently. An upcoming renovation has forced me out of my permanent office and into a lonely area of the largely unoccupied top floor of our office building, and I’m getting a small taste of working alone.
To paint a picture for you, I’m now officed in a hastily assembled cubicle in a multipurpose room that’s probably 50 feet by 25 feet. I’m the only person in that large room; in fact, I’m fairly certain that I am the only person not on the custodial staff to have set foot in that area in weeks. I’m used to sharing a space half this size with five other people, so it goes without saying that this is quite a departure from the work environment I’m used to.
Now I’ve only been here for a short time, and admittedly it’s not quite the solitude that Steve describes in working from home on a remote Colorado ranch. However, I have learned a few things already about working solo. First of all, I discovered that I get much more done without the distractions of sharing space with others. I’m currently working on several projects that require a significant portion of my cerebral resources, and I’ve found that I can focus better for longer periods of time without the usual conversational distractions. Also, music seems to help me concentrate, and I am able to crank up the speakers and fill the room with my current favorite work tunes (this week, it’s the Pirates 3 soundtrack). I’ve also noticed that my coffee lasts longer and my pens aren’t disappearing nearly as quickly.
But alas, there are downsides to my newly found Camelot. First, I’ve found that those little ‘conversational distractions’ are actually useful and necessary to maintain sanity. All work and no play makes you want to hurl yourself from a 5th floor window, and after a while working alone you realize how much you crave interaction with colleagues. I’ve also discovered that you must work a little harder to stay on the radar of the brass. Out of sight is out of mind, so you must take extra steps to make sure your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Additionally, there is some implicit travel involved when you do most of your work apart from others; any meeting or other face-to-face time requires a trip to the mother ship. On the softer side, it’s not nearly as satisfying to complain about the Rangers when there’s nobody around to listen.
Update: It’s been two days since I wrote the last paragraph, and I have since learned that I will be joined by several colleagues in my new temporary space. Hence, my foray into solitude shall end with a whimper. At least I got to find out what it was like for a while. I will enjoy having the company again, though….