The girl in the bubble

May 19, 2017 Updated: November 2, 2022 by

I spent 14 years in a busy corporate office and today I work in the digital workplace, often physically sitting alone. So how does working in the digital workplace feel compared with a traditional physical office?

My office-based ex-colleagues still ask: “Don’t you get lonely? Don’t you get distracted with laundry and household chores? Aren’t you tempted to just go off to the gym? How do you know your team are doing what they should be doing? Don’t you miss talking to colleagues and working as a team?”

Far from it… I’m totally connected in my digital workplace with my team across the globe, from the moment I reach my desk.

I travel for around 20% of my work time and for most of the other 80% I’m at home. I take my very important morning coffee to my physical desk, in my home office in my converted loft, overlooking my garden. I switch on my PC. I have my iPad and iPhone to hand, and my cordless headsets for my phone and PC ready. And immediately I’m immersed in my digital workplace.

We have working sessions with Digital Workplace Group (DWG) members about benchmarking (what is benchmarking?) via WebEx; we have team meetings using video conferencing and WebEx; I have 1:1 catch-ups with my team members via Skype; I still have Outlook email open most of the time, although much more conversation increasingly moves to our Yammer and Basecamp spaces; there are “water cooler” team chats, work related and social, on our team Yammer network.

We talk with our members through a private Yammer network and our confidential extranet. We collaborate through Google Drive; use Basecamp to manage projects; archive files on our shared drive; track customers and prospective customers through our web-based CRM; connect to potential clients and our industry network through LinkedIn; converse outside our own business via Twitter.

I virtually “lean over the desk” to talk to team members using Skype as an instant messenger. At any point in the day I can have eight IM windows open; be working on three or four Google docs; be reading Yammer; be on a Skype call and have Tweetdeck open, and of course there’s still email.

I’m so immersed in my digital workplace my husband brings me lots of cups of tea, because otherwise I’d forget to drink. He has accused me of working in a bubble for a long time now. I used to just dismiss his bubble comment, however at a DWG member meeting we talked about the relationship between the digital workplace and the physical workplace and I realised that my husband’s right (please don’t tell him!). I’m so immersed in my digital workplace bubble that I almost completely disconnect from my physical space. I look out of the window at my garden and occasionally notice my snoring cat in the corner, but really I’m lost in my digital workplace bubble.

And in a way, it’s not much different than working in a busy corporate office — where most of the communication is digital these days, anyway! I see former colleagues sitting in cubes and offices an hours commute from home — communicating digitally!

Sometimes my bubble moves to some shaded nook in the garden on a hot summer’s day, to a train seat in one of my trips to London, or to a cafe somewhere between meetings, but it’s the same bubble. I love my job. I work with an amazing team who are based across times zones nine hours apart. We have clients across the globe but we have no office. The whole team works this way. Most of the time I’m totally connected with them, our clients and our tools from my garden-view loft at home.

Is there a downside? For me it’s that I am so immersed in my bubble I can be glued to my desk all day without even noticing. I love the focus and engagement I have in my digital workplace bubble. One concern I had was that sitting isn’t too healthy. In a corporate environment you get interrupted more often, which has an upside: you adjust your physical position more.

So I took some tips from Angela Pohl’s post: 5 tips for incorporating fitness into a desk job. Now my digital workplace bubble has a standing desk and a treadmill when I want to walk more.  

So, do I miss team contact, get distracted by the laundry, get lonely, get tempted away from work? No, never. I’m too busy talking to my team, talking to customers and solving challenges in my very busy digital workplace bubble!

Categorised in: Working at DWG

Helen Day

Helen is responsible for the management and development of the Digital Workplace Group of businesses. Her role includes chairing DWG member meetings in the UK and Europe, and developing business strategy with our customers. Helen started with DWG as a benchmarker of global member intranets and author of research reports in the areas of communication, strategy and governance. Prior to this, she worked for the UK-based pharmacy chain Boots the Chemists for 14 years, setting up the organization’s first intranet and becoming Group Intranet Manager in the 1990s.

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