I have been thinking about this question for a while now. With our group starting Epicenter, Nordic’s largest innovation house, there is 30.000 sq.m of awesome people, corporate innovators and fast growing companies sitting together to create services of tomorrow. I love going to work, since I get healthy food, exercise there, meet people from around the world, CEO’s of large organisations, fund managers, investors, those who are curious of Stockholm or digital innovation have Epicenter on their agenda.

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Epicenter at 0730 in the morning — a very different sight from 0800. On the right, Eric Schmidt when he visited us last autumn.

However, with a constant influx of people and ideas, I do find myself being more productive to get my things done at home rather than work. With our team growing, our own office within Epicenter is growing too, and that open office space combined with a larger open office space leaves very little space to be zoned in and get productive hours in.

Few years back, the term “No-Collar workforce” gained popularity i.e. social, young, on-demand workers who look at work as an experience rather than a mundane place one has to go through to pay bills. While all that is fine and dandy on that side, when you have been through it for a while, questions like these start to come up.

Science of focus and multi-tasking?

Focus and multi-tasking are recurring subjects of interest in all types of workplaces but the challenge is different, dare I say more complex when it comes to Epicenter. An innovative workplace demands innovative solutions to the general issue of distractions. A helpful method of understanding and in that sense facilitating multi-tasking is to ironically expose it as a myth. The cognitive psychologist Art Markman has instead defined the concept as time-sharing which is a more fitting description, considering that multi-tasking isn’t a method of executing several tasks at 100% capacity simultaneously.

At most you’re able to divide your capacity equally across different tasks, which still leaves you half-assedly producing subpar results in all of the assignments you undertake. Ideally everyone wants to be able to perform this kind of optimal multi-tasking, but the next best thing is to simulate it. If you have a list of tasks, there are bound to be similarities between some of them. Let’s say you know that you’ll be accompanied at a specific time of day by a colleague with a certain type of excellence. Using this knowledge, you can categorize them and plan your day accordingly so that you can effectively reap the benefits of a social workplace.

Finding your own privacy to be productive while still enjoying the perks of having a social workspace

This is actually one of the biggest perks of Epicenter as an office space. Traditional office buildings tend to be architecturally homogenous; oval table conference rooms, single desk offices and water cooler conversation. The choices of how you want to plan your day are laughably limited. This is something that we have really turned around at Epicenter. With a wide variety of spaces available for all the employees in the building to use there is suddenly a much more liberating feeling in your workplace. If you need to focus, there are several shared quiet areas found throughout the building. If that still doesn’t do it there’s an abundance of smaller work rooms designed to provide absolute privacy. As soon as you’re done powering through the most demanding work, you are literally seconds away from a social space where you can discuss and socialize with your coworkers. It really is the best of both worlds!

It is hard to say “No, don’t fucking disturb me” to a friend who you have not seen in a while, or anyone for that matter

The majority of people aren’t burdened with having to define themselves as introvert or extrovert, but these are qualities that are intermittently relatable for many. You can waltz in to the office at 9 AM, with a big smile on your face from your first cup of coffee for the day acting as some sort of social savant. Then you’ll find yourself 4 hours later, hunched over a desk swatting at by-passers seeking your attention.

The examples might be extreme, but the pertinent point is that you’ll experience times where someone wants your attention and you are just not up for it. Cliché as it may seem, respect and communication is key in these interactions. If you can in an honest and articulate manner state that you really don’t have the time and/or energy at the moment it won’t typically be a problem. Realizing that this spontaneous approach didn’t work out, you can instead reschedule and meet your coworker or friend with positive energy and high spirits. Difficult as it may be, it really is a win-win situation in the long term.

Should one get to such spaces early in the morning or stay back late in the nights?

The answer can be perplexing to some, but there is arguably reason to do both. The intention is not to encourage moving in to your office, but there are positive aspects to both arriving early and departing late. The majority of people focus best late at night or early in the morning, deeming these time periods the most important to utilize. Arriving early to the office there is naturally a larger period of time of occupied offices and increased chance of social bursts. It really depends on what tasks are on your agenda and what type of inspiration or focus they require.

If you’re in need of inspiration or just general assistance it’s definitely a beneficial method to take a “social day”, collaborating with others and gathering information. Then again, sooner or later you’re gonna have to get the work done, focusing on the task at hand. This is sensibly done later in the day at a social workspace, with a small concentration of colleagues nearby… provided you’re able to stay awake.