Brief thought exercise: if you have a relatively standard office job, could you theoretically do it from a pub each day?

In many ways, this is a ludicrous discussion, and I want to admit that up front. The largest occupation in America right now is retail, and retail jobs tend to be things you need to be in a physical place (i.e. the store you work for) in order to do. Same with teachers and doctors (other large professions): you need to, in general, be inside a school or a hospital / your practice. You could work in manufacturing and need to report to a specific plant every day. All these things are viable possibilities.

Caveats out of the way now, though, consider this: working physically in an office can be a bit of a preposterous notion. There are studies on the effectiveness of virtual teams, many public transportation systems weren’t built to connect where people live with where people work, everyone driving is bad for the environment, etc, etc. Plus: the central logic for having everyone in an office is collaboration across different teams. We know that doesn’t always really happen. A lot of the real reason for having people in an office is much simpler: there’s an inherent assumption that if you’re not physically in a place where people can observe you and see that you’re accountable, there’s probably a good chance that you’re off somewhere slacking off. This is a whole cycle whereby employers can periodically treat grown adults like children.

I thought about this topic for two reasons:

1. I was texting with my man Bales earlier today and one of us said something along the lines of, “I’d just love to work remotely from a pub.”

2. Reminded me of this story: back in the day, when I was working for ESPN, most of the team I was on were essentially digital content creators + curators. We had laptops with our CMS system and oftentimes we were expected to work on the weekends, no matter where we were (just take our laptop with us). One of my co-workers blew up in a meeting with our boss (I think it was over vacation time) and said something like, “Hell, I could do this job from a lake in Idaho!” Now, admittedly you shouldn’t say that in a meeting, but it’s actually true for a lot of standard office jobs. If that lake in question has Wi-Fi nearby and you can float while mail-merging, you’d probably be good.

So I started thinking about this pub thing. Now, it would be dank during the day, and that’s probably not good. The food likely isn’t healthy (and it’s expensive). But let’s say you had pretty good self-control and you wanted to sit at a pub most of the day, Wi-Fi enabled, and get your stuff done? And then, once you got your stuff done, you grabbed a pint and headed home? This idea really isn’t that crazy in terms of the actual work getting done — it’s crazy in the context of “Man, a job is NOT sitting in a bar all day!” But why can’t we reconcile those two things?

Look, sometimes I go to pubs solo because I like the conversations you can get into. Last night I was with my wife, but she was talking to someone and I ended up discussing Edinburgh (where I’ve never been) with some guy from there. Minutes later, we’re talking about “Clause 34.” (Google it.) About a week ago, I went to a quick happy hour solo; ended up discussing the pros and cons of Orlando as a city. Had never met the guy before. So if I were to take a laptop and sit in a bar all day and periodically take breaks to meet some new people, that might actually expand my mind as opposed to sitting around the same groups of cubicle-mates I’d typically be around. No one’s really focused all day at work anyway — science backs that up! — so what’s the actual harm in this? I get that there’s a contextual and perspective harm, but if I were to sit in a bar all day and get my work done and grab some fish and chips and make some new friends, should that be something that’s penalized?

Just kind of an interesting, if completely impossible, thought — in modern work culture, “the bar” is often the reward at the end of the week/day. What if the bar / substitute-any-other-place-you-like-such-as-a-lake-in-Idaho was actually weaved in to the work and the reward? Would it really kill your performance that much?

Ted Bauer


  1. Hi Ted,
    I’m all over this and have done it. Another way to look at this is through behavior styles. Some people have better concentration in a quiet library and others in a noisy pub. Which ever works for you, your breaks can be opposite. That said, I do meetings in the pub. Make calls in the pub and have webinars in the pub. It works!

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