Good Chair, Good Lighting, and Tree Houses: Design Your Workspace
If you’re self-employed, you probably have some say about your workspace. But in organizations, you usually have to sit where they put you, even if it’s mind-numbing. That’s unfortunate because a comfortable workspace translates into improved productivity.
For example, in a 2010 study in London, forty-seven workers were allowed to arrange their small offices with as many plants and pictures as they wanted. They were found to be up to 32 percent more productive than others not given this control. Of course, the improvement might have been due to the opportunity to have a say rather than to the plants and pictures themselves, so it may be worth inviting your employees to give their opinions about the design of their workspace. (Obviously, cost is an issue, so there are limits on what’s feasible.)
If you’re in a position to offer suggestions about your workspace, keep in mind that a decent chair is critical. After all, you can’t function if your back is hurting. The web is full of links to companies that sell ergonomically designed chairs, and I was pleased to find a listing for ergonomic chairs for short people—but I was distressed to read it and learn that there are, in fact, few choices for short people. As one such short person, my own solution was to have a desk custom made to be shorter than the typical desk so that I’m not limited in my choice of chairs and—equally important—I can position my hands properly on my keyboard.
Another must-have is good lighting. Natural lighting is ideal, but if you’re confined to the dark and dreary inner core of the building, then installed lighting adequate to avoid eyestrain is a must.
And of course, you need enough storage so that you have desk space to actually work. Ideally, you should have space for quiet time and privacy and space for small groups to meet.
Unfortunately, space for quiet time is often lacking in open-plan offices. These offices have both advantages and disadvantages, and most people who’ve worked in them have strong opinions about them—some positive, some negative. Interestingly, there’s starting to be some significant backlash against open-plan arrangements. And then there’s hot desking, which entails multiple people using the same workspace at different times. Apparently, more than a few people hate this arrangement.
Fortunately, in many organizations, you at least have the freedom to customize your workspace with the posters, photos, and cartoons of your choice. But I admire the companies that bypass the traditional and focus on really creative designs. (Anyone want to work in a tree house?)