Where you work matters. There. We said it.
Yes, where you work matters, but that statement may not mean what you think. This isn’t about whether you work in an office building, in a home office, at the table out on your patio, or at the local coffee shop. This is about how the environment around you influences your productivity.
Sure, the beauty of technology like laptops, Wi-Fi, mobile phones, cloud-based applications, and all the rest is that we can work virtually anywhere. But that doesn’t mean just anywhere works. There are some factors you should consider regardless of where your physical workspace exists if you want to work well in those spaces.
Room to Move (and Store, and Organize, and Stretch)
Finding the right size workspace isn’t a pre-set Goldilocks equation. The right space, however, should give you enough room to be able to organize all the bits and pieces of material you need. Working on a small desk in the corner of your living room with stacks of folders and papers balanced precariously between your left leg and the wall is a sign you may not have allocated enough room. Likewise, that coffee cup teetering on the brink of disaster at the edge of your desk because it’s squished in between more folders, pens, your mouse and a keyboard is simply a clue that your space is not big enough.
Of course, that same desk may work just fine for someone else. It’s not about the size. It’s about how you work and what you need to do so. The right space gives you room to organize your work related things with some wiggle room to move as you need to.
Window Seat, Please
If you’ve got the choice, opt for natural lighting over artificial light. There’s an overwhelming amount of research regarding the impact of natural light on our health, our sleep habits, our happiness, and our productivity. The key takeaway from all those studies: the more natural light you’re exposed to, the better.
If you’ve got the flexibility to create your own work space, look for a space that draws at least some light from windows or skylights. Of course, if your options don’t include windows and skylights, don’t despair. Just make sure you’re taking some time during the day to get yourself some sunlight.
Tame the Noise
You’ve got to know how you work. Some focus better in silence. Some need a little background noise from music playing to the quiet murmur of other people’s conversations at the other side of the coffee shop. This isn’t to say you build out a soundproof home office or that you must set up camp in the center cubicle in your corporate office. This is about being aware of what you need and creating an environment that meets those needs. Noise canceling headphones, as example, may become a work staple for you – especially if you’re not working in an environment where you can physically isolate yourself. If you need that background noise, well, then you stream music, work with the office door open, or grab that prime spot in the coffee shop.
If you’ve got a regular work space, make it your own. From family photos, to a houseplant, to a few fidget toys, a favorite piece of art, and a coffee mug that’s all your own, adding personal touches to your space is a must.
In fact, a 2010 study by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that we’re about 32% more productive when we’ve had some ability to customize our workspaces. The study looked at more than whether or not you’ve got your favorite Sesame Street mug featuring Grover in arm’s reach, of course, but, the fact remains, being able to make your workspace your workspace matters.
Room to Collaborate
Whether you’re working in the corporate office or from a home office, you need to create a space to collaborate with your team, your partners, and your clients. Whether that’s a conference room or common workspaces in the corporate center or online tools like Slack and Zoom, make it easy to reach out to your team, and anyone else you need to get input from.
Your office should have the space and tools needed for you to easily work together. It should also, by the way, have spaces to just chat and build relational connections with your team. Make space to linger a little while making small talk or to catch up over the latest jaw-dropping turn of events on Succession or whatever other show has your office buzzing this week.