What's in a Workspace?

If the word “workspace” generates images of an office with blank walls, a space where you have to be but don’t want to be, you’re not alone. As work has shifted, changed, and reinvented over the years, the workspaces themselves have changed too. During the industrial revolution, a workspace was geared toward mass production with the advent of the assembly line and division of labor. While at the time this was a new and innovative approach that brought with it many benefits, especially for the companies that employed it, it did little for the employees who worked it. Some of workers’ rights that came from this era however, included labor unions, the eight-hour work day, and improved working conditions. It is not without recognition for those who came before us and helped pave the way for these workers’ rights. So why should we demand more and better options from our workplace/workspace today? Ultimately, it is about our health and overall well-being. And at the end of the day, if we don’t take care of our bodies and health, our work productivity, among other things, suffers. Today we see the pros and cons of open office settings and the rise of co-working or collaborative spaces. By nature, people are social beings, and finding a happy balance between work/life, social interaction/uninterrupted focused work can be difficult. So, what can you do about it if A) you’re an employee for an organization where you aren’t satisfied, B) you work from home or for yourself and struggle to find focus, or C) you don’t have a designated workspace that brings you peace?

First, know that more is in your own control than you may think. Take some time to better understand why you are not satisfied at work - is it the work, or your environment. If it is the environment, consider changes you can make within your space to improve that by finding ways to make your space reflect, invigorate, and motivate you. Bring photos of friends or family or sentimental artwork into your space. Request an ergonomic assessment or adjustments to your chair or desk that will improve your comfort. Place a DO NOT DISTURB sign when seeking focused, uninterrupted work time.

You may be your own enemy when it comes to productivity. How can you make order work for you? This does not have to mean having a minimalist, pristine desk top. At it’s core, it means identifying what aspects of order are appropriate for you and building those systems and tools into your workspace. This could include adding a set of open files or an inbox for immediate action, in progress, and to address later. Or it could mean going through all your files, purging, and creating a new filing system. There are so many organizational tools available today to address any need you may identify. Aside from the physical space, you may identify characteristics in your work ethic that may be getting in the way. This can be trickier to address — er, admit, but there are tools and strategies for this as well, and they are more important now than ever before. As we rapidly advance in the digital age everything we do can easily be tied to instant gratification, which is often at odds with our true productivity.

Let’s say you travel for work or have an office at home, at the office, and in your car. Or, better yet, you kinda work wherever you are - either on your bed or the dinning room table. I would venture to say that even the most focused and productive individual would have difficultly with any of these scenarios, and the last thing it probably does is bring you peace. And, admittedly, some would say they aren’t seeking “peace” in their workspace. But, just humor me for a moment and imagine if you had a dedicated space all to yourself — imagine where it is and what it looks like. What if you felt calm and at ease upon entering, as if it was your sanctuary? What if it didn’t feel like work? Wouldn’t you want to be there more often - especially when you have to be for those pesky quarterly reports or to write that blog post or make those dreaded sales calls? Imagine what you would need in your designated space to feel that—music, artwork, quality light, a comfortable chair or chaise lounge to read long documents, a spot for meditation on the floor in your sacred direction?

Most people would probably admit that they are missing something from their workspace. It’s identifying and implementing it that makes the difference, especially if you are doing your life’s work. The more at ease you are to do your work, the more success and reach you will have sharing your wonderful skills and talents with the world. It’s time to own your order and make your workspace work for you!