The perfect workspace

My client office is in the process of redesigning and rebuilding the office space. The old environment was the traditional “cubicle farm,” along with individual offices used by managers. The new environment — still a work in progress — eliminates the cubicles and utilizes a more open office environment. Each worker who is not a director will have a desk — and not much more.

I have mixed feelings about the new setup. For over a year, space has been an issue; there had been talk about moving to a larger office. The new setup maximizes the use of space. The office spaces have a sleek, modern new look; it looks like a brand-new workspace (which it is), and the new furnishings appear comfortable and attractive. A part of me looks forward to relocating to a clean and shiny new desk. At the same time, it also leaves something to be desired; privacy is non-existent, I have no place to hang my jacket (I do NOT like putting it on the back of my chair), and seeing that many of us participate in virtual meetings through our computers, it could potentially get noisy.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve had a variety of workspaces. In my first job out of college, I didn’t even have a desk of my own; my “workspace” was a data center. Granted, I didn’t do a lot of “sitting at a desk” at that job; much of what I did involved roaming around the data center. Nevertheless, I wasn’t too happy that I didn’t have a space that I could call my own. My next job (and for many jobs afterward), I had my own cubicle. I once had an office (that I shared with another guy) with its own window and door. (I even bought a small dorm-sized cube refrigerator that we shared.) Other times, I worked (as I do now) in an open shared office space. And every once in a while when the need arises (daytime appointment, illness, bad weather, etc.), I’ll work at home in my own living room, sitting in my recliner with the TV on, my laptop, and (sometimes) Bernard — our tuxedo cat and my co-worker for that day — in front of me.

I wrote in an earlier article that I believe a comfortable workspace is important. (For the sake of context, “comfortable” means “I feel good in my workspace,” as opposed to “I love my job.”) Most of my waking hours during a typical week, I am in my workspace; for all intents and purposes, it is my home away from home. If I spend so much time at my workspace, I want it to be comfortable.

What makes a perfect workspace? It depends on the person. Personally, I like having multiple large monitors, a comfortable adjustable chair (that I always adjust to its highest position), a place to hang my coat (again, NOT on the back of my chair), some type of climate control (I usually prefer it cooler, so I usually have a small fan at my desk), a little space where I can put my wife’s picture on my desk and a Syracuse pennant on the wall, and a little bit of privacy while still maintaining some face time with my co-workers. Even those requirements have changed over the years; at one point or another, I would’ve wanted a door that closed, a window with a view, and a place where I could put a small refrigerator. As time passed, those features became less important to me.

No workspace will ever be “perfect.” No matter how comfortable you make your work environment, there will always be some kind of flaw. Nevertheless, it should be a place where you’re comfortable while being productive. Consider it your “home” when you’re at work — because that’s essentially what it is.

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