the power of spaces

I know lots of people who have changed their geography of work this year.

That’s an odd way to say that people are working in different offices, different buildings. Sometimes whole offices of people have moved. Sometimes people have changed companies and careers and clienteles.

Even I have changed spaces. I changed both desks and desk locations at home. I changed where I work, who I work with, what direction I travel when I go to work. I even drive a different one of our vehicles to work, changing to the one that has better mileage because I now travel further. The photo is from my new drive home. I used to see factories and houses and big buildings. Now I see barns and buggies.

Nancy, on the other hand, travels closer. She kept the same people to work with but they moved to her third office in four years. They share space with other organizations.

Connie changed houses, Chris changed offices. Some of you have exchanged an office for a briefcase and hotel room and endless coffee house/wifi hotspots.

For all of us who have changed geographies, may I make a suggestion?

Sometime soon, very soon, slide your chair back and look around the space. As you look at the geography, how have you inflicted yourself on it? Perhaps more importantly, how has it inflicted itself on you?

Have you changed how far you walk from the parking lot to your desk? How has that changed your exercise? Have you changed how much desk space you have? How does that change how you lay out your thoughts (I put up a bigger whiteboard)? Have you changed how much time you spend close to people or away from people? How does that change how loudly you can play your music (I shut the door) or how loudly you can talk on the phone or how much white noise you need to shut out other noises (I downloaded a white noise loop)?

All of us know that there is a measure of stress associated with changing living and working spaces. Some of it is good stress, other is less good. We feel it and may blame the people, the pressure, the job. But too often, I think, we don’t pay attention to how much of the stress comes simply from the way habits change as the patterns of space change.

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3 responses to “the power of spaces

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Last year, my business resided in an office on a great street in downtown Ottawa – abundant restaurants, and a great community vibe. However, massive construction efforts and the associated noise, dust and irritation drove us out of the space this summer. Now, our team all works from home, including me and my partner. And it was the best thing for us.

    I am happy to get up every morning, grab my coffee, and head downstairs to my home office to work. I don’t have a stressful, rushed commute anymore. I can work at my own pace. I can choose whether or not I’m interrupted. I am more productive than ever.

    My staff feels the same way – we get more done, in less time. I think the virtual office is the way of the future, at least for my company. When it comes to spaces, less is definitely more, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks for the description. It’s a great example of space change being positive.

    Are there some industries that work better that way?

  3. I think some industries work better than others – I can really only speak from my own experience. We do web development and video production – so we’re either on location shooting or renting a studio or edit suite, or editing on our own systems which are set up in our own homes. Web development naturally lends itself to working remotely as well, of course.

    We are also fortunate to have meeting room space available to us at a major high tech firm in town, so if we do need a formal space we have it. Also shared workspaces like http://www.thecodefactory.com here in town are becoming a popular option.

    I think a lot of small businesses could benefit from working virtually. Would love to hear about more people who are doing it.