Innovate your workplace

I guess everybody knows the feeling you get one day before the due date of an assignment at uni. It is often combined with an increased level of stress from the need to pull an all-nighter to finish the task and meet the timeline. I admit that I have been one of those last-minute crunchers, even though I managed to finish a couple of days early every once in a while.

However, I think everyone agrees that most study lounges with artificial lighting don’t create an atmosphere that fosters creative working. In this post, I don’t want to talk about the issue of time-management, but rather about creating a working-environment that stimulates creativity and innovation.

Winston Churchil said:

“We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”

Following this quote, it is important to pursue a creative workspace-design to pursue those requirements. From my own experience I can tell you that it is sometimes useful to change locations if possible, even though your workplace might be innovation-itself, to stimulate creativity.

Since change of location is not always an option, because there is a limited amount of available spots around and your dependence on local infrastructure (like IT and stationary inventory), it is crucial to create a working environment that supports your creative needs.

Scott Witthoft and Scott Doorley targeted this specific topic in their post “Five ways to make corporate space more creative”. The most important areas to include are posture, orientation (of people relative to each other), and ambience (the tangibles of a room). Disagreeing with Witthoft and Doorley I say that ambience probably is the most important and obvious of those areas, and therefore gets a lot of credit in the first run of workplace-innovation-improvements. It is not always about the major and cost-intense changes like refurnishing the room with whiteboards and adapting a Google-like environment. Even fairly simple changes like the lighting in your office might have a huge impact on the working-atmosphere. From my own experience, I can tell you that it is much more pleasant to work at a warm-lighted desk, rather than at a cold-lighted, even though cold-light is known to reduce tiredness.

Also the posture is important to your creative outcomes. Witthoft and Doorley stated “[they]’ve noticed time and time again that an upright posture encourages people to stay alert and engaged in problem solving, while a comfortable, ‘lean-back’ posture often turns people into passive critics.” Therefore they suggest to use stools in a seminar-configuration rather than chairs to keep participants stay involved in the discussion. Again, I’ve experienced this myself, when I recently had the opportunity to work at a desk that was high-adjustable. Stand-up working for an hour or so every once in a while was a welcome variation that I used quiet frequently and noticeably increased productivity and courtesy.

In terms of people’s orientation I think offices already implemented a standard. The majority of the ones I’ve visited so far with multiple people working in them, had two desks facing each other with a computer-screen right in the middle of them avoiding direct eye-contact of the colleagues. Personally, I like this configuration; maybe just because I’m used to it. Even though, I would argue that a configuration of desks opposing one another, might enforce the creative-process since it is much easier to quickly look at your colleagues screen to double-check something or to request input.

Returning to my uni-classmates I have to say that I’ve always been amazed to see how different people worked creatively in the most diverse working environments. I support the idea to work in a coffee-shop or on a bench in a park, every once in a while, I’d even recommend it. Since this is not always possible I encourage you to think about what enforces your creative-edge.

What would make you more productive and innovative at your workplace? Don’t just think about the big changes. Also think about minor details that might stimulate you. Sometimes even a photo of your beloved ones might be enough.

Think about it and take small steps to implement your ideas. And tell us…

Sebastian

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