I made a big move this weekend, in the physical sense, as well as less literally. I moved to a new apartment in a new part of town, and it’s as if I’ve officially started a new phase in my life.
I don’t know if it’s my age, or the situation I found myself in, but I never really could find an apartment that I liked and that I could also afford. Plus, I was living with someone, so compromises had to be made (this place was closer to his work, that place was cheap enough for our budget, etc.). When we split, I had to find a place quick. The place I took was too expensive for my budget, so I downgraded severely as I tried to reign in my spending and get back on my feet financially after losing my job, my car, my dual income living situation and getting sober.
It took me a year. Soon after I celebrated my one-year anniversary last month, I signed a one-year lease on a condo on North Padre Island (the beach!). The past two weeks have been downright unbearable as I waited and waited for moving day to come. And tonight, going back to the old apartment I had come to disdain so much to do the final cleaning, time crept so slowly I thought it would stand still. Finally, I drove off, and immediately called a friend to announce I was leaving the old apartment for the last time. Hallelujah!
I guess the point I’m trying to make in a roundabout way is how our surroundings affect us. I took my previous apartment because it was cheap. That was the only reason. I figured for the price I could stand just about anything. Not so. I grew to dislike it so much that I never wanted to be there. Even when I needed to do work or read, I would go somewhere else to do it. I’m not sure exactly what it was – it could’ve been the grey carpet, or the circa-1978 fixtures, or the unrespectable neighbors. It could’ve been merely what it represented to me – a time in my life where frugality was the biggest necessity, an era of character-building hardship.
Even only half-way unpacked, I love spending time in my new home so much, I look forward to returning to it all day, unlike my previous apartment, which I dreaded going home to. For the first time in my life, everything seems like it belongs. The furniture belongs, the paintings belong, and the towels match. I belong. I guess it feels like my space, my own home. It’s a wonderful feeling.
As I move my company into a new area – office optimization – how your space affects you is something that I will be focusing on. Certain colors soothe (blue), while others energize (orange). There is an optimal set-up to achieve maximum productivity in every space. As I move into my new apartment, I’m trying to achieve this with my own space.
It’s about more than just achieving maximum productivity though. It’s about being able to enjoy the space that you’re working in. One of the coolest office set-ups I’ve ever seen is at Pixar, and Microsoft Research has some pretty cool ones too. My offices at work are painted in two shades of green – bright grass green and cool pastel green. It’s energizing and somehow always makes it feel fresh in there.
The best offices, in my opinion, are wireless and paperless. Why not set up Wi-Fi and give everybody laptops? Make spaces that go beyond traditional cubicles and desks. I had the opportunity to redesign a previous company’s space, and that was exactly what I lobbied for. Instead of desks, there were tables and comfortable sofa chairs. Instead of a separate office for every employee, the rooms were separated by function. There was a meeting room, a brainstorming room, a library/”quiet” room, a multimedia room, and a break room. Each one had a different tone to match its function. The brainstorming room was looser, had brighter colors and rearrangable furniture. The library had bean bags and sofas and dimmer lights to suggest quiet; the multimedia room had large glass tables for projects and plenty of direct light.
When your environment is inviting, it will be hard to get people to leave it, kind of like my new apartment and me. When the environment is functional, things will get done. When the environment is optimized, things will get done faster. Faster, productive employees who want to be at the office? Sounds good to me.
Check out real people’s cool home offices [hat tip: Lifehacker.com].