Yep. Your Physical Work Space Still Matters

Empty Office Chair and Desk

Once in a while I “run into” reality TV while channel surfing. There seems to be a series about every topic imaginable — from pitching a new product to remodeling your bathroom. To be expected, I am drawn to shows which include a coach that whips a home or business into shape. Most of these coaches are of the “no-nonsense” variety

I’m all for obliterating a bit of denial and the clutter that may accompany it. Sometimes moving through the “muck”  is the only way forward.

The psychology of your workspace

Work spaces are an interesting topic to consider. I find they often reflect problems brewing on a much deeper level. I’ve seen all sorts of work spaces — messy environments, dark conference rooms and walls without a single picture or plaque. The environment always seems to speak to me about its resident:  I’m unsettled. I’m depressed. I’m not committed to being here. I want out.

Last week I happened upon a show called “The Amandas” (I am assuming a word play on the movie “Heathers”, although these girls are not nearly as scary). The real “Amanda” is a clutter and organizational maven of tremendous proportions. She’s tough, driven and really knows how to purge unwanted stuff and the attached emotional baggage. When her team is finished, the business or home is in perfect order and the benefits seems to go much further than the outward presentation. There is gratitude and relief, as the process of altering the physical space seems to allow the individuals to move forward and become more effective.

So, does your space say — “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here?” — if so, some changes are in order.

Why it matters

As much as we’d like to think that skills are the only factor contributing to becoming successful and serving customers, the fact remains that where we work contributes to how we work.

Here are just a few reasons to pay attention to the physical space where you work:

  • You need to be effectiveas form follows function. If you don’t have a workspace that functions properly, you will most likely become less productive. If you find yourself clearing off a space to work — or your team has to stand during morning briefings (because you have no area that allows all of you to sit and gather) you have a problem.
  • Your surroundings can be a source of inspiration. Living and working in a well designed space can help ideas flow. Qualities such as color, lighting, sound, office configuration and the furniture all come into play. If your office is so dark it depresses you, that’s a problem. If you have a set up with closed cubicles and collaboration is key, that’s a problem as well. You get the idea.
  • You need to project a positive image for your customers. Your physical space is a reflection of how you see yourself, and your business. The style, form and function of your space, all contribute to your image. If you work in a creative industry (advertising, design, etc.) your workspace is even more important — as it is a reflection of what you can achieve for your customers.

It seems that becoming more effective, can possibly start on the surface and trickle down to the other aspects of your work life. When you really think about it – sometimes rearranging the furniture is much more than it seems.

More on the topic here:
Greatly Improve Your Physical Workspace with Small Changes, Lifehacker.
Physical Workspace Considerations, Steelcase.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist and coach located in East Lansing, Michigan. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.

2 thoughts on “Yep. Your Physical Work Space Still Matters

  1. I think I should change the name of this post to “Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here.” I have seen work spaces that are not unlike this description. I have to ask them: How do you work here? Thanks so much for reading, Miriam!


  2. Marla, I just got a visual from the movie Joe vs the Volcano. I don’t know if you saw the movie, but in the beginning, Tom Hanks works in a horrible office with buzzing fluorescent lights and a sign on the wall which reads, “Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here.”

    I realize this reference is not real life, but I do know someone who works in a cubicle where the chairs are all broken down and like the movie, the lights buzz consistently.

    Thanks for bringing this often overlooked but important topic to the forefront. Miriam


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