How Do You Feel about Your Workspace?

I’ve come across some interesting thoughts on productivity, creativity and physical space lately.

First, there’s this bit from Lifehacker about how ceiling height affects your thinking. The central finding of the research is that higher ceilings tend to foster abstract thought, whereas lower ceilings tend to encourage detailed thinking. Pretty cool.

thecubes_4up.jpgThen today, there’s another bit that says working in close physical proximity destroys productivity due to interruptions and resulting loss of focus and repeated restarts. Nothing that mind-bending here, but cool when you combine it with the former bit.

Using this logic, to foster innovation, you’ll want lots of offices with high ceilings. If you need to squeeze productivity and sweat the details, you’ll want a lot of offices with low ceilings. The weird part comes when you try to figure which physical limitation costs more, i.e. do high ceilings in bullpen-style rooms foster lots of great, albeit incomplete ideas?

What about low ceilings in a conference room? This sounds similar to recent experiences with the swimming pool that we’ve had lately, i.e. lots of detailed objections with no clear endpoint.

Anyway, this is weird to me. I’ve worked on virtual teams at Oracle for a long time, and we seem to get more distributed all the time. So, you get a really weird mix if you have a couple people in a conference room on the phone with people in home offices with high ceilings.

Another weirdy for me is that people complain that they feel disconnected from the team when they are distributed. So, we’d be less productive in a single location (due to interruptions), but happier, or at least more content, to be part of a team.

Work is a huge part of our lives. So, it should be as comfortable and stimulating as possible.

At a startup, I sat in tiny cubicle next to a painted cinder block wall, at least 50 feet from the nearest window. At the old Oracle office in Santa Monica (now a Google office), the cubes were on raised floor with no direct access to windows. All the offices had windows, so we poor cube slobs were at the mercy of the office people. A closed door meant no light for you! That was the the dopest location in the universe, right down the street from Third Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the beach, but it was so depressing. Ever had those Winter days when you came to work in the dark and left in the dark?

And just today, I was lobbying my wife to have another window put in my home office. So, for me it’s all about natural light.

What physical conditions do you think affect you at work?

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

10 comments

  1. I’m right by a window at work here in London, which is great, the downsides being it looks out onto the A40 (think mulit-carriageway-smog-fest) in London and I’m in a basement so my eyeline is at the pavement (sidewalk) level. I can see lots of sky though!

  2. I’m right by a window at work here in London, which is great, the downsides being it looks out onto the A40 (think mulit-carriageway-smog-fest) in London and I’m in a basement so my eyeline is at the pavement (sidewalk) level. I can see lots of sky though!

  3. Does your window sit in front of a lot of foot traffic? That would be a little weird for your concentration.
    Jake

  4. Does your window sit in front of a lot of foot traffic? That would be a little weird for your concentration.
    Jake

  5. Its not too bad except the odd weirdo who likes to come right up to the window and stare in! I’ve no idea what they expect to see/happen? Thats when the blinds come down to protect us from the odd world outside.

  6. Its not too bad except the odd weirdo who likes to come right up to the window and stare in! I’ve no idea what they expect to see/happen? Thats when the blinds come down to protect us from the odd world outside.

  7. The cubicles all have windows here, which was hard to get used to seeing every move people make. It’s distracting but the real sunlight makes up for it. I have to use headphones to drown out other peoples’ conversations because cubicles can never do it right.

    I’ve seen companies stuff consultants, auditors, etc into conference rooms and then wonder why they’re aren’t productive or as happy as everyone else. Many places use desks and cubicle dividers until they fall apart; they wind up with a grotesque mish-mash of furniture. I’ve also worked at companies that wanted to do the right thing and bought new desks, cubicles, etc when moving to bigger offices but they always went with battleship-gray that just made you feel blah. No more splinters from wood desks or old gum sticking to your knees from the underside of the desk, but… ug.

    There is so much evidence that office design affects performance, productivity and morale. Very few get it. I’d love to work in a building with this kind of design. (I’ll bet the tiny pictures don’t do the office justice.)

  8. The cubicles all have windows here, which was hard to get used to seeing every move people make. It’s distracting but the real sunlight makes up for it. I have to use headphones to drown out other peoples’ conversations because cubicles can never do it right.

    I’ve seen companies stuff consultants, auditors, etc into conference rooms and then wonder why they’re aren’t productive or as happy as everyone else. Many places use desks and cubicle dividers until they fall apart; they wind up with a grotesque mish-mash of furniture. I’ve also worked at companies that wanted to do the right thing and bought new desks, cubicles, etc when moving to bigger offices but they always went with battleship-gray that just made you feel blah. No more splinters from wood desks or old gum sticking to your knees from the underside of the desk, but… ug.

    There is so much evidence that office design affects performance, productivity and morale. Very few get it. I’d love to work in a building with this kind of design. (I’ll bet the tiny pictures don’t do the office justice.)

  9. Doug: I can imagine that would be odd. I hope you don’t have tinted on one-way mirror glass. Personally, not a fan of basement living or working, so I feel for you.

    Matt: Nice office. This looks just like the old Excite.com office did back in 99. It was converted warehouse space, with a garage door conference room, very cool.

    I’ve seen some people share a cube, which is the ultimate insult. How can you expect to get anything done in that situation?

  10. Doug: I can imagine that would be odd. I hope you don’t have tinted on one-way mirror glass. Personally, not a fan of basement living or working, so I feel for you.

    Matt: Nice office. This looks just like the old Excite.com office did back in 99. It was converted warehouse space, with a garage door conference room, very cool.

    I’ve seen some people share a cube, which is the ultimate insult. How can you expect to get anything done in that situation?

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