Pick the Right SpotIt sounds obvious, but if you want to get a lot done at work, you need to choose a workspace conducive to your line of business and your place of business.
Work at home? Then consider a space with a door or divider that you can "open" and "close" for business each day, or that is in a separate wing or section of the home where others know not to disturb you during work hours. Privacy, however, shouldn't trump comfort. Just because a basement, attic or backyard shed offers you work-alone space doesn't mean you'll work effectively, especially if extreme temperatures, mold or dust send you flying back to the climate-controlled air of the den. Before moving to an unusual nook or cranny of your home, ask yourself whether the space is (or can become) comfortable enough to keep you productive throughout a full workday. Work in a borrowed office? Many startups and solo acts sublet space from another business. That's fine, but before you sign on, make sure you've got your own discreet workspace, storage space, mailing address, and access during normal office hours, and that you've got adequate cell phone reception. Also, make sure you can perform your job functions in the sublet's environment. If you've got an open-air cube but need to make sensitive calls, or if you need to host business partners but can't borrow a conference room, you won't get far. Think through a workday before you sign, and make sure you can accomplish these tasks in the sublet. Work in your own office? Lucky you! As you grow and change your business, chances are your job description will morph, too. If you started out solo but are now hiring, think about how the office layout communicates and facilitates roles within the workplace. If you're the boss of this enterprise, do you want to sit off in the corner or behind a door--or do you want to sit in the center of the workspace, interacting with all the great wear-many-hats contributors you've hired? As you add staff, make sure that where they sit, and the equipment they can access, makes sense.
Think About The "Third Place"Not every entrepreneur needs to work from home or from an office building. Depending on the size and stage of your enterprise, chances are you might benefit from working in a so-called "third place"--a collaborative area that offers more social interaction than a home office but less structure than the four walls you'd rent in an office building, and where a nascent sense of community offers inspiration and networking potential. The term "third place" was coined in the late 1980s by Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place and refers to community spaces that are neither home-based nor office-based, and where affordable and informal meeting and social spaces are available. Third places can include community centers, libraries and, most especially, the corner coffee shop with wireless internet access. While third places aren't necessarily intended as offices, for many idea-driven entrepreneurs they provide informal yet stimulating environments for early-stage working. In addition, a new breed of third place--known as co-working spaces--has emerged in recent years. Co-working spaces are designed for people who don't want to work alone from home or exclusively from an office. Ideal for telecommuters and entrepreneurs, these workspaces offer flexible workstations, office amenities (coffee, fax, printer, photocopier, wireless routers, storage), as well as informal gathering spaces like first-come, first-serve conference rooms, beanbag chairs, and mingling spaces. The goal is to offer a "creative community," which can be a plus if you're looking to brainstorm or recruit or barter services. Typically, you can use these spaces on a drop-in basis for a flat day rate or become a member at varying levels (20 hours per week, 24/7 access) for varying prices. Should you work from a "third place"? Think seriously about it if:
- You need to hold informal meetings with less than a handful of people at a time.
- You need to get out of your house but don't need the formality of a regular office.
- You're comfortable--even energized--working with background noise and bustle.
- You're at the research or pre-launch stage of your business.
- You enjoy interacting with other solo acts and entrepreneurs.
- You don't always spend a full workday in one spot and mostly need "touch-down" space.
- You can afford to spend about $15 per day on coffee--or "rent" at a co-working space.
Get Rid Of Clutter--DailyYes, yes, a messy desk is a symptom of a busy worker--and that's good, right? But if you spend as much time looking for those papers or that file as you do actually dealing with its contents, you need to institute a de-cluttering schedule. Ideally, you should organize your desk both daily and weekly, developing a home for various workplace tools (pens, pencils, chargers) and a system for managing paperwork. On a daily basis:
- Stack and sort. What do you need first thing tomorrow? Assemble the papers, documents and collateral necessary. What do you need later in the day tomorrow? Bunch relevant material in bundles, so you have materials necessary for each project/meeting handy and at least clustered together.
- Leave at least one or two square feet of working space empty on your desktop so you feel you've got a clean slate when you start work in the morning.
- Toss it! If you've doodled numbers or notes, input them in your contact management software, computer or mobile device and then toss papers. If you've doodled brainstorms or follow-up ideas, put them in a folder assigned to "brainstorming" and review it weekly. Look to see if they belong in a digital calendar or organizer or in a big folder of "general ideas" you revisit periodically.
- Stack and sort. What can you stow for later? What needs to remain handy for re-use?
- Stow expense receipts or other paperwork you'll need to save for taxes or other purposes in an out-of-sight/out-of-mind folder.
- Clean off any write-on/wipe-off or bulletin boards containing outdated events, contacts, meeting notices or invites.
- Digitize any business cards or other contact information you've culled during the week.
- Fill an "idea" folder--stash any notes, scribbles, articles, etc., that grabbed your eye during the week in here. Then, go through the folder once a week for action items.
Rethink Your InteriorsIt's surprising how many offices create such an unpleasant environment that people aren't productive. Consider the following steps:
- Replace glaring neon or overhead lights with ambient lighting or energy-saving sensor-based lighting that shuts on and off as workers enter or exit a space. Wattstopper (www.wattstopper.com) makes models for both residential and commercial spaces.
- Get fresh air via open windows instead of relying on indoor air. In buildings that lack operable windows, consider using a portable air purifier (available at most office superstores) or periodic duct cleaning through a professional service.
- Spruce up space with work-appropriate paint. It's amazing how negatively grimy, putty-colored walls impact morale. How about painting the place and cheering people up a little, or choosing a color that relates to the company's mission or industry? Color theory can tell you what types of colors create what types of moods. For instance, warm hues (red, yellow and orange) are stimulating and assertive--perfect, perhaps, for sales, advertising or creative businesses. In contrast, blue, green and violet are all calming colors, better suited for eco-friendly, healing and natural professions. Pantone offers an interesting discussion of color theory here: http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/Pantone.aspx?pg=19382&ca=29
Sit Up Straight!Amazingly basic, but if you're sitting in an uncomfortable chair or have grown accustomed to using your laptop on a varying assortment of coffee shop tables, borrowed desks or airplane tray tables, you're probably paying the price with a sore back and crunched-up neck. If you work solo, go to a better office furnishings store and ask them to show you how to adjust your chair to the proper height for your body. If you work with others and can spring for it, have an ergonomic guru assess office furnishings. If you've got an adjustable chair or desk and want to work effectively, try these tips from the Centers for Disease Control:
- Choose a chair with lumbar support and sit upright in the chair so your lower back and shoulders both touch the backrest.
- Chair height should allow for feet to sit flat on the floor. (Use a footrest if this isn't possible.)
- Thighs should parallel the floor, with knees at hip level.
- There should be 2 to 4 inches between back of knee and seat.
- Allow 2 to 3 inches between thighs and underside of desk or work station.