In my last article, I talked about the importance of designing a workspace that works for you above all. Once an office or space is setup for yourself, however, it’s rare that you’re in a position where others won’t be seeing it as well. Whether these people are a boss, clients, co-workers or guests, you want your workspace to communicate a positive message to visitors about you or your business. For this, it needs to be professional, accessible and comfortable.
What Your Workspace Design Says About You
I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one.
– Marilyn Monroe
Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.
– Christopher Lasch
Arguably, everything on this list is about professionalism, and about optimizing the design and presentation of a workspace to help promote a business. For this first point, I’m speaking about professionalism in an esthetic sense. Regardless of your own taste or idea about how a space should look, it must be remembered that others will see it as well.
Eccentricities should either be maximized or removed entirely, depending on the context. If you research the offices of your idols, you’ll see fairly quickly that there is no standard design or appearance. There’s the eclectic art of Anna Wintour and the industrial simplicity of Elon Musk; the bright and colorful homage to American Idol for Ryan Seacrest, and the quiet simplicity of Joan Didion’s wooden desk and wall-to-wall bookshelves.
Professionalism and appearance are a matter of character. Understanding the character of your own office or workspace will help you remain consistent, and consistency is an active enabler of trust.
If you have a meeting scheduled with someone central to your success, it can go completely awry if they have trouble getting to your office, or if you are drastically unprepared for their company.
Accessibility is a matter of thoughtfulness and courtesy, and it shows that you care. Some major considerations include “Is my workspace wheelchair accessible?” and “Is it hard to find my office?”. There are smaller things to consider as well, which can also have a large impact. Here are three examples:
- Should your office door be labeled with your name or title? Even when someone is in the right place, it can feel incredibly nerve-racking if there is even a smidge of uncertainty.
- How many people can fit in your space? How many should be able to?
- If you receive deliveries (either internal or external), is it clear and straightforward where things should be brought?
Once people have made it to your space, what message is it communicating to them? Do they feel welcome and at ease, or anxious and unsettled? There are obvious questions to consider here, like “How comfortable is the chair for your guests?”. There are also more nuanced considerations that could change someone’s physical or emotional comfort.
For example, when I was in university I had a professor that organized the books on her shelf by color. She did this because she assumed a student visiting her office might be nervous, and felt it gave them something to look at. There’s something very thoughtful and kind in little human touches like these. Use comfort as a display of empathy.
My professor was absolutely right about using the books, but she also reinforced a point about defining the character of her office. One of the reasons I made an appointment with her was to see the books. They helped give that office its character, and became a longstanding, silent marker of my respect for her.
I have to admit that it was a nuisance to find her office though, which could have been helped by a name on the door. All of which is to say that when considering your workspace design, professionalism, accessibility and comfort are all inter-related. When you consider one, you should never fail to consider the other two.