In our homes, we have dedicated areas for certain activities. From eating in the dining room to cooking in the kitchen. Over time, the flow between these spaces has changed, leading to more open plan kitchens and entertainment areas that combine the functionality of both. This change of space in the household is mirrored by a similar kind of process in the workplace. As more and more people began to work at desks in offices, the shift from reading and working in dedicated studies lined with books in the past evolved into an open plan office space with several desks and often no real distinction between roles and allocated workspaces.
Although very practical, the need to create intentional spaces, for both work and play have become essential to make the most of our working days. Creative ideas can be lost in the very practical but potentially overwhelming chaos of a room full of desks, with people ticking away on computers and talking on the phone. The idea of intentional space recognises that in these kind of economically driven work environments, creative ideas can get lost without an easy way to share them outside of formal meetings or arranged discussions.
The antithesis of this is the modern kind of workspace that is designed to take advantage of these creative ideas. Instead of confining work to a single desk space, by allowing for a variety of places to work within a given office environment, the possibility of impromptu conversations increases. When people aren’t restricted by boundaries, hierarchy and dry walling, there’s the possibility that anything can happen. Many companies have now incorporated these kinds of elements into their redesign, from cosy nooks appropriately placed in and around corners where employees can escape for some quiet time or a Skype call, to staircases intentionally designed to get people to bump into each other and have a conversation.
While we’re all aware of the dangers of watching television in bed or working on a computer while eating or drinking, in our working lives we also try to do too much in one space. We take calls at our desk when we know that we would prefer to be in a quiet corner or outside so we can concentrate. We work in busy coffee shops because sometimes it’s inspiring to surrounded by the chatter and buzz of the burr grinder, but often it’s just crowded. Although some people might have differing tolerances for distraction, overall it seems helpful to find or create a place to focus in a chaotic digital world with chronic overstimulation.
While it’s incredible to work for a company that has the budget to hire yoga instructors to optimise the design of a newly established start-up company, what do you do if you’re a freelancer or someone that doesn’t really have much of a choice? For those with a flexible work schedule, intentionally setting up your desk space could help you to create a routine and incorporate everything you need to stay inspired and motivated. Whether it’s a dedicated desk in a study or your kitchen table, sitting in a good chair and having all the tools to keep your body in ergonomic check is key, with sufficient lighting and perhaps some items of inspiration nearby to keep you on track. Paying attention to the Feng Shui Bagua map and the arrangement of items on your desk also might help to reinforce the intention of being as productive as possible.
For those whose work thrives on interaction though, your approach to an intentional workspace could be completely different. Companies all over the world are creating different kinds of flexible desk arrangements in their offices that can be put together and rearranged when necessary, allowing for the flexibility of working in a team when necessary and being able to break away and work on your own when you need to.
For those who need quiet to concentrate and work in an open plan office, there are still things that can be done to create an intentional workspace within the space you’ve been allocated. Studies show that looking at a natural scene, even just on your desktop, can be helpful in improving concentration, and so having a plant on your desk can assist with creating an aesthetically pleasing workspace. Although you might be expected to always work at your open plan desk, perhaps negotiating some quiet time in the boardroom when no one is using it could be helpful to focus when you need to. An alternative could even be to spend some time working in a quiet space before and after work to make sure you get things done to the best of your ability, and create an intentional workspace where you can focus and make up for any unproductive distractions.