One of my favorite regular reads is Joel Spolsky’s popular blog, Joel on Software. I think it’s a site not only useful for those in the field of software development, but also to anyone interested in insights on productivity and getting things done. One of the things Joel often highlights is how great the work environment is for the developers at his company, Fog Creek. He has high regard for his developers and the company does its best to keep its staff happy and productive: private offices (with doors!), free meals, books galore, and top of the line hardware. Not only that, they try to keep their environment as conducive to creativity as possible.
There’s more to the physical workspace than private offices. When a candidate comes to your company for the day of interviews, they’re going to look around at where people are working, and try to imagine themselves working there. If the office space is pleasant, if it’s bright, if it’s in a nice neighborhood, if everything is new and clean: they’ll have happy thoughts. If the office space is crowded, if the carpets are ratty and the walls haven’t been painted and there are posters up with pictures of rowing teams and the word TEAMWORK in large print, they’re going to have Dilbert thoughts.
When it comes to blogging, I couldn’t agree more.
When I worked at the IT scene about four years back, it was a far cry from what Joel would consider a productive environment. I can practically hear Dilbert thoughts abound in my cubicle jungle of a workplace. I think I even remember seeing a picture of rowing teams captioned teamwork somewhere! Productivity took a backseat to cost savings. And looking back, this was partly a reason why I decided to take a bold step and start writing for a living. I thought that with more control over my environment, my creative juices would flow more freely, and I would be more productive.
I had some difficulty the first few months. Having no office space or desk at home, I often found myself working at the dinner table. This also necessitated my working mostly nights rather than during the day, so I could get some peace and quiet. At times I was able to go out and get a breath of fresh air, working at cafes and just about anywhere I could connect wirelessly. This was a welcome change.
Over time, I was able to move my family to a bigger place, and I converted one of the bedrooms into my own office. Since then, my home office has been a work in progress. Some additions over the past couple years include a new desk (due for an upgrade soon, methinks), bigger LCD screens and faster computers, air conditioning, a mini component, and even a small library. More equipment meant more clutter, though! And so, my next project in my to-do list is how to reorganize my workspace, and even perhaps add a little touch of art–paintings, decor or even a lava lamp would be nice.
Is it important?
All this for better productivity? I think it’s well worth it. I’ve always been the type of blogger–or writer, for that matter–who best works when I could really focus on what I’m doing. Not much of a multitasker, I usually need to devote considerable time, energy and thought to each piece I’m working on. It’s no different when I’m faced with the more technical aspects of blogging, like tweaking software, touching up designs, and doing marketing and optimization. Having too many inputs crowding my senses often leads to menta overload. But once I’m in the zone, so to speak, I could work wonders. And being able to manipulate space to my liking plays a big part in that.
How far would you go to achieve that ideal work environment? Would you spend much for better tools and for a better place to work? Or do you make do with what you have? It could be that your laptop computer on the dinner table is just the same as a deskful of LCD screens, as long as you can get into the groove of writing. But for me, the feeling of being in control and being in focus is calming. That makes me a more productive person.