Monday, March 16, 2015

How I Keep My Workspace Healthy

I came across this cool coworking company called WeWork. They focus on providing healthy and productive office spaces and I was inspired to share how I stay healthy at work!

Being a writer means spending a lot of time BIC, HOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). Heck, my Day Job (DJ) requires 8+ hrs a day BIC, HOK and I spend another 1.5-3 hrs a day writing on top of that. As you can imagine, sitting for that length of time can be bad for our bodies (we were made to move). It’s sedentary. Sure, your brain is working hard but your body – the machine – isn’t working all.

It’s important to keep your work space healthy. For me, keeping my work space healthy means balancing function, inspiration, and flexibility. Here’s how I do it:

1. Function – of course you need a comfy chair and a desk. All the work essentials. But it’s also important to keep things ergonomically sound for your body. My DJ has a great program to assess whether or not our desk area is ergonomically sound.

a. Here’s a similar article on ergonomics you can use. Give it a try.

2. Beautify to inspire – First, I worked hard to make both desk areas pretty (IMO). The space at the DJ is a little tricky as we have gray fabric cubes but that didn’t stop me.


I brought toys from home (to remind me work should be play). I brought reminders of my proudest moments (my Dopey Challenge bib, Goofy Challenge bib, some race medals, and pictures from the trip my hubby and I took around the country). And of course, I brought books that inspire me and pictures of my family.


a. Here’s a pic from my home office. You can see I’ve decorated my space to include toys, pictures, books, and things I love. At home I control the color of my surroundings so I choose dark, dramatic bookshelves and desk. (I’m actually thinking of updating the desk with some fab teal but more on that later).


3. Let there be light – natural light is a huge morale booster for me. I hate the feeling of working in a closet. I’m lucky enough on the DJ that I have a cube with lots of windows. But it took time to work up to a window cube (What’s the old saying in corporate America? ‘First you work for a window, then you get a door’ meaning you start in the center cubes with no window and work your way, eventually landing an office with a door *be still my corporate heart* *chokes back sarcasm* *cough, cough*). If you are suffering away in an inside-cube try bringing in a live plant. A lot of my coworkers do this and really enjoy it. The real, living green plant helps break up an otherwise artificial space.


a. At home I set my desk up in the old dining room area. Our eat-in kitchen is big enough that we don’t need a formal dining room so it became my office. The great thing about using the formal dining room as an office is that the window is large. Yay! The down side to using the dining room – no door.


4. Flexibility – This is so so so important. Your brain works better at better times. You are more productive in different environments, different times, different moods. For me, the key to producing high quality is understanding how and when I work best and adapting my work space to fit my needs.

a. I’m a morning person – sort of. I work best from 8-noon. I kick out words fearlessly and tackle obstacles with abandon during 8-noon. After that, it’s an uphill battle to maintain concentration for periods of time greater than 45 mins.

b. I’m an ambivert – half introvert and half extrovert. Being an ambivert means I half like people and half like books…wait, no. That’s not what it means at all. LOL. Being an ambivert means some extroverted activities refuel me and some drain me. Same with introverted activities: some refuel and some drain. I love ambient noise. I love people watching. I need minor distractions from time to time to spark new ideas. But remember, I’m also easily distracted in the afternoon.

c. Walk breaks – I take walk breaks from time to time to get the blood flowing and to get steps in (yay Fitbit). Sometimes a walk break means walking the long way to the women’s bathroom. Sometimes a walk break means taking my doggie for a walk.

What does this mean? Well, I like working in public places but also need quiet space. I like observing people and ambient noise but I also need to be somewhat distraction free (especially in the afternoon).


So I change my work space from time to time. I work from home one day a week for the DJ and that helps (note – I do not do DJ work in my home office. My home office is dedicated to writing). Also, I take my laptop to nearby cafĂ©’s when I’m writing. Yes, even though I have an awesome space dedicated to writing at home. Sometimes you just have to mix things up.

Some writers in bigger cities use coworking environments where they can rent work space (like WeWork). You rent space to meet your personality/productivity needs. Sounds pretty awesome (especially if you need something a little more structured/dedicated to your professional needs than a Starbucks).

Staying flexible to meet your individual productivity needs is healthy and helps avoid burnout. Check out these posts on burn out:
Avoiding Book Burnout
Cross Training to Avoid Burnout

Want more inside scoop on writing spaces? Check out this post:
Author Interview with Karen Rock
Chuck Wendig's post about his writing shed
And Neil Gaiman's Magic Writing Gazebo


How do you keep your writing or work space healthy? Share your stories here:

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