Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 21, 2011 3:49 PM

Winning Workplaces

Isn't is amazing how a work environment affects both productivity and general health?

As someone who loves the work that I do, I often struggle when people moan and complain about their work environment. From the chairs they sit on to the desks they sit at, to the structure of the physical environment to the physical location of the building. It goes on to the types of phones that are used and the pens that are provided to write with. It seems like many people feel trapped by the physical aspects of their workplace when - deep down - it's actually the things that happen between the ears that matters most.

Remove the workplace from the work.

Ever since ultraportable laptops became available on the market (in the early 1990s), I always used my own money (even when I had an employer) to buy one of these laptops. I wanted a machine that was as light and as portable as possible (sidebar: I use the MacBook Air now and it is - without question - the best computer I have ever owned). My reasoning for always buying my own computer - and it always having to be as light and as portable as possible - was two-fold:

  1. Anywhere is a workplace. While the concept of virtual offices and working out of the local Starbucks has now become somewhat commonplace, it wasn't back then. I wanted to create a work environment that relied as little as possible on where I physically was. I extend this thinking to all of my messaging as well. When I send an email, I remove all messaging like, "Sent from my iPhone," etc... By removing the need to have a permanent or pre-determined space that is assigned to me for work, I tend to focus on the really important stuff: actually getting the work done. Too much focus on the furniture or stuff to hang on a wall or put on a desk is simply a distraction.
  2. My own allowance. I remember seeing Jeffrey Gitomer speak when I was much younger and he went on a rant about how a sales rep couldn't do his job because his boss would not buy him the software or the computer that he wanted. Gitomer's response? "You're a big boy now and you don't need your daddy to give you an allowance! Use your own money!" Meaning: buy it yourself. If you're successful, the small upfront investment will be meaningless. It's true. I didn't need my employers back then to buy the tools that would make me successful. I was more than capable of doing that myself.

Change everything.  

I'm sure many people will read this and think: "sure, it's easy for him to say...". We do have very nice offices at Twist Image, and I'm hopeful that we have a work environment that is conducive to creativity and creating great results, but (the truth is) I can do without it. I can't do without my MacBook Air or my iPhone, but I'm fine working from anywhere to everywhere so long as I'm surrounded by the right team and the right clients. I see a lot of beautiful work spaces in magazines like Dwell, and while it might inspire me to do more great work, I've spent the bulk of my professional life trying to be much more minimalistic (and less materialistic) about my needs, and focusing on what truly matters most: creating a great and winning workplace in my mind.

What do the most winning workplaces look like for you?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Milan Gokhale
    Mitch Joel

    Love this. Also worth pointing out that a good alternative to Starbucks or the local coffee shop is a co-working space. They'll provide you with a community for networking, more amenities than a coffee shop and they promote regularity for freelancers and independent workers.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Muirhead
    Mitch Joel

    For me, a winning workplace has a few different elements that are required for me to do my best work.

    No, it has little to nothing to do with the chair I sit in, or the desk colour, or even if the latest issue of Fast Company, or Inc is near by (although like you said, it does help to have that at hand occasionally).

    It has to do with the people mostly. Most of the time when I'm focusing on "shipping" I need a nice, relaxed environment, that is relatively quite and clean. However, other times I need the noise, the banging of keyboards and loud conversations. But the great thing is, that as you said with an iPhone, Laptop, and now tablet, if I'm not enjoying my nice office (that is quite, and clean), I head out into the streets.

    Now things that I feel is a must - A MUST - is the availability of good lighting, a comfortable chair, and a plug...But if I can't find that where I am I move - like Gitomer said "I'm a big boy now...and have even learned how to walk"

    Reply
  • I am quite new in the corporate world. Been working for almost 3 years now and I must agree to you when you said that a good team and client are the thing that really matter too. The place and gadgets is just a plus factor for me too.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jess
    Mitch Joel

    Our office trivera office! Most of the time its very quite and comfortable. Then there are days where you can bring your dog to the office (or your baby for that matter!)
    We always unwind with happy hour on Fridays! Currently being on maternity leave and have the luxury to work from home for a while, has made me miss my work "real" office environment.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jeka
    Mitch Joel

    Good points Mitch, though I disagree about the allowance part for the full-time employees. At the place I previously worked at, I had to bring in my own 2nd monitor, mouse, headphones - I didn't mind that, it made me a lot more productive at very little relative cost... but it's hard to expect workers to bring in their own chairs to replace a $30 chair that a company may provide. Or spend their own money to buy an Adobe software suite - a company/contractor can write it off in taxes, an employee can't.

    Certainly an ambitious employee with a desire to go above and beyond will buy these tools at their own cost but the question is - how long will they stay at the company before realizing that the company cares little about their success?

    A salesrep that went and bought that package that he asked his boss for, likely hasn't stayed with that company for too long after.

    Totally agreed about everything else though.

    Reply
    • Let's be clear: I'm not talking about an employer who doesn't provide the basic essentials. I'm talking about a posture on behalf of the individual: one who doesn't blame the job or HR rules, but simply does the work they were meant to do.

      An abusive employer is never going to get any results.

      Reply
  • Posted by K.C. Weagle
    Mitch Joel

    Such a refreshing perspective. The office should facilitate, not dominate. Exposed brick and reclaimed barn boards don't make your work any better. Many agencies have become obsessed with "The Space" while losing focus on the people who fill it.

    Reply
  • Posted by mike_mcgrail
    mike_mcgrail

    The reality is, that the majority of workers, even at 'sexy' agencies do not have the power to work remotely or make changes to their static environment. Truly great environments tend to take a fairly strong budget to achieve.

    Reply
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