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When is an office not an office?


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I sat down on Monday of this week in my new office chair provided by my close friend Sherra Bell, and prepared to get in a full day of work. I had coffee on hand, my curtains were open for sunlight, and my sharpie and post-it notes at the ready.

It was at this moment that I was struck with a horrible realization. My body and mind had absolutely no interest in sitting in the chair in my new home office. I felt a compulsion immediately to get up. I resisted. The urge grew stronger and my muscles got tight.

Confused, I stood up and walked to the door observing the chair, the desk, and the office as a whole. Why on earth would my body not want to be in this awesome ergonomic chair with fantastic back support? Why would I feel the compulsion to get up and leave the office I had just entered?

After several moments of contemplation, it hit me; I haven’t had an office to work in since October 2014. I have worked in my living room, in my car, at the library, in co-working spaces, my son’s bedroom, but not in a dedicated office. My body and mind have been so used to working in those types of places that an actual office felt rigid, cold, and limiting.

What was I to do? I have been dreaming about having a dedicated work space with a door that closes and now I don’t want to be in it?

My first idea was to change the feeling of the room and make it something I wanted to work in. I shifted my monitors, moved my desk to the other side of the room, changed my desktop background, and put my favorite books in view. I sat back down. The urge to leave was not as strong but it was still there.

I thought back to my least favorite office working environment. Cold low cubicle walls, rigid food policies, codes of conduct, rules about music with or without headphones, and peering supervisors.

I stood up again, this time from excitement. I ran to my kitchen and got a bowl of goldfish crackers and a cup of my favorite tea. I turned on music that would never be played in an office and put my feet up on the desk in a statement of irreverence. I watched a YouTube video full screen on my larger monitor. I stood up and made crazy loud sounds while I stretched my arms and back.

Smiling I opened up my email and began to work. Every 15 minutes or so I would start to feel that feeling again and each time I would respond with a brief moment of insanely inappropriate though still PG-13 office behavior.

I claimed my space and wrestled free of my instinct to move to the couch or dining room table. The feeling isn’t gone but it is fading.

My next steps will be to make my office feel more like the places I have enjoyed most working over the past three years. Which elements made it easiest to work but were not office related? How can I integrate those into my space?

My goal is to need fewer bouts of subversive behavior each day and to be able to work longer at a time while maintaining my flow.

Where do you feel most comfortable working? What do you add to your environment to make it fit your desired vibe? How could you alter things to allow more flow and less drudgery?