Small Office? No Problem!

One very basic rule about creativity is that when you have limitations you should actually use them as a reference point to spark creativity. Creativity comes from constraints. Take your small office, for instance, with its limited space and therefore limited possibilities. The only way you’re going to make something out of it, is to get creative. Here we’ll discuss a few things you can do within your office space in order to turn things around and actually go back to a nice, welcoming, beautiful space. Of course we cannot promise you miracles, the space cannot just levitate, but we can make the best use of it in order to improve our well-being.


Shared desks

In a small space it is obvious that you cannot provide a single desk to everyone, so what about buying a big table which can be shared? This will give you flexibility and yet a personal space. Moreover, a shared desk combined with some partitions will also provide some visual privacy. And what about using plants instead of partitions?


Paperless office

As a general rule, avoid wasting paper at all costs, and avoid having to stack enormous amounts of paper. Paper that, in turn, has to be disposed and occupies space. Depending on what industry are you in, please make sure to address this issue – also, pay attention to your printing machine: do you really need one? Think again. It’s understandable if you’re a design or law firm, paper is the very currency you depend on, but even in those case think about outsourcing, it will give you a chance to take a walk from time to time.


Forget meeting rooms

Not having a meeting room could actually be a plus since we all know how many of them are basically a waste of time for everybody. If you have a small office, I take you don’t really have too many employees, meaning that the working environment is a bit like a small family sitting around the dining table. And if you really need a meeting room, consider finding a small and quite cafe nearby where you all go in order to discuss things. Imagine the entire city as your meeting room, you don’t need one.


Clean and declutter 

A messy office is never going to feel at peace with itself. Psychologically, a messy place feels “heavier” rather than lighter, therefore make sure that your office is always clean and everything in order, and encourage your employees to keep it that way. A small messy and cluttered space isn’t going to make anyone feel comfortable.


One floor, one material

It’s called wall-to-wall flooring and it basically means that your floor should be made of one material only, this will make it stand out and avoid this feeling of fragmentation. Being the space small, you don’t want to make it even smaller by having many times or different materials. A wall-to-wall flooring is the best choice in these cases, it gives your office a strong identity.


Let the wall speak

As you can imagine, walls will have a huge impact on the overall feeling of a room. Choose tones that open the space, make sure that at least one of the walls is free from shelves in order not to feel oppressed by too much stuff around you. There’s an entire study of how wall color affects your psychology and, in any case, white is always the safest choice – clean white.


Think vertically

Since the square meters are limited, make use of the vertical dimension. Shelves, of course are necessary, but a flexible wall where you can attach things, move them around or rearrange them when the time comes, could be of great advantage to your case. Also, get creative, shelves are not the only approach in this case, there’s a whole world of other solution that can be used – ever thought of plastic or wooden crates?


Make use of the ceiling

The ceiling IS part of the office space, it’s not just there for the lighting, it can be used to hang things, maybe building a metal structure to which you can hang plants, pictures, your bike or whatever you want to.

What Will The Home Office Of The Future Look Like?

How offices will look like 5 or even 10 years from now? Where is the office space heading? Will we actually need an office at all? How do we prepare for such scenarios?


There’s no short answer to these questions, and to understand how things will unfold, we don’t have to look too far, signs of this “revolution” can be found in many offices today. Let’s discuss a few points in order to understand what is going on today and how the future might lead us but first let’s make a bold statement: we won’t need offices anymore.


Mobility, wireless, globalization, flexibility are all things that have changed the way we intend the office. Let’s say that this trends moves forward and, as some of you probably experience already, take over the classic image of the city-office where everyone has to go in order to get things done, we will end up not needing a physical office anymore. As a matter of fact, you – the employee – will be the office, and the office will go where you go. The technology to implement that is already among us. How many times have you been on vacation while still working, regardless of where you were located or what you were supposed to enjoy. How many times have you solved some incredibly itchy situations at work while fishing or bathing your dog or skydiving? It’s clear already that technology has allowed us to be productive, effective and practically “in the office” even if we don’t really have one, so saying that the physical office is obsolete is not far from the truth.


In the future, your skills, your creativity and your efficiency are going to be the real asset for a company – where and how you unleash them is entirely disconnected by the interior space on the 50th floor. Companies at best will need a meeting room and a place where they can meet clients, the rest is “on the go” and your employees will be anywhere and nowhere, always reachable by a video call.


But let’s pause for a moment and let’s embrace the fact that we will still need a physical office: How it’ll look like? In this case is rather easy to see what’s happening right now all over the globe based on an idea, mostly, rather than a physical space. The idea is that your work and your life aren’t separated anymore. Your life walks into the office with you and it disrupts the way an office is supposed to be. This has a double pay-off: on one side you’ll be more comfortable when you go to work and you won’t have to build a wall in between those two realms; for your boss, this means you’ll work more and more since there’s not a 9 to 6 boundary in between work and life – the boundary is blurry and flexible.


In the last 15 years, everything about the life out there has been brought inside the office. The office is an open space, a multi-purpose space with gardens, running tracks, music rooms, pools, gyms, cafeteria and in case you have pets or kids, sure thing you can bring them in too. The “office hours” have been smashed into pieces so small that you can dilute and do a bit of work pretty much whenever you want and can.


A psychologist has its own office at the end of the corridor, just in case you feel stressed. The best foods, the best masseuse, the best deals are at your service. Again, this is all based on the simple but disrupting idea that your life and your work aren’t supposed to be on two sides of the fence, they co-exist, they go hand in hand, they even support each other.


You’ll forget about the fact you’re going to work, you’ll forget about weekends too, you’ll forget that you have a house or that you need a kitchen or a gym subscription. Your job will somehow oversee your life because all the services and entertainment are provided, all you need to do is take them, enjoy them as you please and, while you do that, please don’t forget to work too.


And here is the dark side of this idea. Life, for as much as we try to do otherwise, is made of unstructured activities, is often messy and goes up and down. Work, on the other hand, is supposed to be organized, always on tracks, always pointed towards a goal – stated or otherwise – and has a very precise payoff or meaning. Nearly every company, or every profession, know what they are doing, they know what is the result to be achieved and they also know what to do next.


Think about it. Many people lose focus and drive once they stop working, as if they lost momentum, direction, meaning. Once work takes over your life, you might complain that “you don’t have a life anymore” but at the same time it keeps you busy. If in the future “your life” and work won’t be two separate moments but one seamless surface you might or might not discover that this bothers you, that not being able to separate them doesn’t give you “more time” or more space for yourself but quite the contrary.


If the future of offices around the world looks like what I just described, we’ll have to make some hard choices and, at some point, we’ll have to remind ourselves what are our personal, private, life-long priorities in order to be aware that work and life are not exactly the same thing.

Trigger Happiness in your Office

Just like in any other aspect of your life, happiness plays a crucial role within the office walls. Happiness rhymes with motivation and productivity and nobody would raise an highbrow if I state that your workplace should be a happy place, a place where it’s good to go back to, as opposed to a place where you feel like you have to drag yourself to every single morning. Let’s then address the psychological side of happiness and how we can bring it back into our office.

We live in stressful times, as you probably noticed every single time you glance at the news, markets are shifting and every business has to be improved, changed and adapted to new conditions. All this and much more puts a whole new level of pressure on employees which, in turn, feel more and more challenged. How can we deal with these harsh conditions if not by embracing a “positive psychology”?

Has been proven by many reports and studies that what employees need the most is to be satisfied, empowered, valued in order to feel motivated at work and therefore carry out high levels of productivity. After all, they are the most important asset of any business and the happier they are, the more productive and innovative they become. But how do we achieve that? How do we instill a positive vibe in our employees? Let’s brake it down to three aspects that can be addressed right away.


A very hard question to answer to – and also quite embarrassing – is “Why are you doing this job?”. You can try to walk around the office asking your employees or colleagues, but I would discourage you to do so, you might get a breakdown happening in the toilet. Yet, to know the “why” behind our actions is essential to drive them and, of course, to feel motivated and engaged with whatever we do.

Moreover engagement is the key to happiness. Once we are engaged with something, we’ll give away our time, blood, sweat and tears, because for one reason or another, we care about it, it’s personal. A good way to do so is to give employees a personal “why”, a reason to engage with the job. Achieving this isn’t exactly a 2+2 operation, of course. We all know what we do in our offices, or what is our product, but the why is often unclear and blurry. The first step is to clarify to yourself and, if you are in a leadership position, to your employees. In other words, give them a reason to get up in the morning related to your business.


Every one of us will find motivation coming from different angles, yet we can agree that we all appreciate a good dose of praise and recognition. The “why am I doing this” should be followed by a “thank you” from time to time. Just words maybe, yet, they can have a huge impact on our psychology, motivation and happiness. Committing to express gratitude is great step towards that direction.

Managers and supervisors should be committed to expressing thankfulness whenever the occasion presents itself. What you are doing is literally to put a smile on someone’s face and they should constantly encourage everyone else to do the same. Talk to your employees or colleagues and remind them of the positive impact of praise.

Sure, for some people overly focused on themselves and the work this might represent a high challenge, yet, it really doesn’t take much of effort. Maybe a “thank you” at the end of an email, a gesture, a small gift…anything works at this point, just don’t force it too much – you don’t want people to feel that you are insincere. Opening a meeting where you clearly and loudly thank everyone for they work will set the tone. Feeling appreciated, many experts say, is usually the first step to being truly satisfied on the job.


The third aspect you should focus on in order to spark positive and happier working environment is a tricky one since it requires a bit of investment from a managerial point of view and, depending on how big is the company you work for, it could be a hard thing to implement within the working week. Yet, if done well, this could give you incredible results.

Training and mentoring is a subtle yet very effective way to make people happier. Today’s workforce is way more mobile that it used to be, in this sense, fostering “company loyalty” is hard to achieve but it can have huge positive effects. If an employee feels like is “just another brick in the wall” he’s always feel under appreciated and figuratively always with one foot out the door. This isn’t the best place to start a happy relationship.

Investing in them, giving them opportunities to grow within (and thanks to) the company will surely give them a reason to stay and close the door, to work harder, to feel somehow more responsible towards the company which in turn has taken the first step to help them. Plus, they will start feeling part of something, a community made of people and on top of it, they will be sharing experiences that they wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the company. Sharing, learning, sense of community are all big stepping stones on our personal quest for happiness.

Moving Forward In Your Home Office

Looking out my window I see that my cherry tree has lost its blossoms and is now covered in deep red leaves. Winter has made way for spring and will eventually lead to summer and fall. Seasons are a very visual sign that time is marching on. I’d like to share this video with you:

I love this song. You don’t have to understand the words to feel how powerful it is. It gives me chills every time I listen to it. A little background: it’s a Japanese song, written and performed by Angela Aki. The song is called Sakura Iro (roughly translated: The Color Cherry Blossoms). In Japan, graduation happens in March, which coincides with the arrival of the cherry blossoms. The blossoms themselves and the fluttering “showers” the create represent the beginning of a new season. For many, this comes with closing a chapter, departure, etc.

It can be hard for us to put things behind us and move onto the next chapter. There is nothing wrong with remembering good times, as long as they don’t stop us from moving forward. I was engaged in a conversation with a group recently, and a one person was struggling with their business. She really wanted to move forward but was a little stuck and needed some advice. The leader of the group (in her infinite wisdom) said, “Are you more attached to the way it was, or the way you want it to be?” I don’t remember anything more about that conversation, because I kept replaying that question over in my mind.

Are you more attached to the way it was, or the way you want it to be?

There are times I get some resistance from clients, audience members and people I meet about making a change in their home office and life. Things like:

“My husband/wife is so disorganized”

“I’m not sure I could ever ‘be organized'”

“I’ve tried it all before”

“I don’t have enough time/money/energy to _______________”

Organization is a tool for life that’s useful for personal and professional reasons. It streamlines your life and your work so you can be as effective as humanly possible. It’s not an easy process, and a lot of “head stuff” comes into play that needs to be dealt with at some point. That whole “story” we have been living out in the office (or life for that matter) can be powerful. It dictates what we buy, how we work, how we live and ultimately the journey we take in this life.

“The home office is a reflection of your soul”, a friend of mine recently said. It doesn’t matter what you use your home office for: family business, creativity, making a living or making a life. Look around. Does your home office speak to you? If so, what does it say? Is a reflection of your past? Are you having a hard time letting go? Is it a subconscious stumbling block for you, preventing you from being everything you could be and accomplishing what you want to in this life? What’s the worst that could happen if you decided to take a step forward to make a change so you could create a life you love? Is it time to close a chapter so you can be open to a new one? Remember and honor the past, but don’t make it an excuse to procrastinate and stand still. So, again I ask,

Are you more attached to the way it was, or the way you want it to be?

Quote of the Week: Your Little Bit of Good

Each week I share a quote that I hope will inspire, make you think or just make you smile. Here is this week’s quote:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

“…make people question what they do on reflex…”

On Thursdays I share a quote that I hope will inspire, make you think or just make you smile. Here is this week’s quote:

“I think that … the job of any photographer, or anyone who can call themself an artist, is to make people question what they do on reflex … to make people question a value or an idea that’s so common, that people haven’t really looked at it yet. And so, right now, what I’m standing for … it’s that.”  – Kevin Connolly

Your Inbox is NOT a Task List: 5 Tips

I’ve made the switch to using Google Apps as my email client.  I’ve been pretty happy, I must admit.  It’s nice to have access anywhere and not have to deal with nursing my other application.  However, I was making one mistake that dawned on me the other day.

The inbox is NOT a task list.

Oh sure, I know for some people that works well.  But not for me, maybe not for you either.  Here’s some things that can happen if you use your inbox as a task list: Continue reading Your Inbox is NOT a Task List: 5 Tips

Product Review: Neat Receipts Scanner

Neat Receipts Scanner

Have you seen Neat Receipts yet?  You have gotta check it out!  I just reviewed it for Sparkplugging (click to read the full article), and it’s also posted in Reviews section of the Neat Receipts website HERE. (Between PC World & Fortune Small Business I might add!!)

A portable little piece of technology that cuts down on data entry.  Gotta love that!

Love Neat Receipts?  Want to get one?  Check it out HERE.

Home Office Organization & Design Tips