I recently went in for a job interview and was asked, “What does your ideal workplace look like?” I was completely thrown by this question because, frankly, I’ve never really thought about it. But, after some thought, I realized that I have.
I oftentimes throw away the idea with friends that I’d love to work for a company that has a beer tap (or fridge) in the kitchen. Then, my friends would respond with “espresso machine,” “open workspace” or “hardwood floors.” However, someone always ruins the conversation with, “First, you need to land a job.” And, sadly, this person is right – beggars can’t be choosers.
There are dangers to thinking about the physical aspects of your dream workplace. Would you reject the perfect job because the kitchen snack bar doesn’t carry your favourite brand of chips? Would the lack of standing desks be a deal breaker despite the personal and professional growth the job offers? Obviously, these examples are extreme and superficial. However, when it comes down to it, you have to be able to picture yourself spending 40+ hours a week at that office. If you don’t feel comfortable, you won’t last. No matter what opportunities the position can offer, dreading physically being inside the office everyday will hinder you from achieving your best – it’s Company Culture 101. (Actually, interior design might be a company culture afterthought – Company Culture 201?).
Thinking back, I never really had idyllic workspaces. All of them were co-working spaces; usually taking up a small fraction of the room. I’ve moved around from having my own desk and computer in one internship to sitting on camera equipment and typing away on top of boxes of flyers in another. If I wasn’t in any of these spaces, I would be working remotely – whether that was in a library, a coffee shop or my shoebox of an apartment in Paris.
I have never had the traditional office. I have never had the dream office.
If working in these places have taught me anything, it is that they have to have a defined character. How does your office space inspire you? How easily can you transition from working on your own projects to collaborating with others? Would you be able to recognize your office if you were standing five metres away from a picture of it?
A lack of office character can lead some people to get a case of the Mondays every day of the week. Don’t let that be you.
P.S. For anyone curious, the elements of my dream workplace: beer taps, espresso machine (or, preferably, those espresso vending machines you find everywhere in Europe), fully stocked drinks fridge (I like to keep hydrated), huge kitchen, open workspace, Japanese/Swedish-inspired minimalist design, comfortable couches/lounge area, lots of natural light and, most importantly, character.