As a strong proponent of giving people more control over where they work, it was only a short matter of time before I ran up against those who erroneously insist that work environment doesn’t matter. Their claim is that the only thing that matters is that you’re doing what you’re good at and that it doesn’t matter where you are doing this at. They don’t get it. If work environment really doesn’t matter, then the following clip from the popular film Office Space would not register as anything significant. What’s the difference anyway if Milton works on the same floor as everyone else or in the basement if work environment doesn’t matter?
The truth is that, for ages, we’ve relied on environmental cues for information that signal situations in which we should be stressed, anxious, fearful, etc. It is common knowledge that a room in which the predominant color is red whets the appetite moreso than another color would. Why do various colors stir up different reactions? What about acoustic distractions? Odors?
We ARE affected by our work environment though, yes, there are elements of subjectivity and relativity. This reflects our natural individual differences. Some of us perform work in dangerous environments, however people who are able to do so tend to already be naturally predisposed to react to threats with more calm (the trait “neuroticism” on the Big 5 – a measure of emotional stability and tolerance for stress or aversive stimulation). Others may even be pumped up by threatening environments and experience more of a thrill. I have, in fact, performed some work that required workers to have fairly low susceptibility to fear and would happily entertain opportunities to work as an animal field researcher in some less comfortable, outdoor settings (though perhaps not everywhere). At least it’s not boring!
When it comes to work that requires very heavy reading, writing, analyzing, and researching however, nothing beats the home office for me. A number of us, though not all of us, would agree that we are more productive working in our home environment than in a boring, stale office environment. It wouldn’t be a huge leap to say that going from working at home to working at the office is a “step down” much like Milton’s move to the basement. So instead of smacking the whole issue down with a knee-jerk reaction and waving off the importance of work environment across the board, it’s time to take the educated approach. Let’s open up discussion and debate about the ways and extent to which it does and doesn’t. To what extent do boring (or stimulating) environments impact our brains for example?
And for those who still believe that work environment doesn’t matter or, more specifically, that you should be able to do whatever it is you’re good at doing no matter what the work environment…
Uh, we’re gonna need to move your desk downstairs into Storage B… Uh, we have some new people coming in and we need all the space we can get. And if you could go ahead and get a can of pesticide and take care of the roach problem we’ve been having that would be great. (Office Space, 1999)
Finally, more videoconferencing dates have been added for “Innovating the way dispersed teams collaborate!”
Register at the Better Collaboration Meetup page and email contact@BetterCollaboration.org if you have any questions. Better Collaboration is about helping organizations improve collaboration of dispersed teams.
- Wednesday, April 24, 2013
- Wednesday, May 8, 2013
- Wednesday, May 22, 2013
- Wednesday, June 5, 2013
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern time (EST)/10:00 AM to 11:30 AM Pacific time (PST)
See details on the Events page.
- Why is my cubicle so noisy? (nzkaizen.wordpress.com)
- Stable Surroundings: Why a Good Workplace Environment Matters (workzone.com)
- Working Environment: Shapeshifter, Shadow and Mirror (startmeupwish.com)