Friday, March 21, 2014

inspiration...the pursuit of well-being

Knowledge of Self is Key

The Pursuit of Well-being.
I had the pleasure of attending a dialogue hosted at Gensler that facilitated a discussion about how smart space design that meets the holistic needs of student life can drive a higher quality of learning and a healthier collegiate lifestyle. The massive cultural shift in office interaction and design (the moving away from individual offices to a more collaborative environment) can be applied to a college setting that reaches all areas of life. One idea was bringing a multidisciplinary structure—mix schools with schools, mix professors with other professors, mix professors with students. Cross pollinate the interactions and potential learnings. Another idea was to focus on creating an environment where it is okay to fail and safe to recover. Most students (and adults) live with a chronic fear of failure, but failure will show you what you are made of and provide valuable personal insight! Another idea was designing for personality types, accommodating all kinds of learning and connecting tactics. I found this dialogue valuable to my opinions of the home office structure. The need for it and the importance of it fitting your specific needs. As more people telecommute to their job or start their own business at home, adapting these new trends and holistic ideas to your home office can be just as effective.

Think about what works for you and what in the past has not. Is your space right now compatible for your style of working and learning? What is one thing you would do to improve or change it? 

One discussion question that made me reminisce was:

"Remember you first workspace, what was it like?"

For me, it was a small loft space with no windows and grey cubicles. For a design firm, we didn't have many brainstorming meetings and I had this feeling that dialogue and internet research were not encouraged. Maybe not what the owners intended, but I do think that was what the space was saying. My second job was an open floor plan, few offices, half walls filled with work and meet-ups happening all around. Dogs (mostly well behaved, ha!) were welcomed into the space and music, often from three different locations, blared over speakers. The space was designed to feel young, energetic and inspire connections. At times it was all of that, other times I had a headache, lost focus, resented people and hid behind my headphones. Each space had an aspect of disrespect. So...

What is the best way to work? 
In your home office, assess your physical activity, know what your main goals are for the space and then provide that. For me, it is a place to have easy access to my books and inspirations. My desk faces a window because I value natural light, and I usually keep it silent and my dog is on my lap.

What is the best way for you to learn?
Notice I didn't say productive? For me I need a pencil and a bazzilion note pads in front of me. I love to jot down thoughts, ideas or sketch. Once that is done, I usually jump to the computer, but being physical usually is my starting point. Pencil to paper to brain.

Summary take away topics from the discussion:

• How should/could personality dictate the kinds of space you choose to work in? Does that dream job offer that kind of space, or can you provide that for your home business? 

• How do you not let a space that is comfortable to you limit you from getting out of your comfort zone? The second job where conversing was encouraged did break me out of my quiet shell.

• How can space help you pursue the interesting not just the productive? I love this, in the discussion it was in regards to students only "doing"  for the GPA outcome, not because it was enjoyable. Do you do little things for the joy of doing it? Or because of an agenda—you need something to blog about or share at a work function? The simple pursuit of the interesting...

• How can space be a place to learn, fail and recover safely? the taboo f-word: failure. But it is when you f** fail that you learn what you are made of ;) I guess if there is not a risk of failing, maybe it is not important to begin with?

• Environmental design should take personality into consideration and meet a level of well-being yet also leave room for spontaneity. Yes, I love the idea of being open to the unexpected!! Maybe in design terms that is about ideas of light weight, modular or customizable...

Thank you, Gensler, for opening your doors for discussion. I loved being in a room full of smarties!

Cristina Banks, PhD, Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces from Berkley David Schonthal, co-founder and partner at Fusion Ventures
Lisa Currie, MSEd, Director of Health Promotion and Wellness at Northwestern University

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