Does Where You Sit Shape How You Think?

Does sharing a workspace – or plopping down on a couch instead of at a desk – make you more creative?

I’ve pondered this since reading a Wall Street Journal article about companies shedding permanent offices and cubes in favor of more fluid arrangements – like communal tables and unassigned desks. As more employees start to work remotely and on flexible schedules, this is a smart, cost-cutting move. Still, some workers miss having a space to decorate and call their own.

When I worked in communications at a large nonprofit, I shared a cube with several teammates – a setup that naturally encouraged collaboration. Calling brainstorms is effortless when everyone can swivel their chairs around to face one another. We also had several couches nearby. Sometimes, the change of scenery from sitting there was enough to get creativity flowing. Earlier in my career, when I worked in a newsroom, I thrived on the buzz of the reporters and editors around me – with no boundaries except low, paper-thin cube walls.

At Linda Costa Communications Group , I have my own office, which offers privacy and freedom to focus intensely on projects. Our team gathers frequently for brainstorms – usually around someone’s desk or at one of the office conference tables.

There’s a certain camaraderie that comes from rubbing shoulders with co-workers. But it’s also easier to waste time chatting. And, depending on your personality, spending all day in close proximity to others may be anything but productive and fun.

To me, the issue of workspace setups boils down to the tension between creativity and focus, between constant interaction and interruption-free time. Our jobs demand both, and it’s tough to find a balance. Right now, I’m enjoying my little corner of the CCG office. It’s starting to feel a lot like my second home.

Staff writer Mary enjoys spreading out odds and ends (including multiple coffee cups) on her desk without worrying about cube-mates thinking she’s messy.


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