What About Workspace?

Last year I got an ergonomic redesign of my university office. It didn’t go smoothly at first but after getting them to move the keyboard shelf to the orientation I’d originally requested and then moving the desk to the other side of my office, I made it work. I now have a pretty good modus operandi at the university, although I’d love to get rid of the filing cabinet that eats up too much floor space. (Sadly, there are many papers I have to keep, including an entire drawer full of exams and unclaimed course papers that must be retained for twelve months.)

What’s important for my workspace to feel, well, workable? Here’s a short list of my must-haves:

  • I have to SEE you: I can get really engrossed in my reading and writing. A quiet visitor stepping in, with my back turned toward them? Freaks me the heck out. Not to mention that some visitors will then proceed across the room to read the paper I’m marking or the text on my computer screen. So my desk has to face the door. It does increase the distraction level as my office is on a very busy hallway, but it’s a worthwhile pay-off to eliminate the paranoia.
  • I need a blank slate: For many years, I worked with piles of papers abounding. I cleared all of that out about six years ago and immediately wondered what had taken me so long. A clean desk invites possibilities. You can spread everything out to plan out a new project or you can leave it empty to limit distractions. Sadly, I haven’t been able to entirely banish piles of paper from my office, as I currently have over a metre high pile of outdated student exams and other confidential paperwork that need to be shredded. As the old shredder died in the flood of August 2010 and there’s no money in the department budget for the mandatory shredding, these have been piling up in my office for over a year, now. So not impressed
  • I love my toys: Well, yes, there is a Starbuck action figure hanging out in my office. But more than that, I find a few good tools help make the work environment better. Isn’t Levenger one of the best things ever? I have a bookstand from there which is a wonderful aid for note-taking and transcription. I also find my keyboard shelf and external keyboard great once I went through the hassle of getting them properly arranged.

What makes your workspace work for you? What are your dealbreakers?

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