Ode to a Stand-up Desk or Why I Used to Hate My Office


I know I cannot be the only one.  For years I struggled with a certain knowledge that seemed, well, contrary to the laws of productivity and work space.  Here is what I realized: my best ideas, my most inspired conversations, my most transformative career experiences, rarely happened inside the four walls of my so-called Principal's office.  My best work almost always seemed to happen somewhere else.

In fact, truth be told, my office was a place where I felt, more often than not, disconnected, uninspired, and less than productive.  And it got me thinking, isn't this the opposite of how it should be?  Shouldn't my work space be a place where I can feel comfortable, inspired, and  productive? What is more, as a leader in the organization, I felt a sort of obligation to set an example.  So after some reflecting, I made some key changes that have had a huge impact.  Here are some things you might consider to maximize your own productivity and career satisfaction:

1.  Purge. Get rid of the binders and files.  Or at the very least, do not let them have centre stage.  Their omnipresence creates a bureaucratic feel that stifles creativity and induces anxiety.  Your work space should celebrate ideas, not stuffy to-do lists.

2. Consider a stand up desk.  This one decision has been nothing short of transformative for me.  When I am standing at my desk, I feel active and engaged.   I am constantly on the go, and in and out of my office all the time.  A stand-up desk suits this sort of fluidity.  It is also healthier than sitting all day. I recommend the "Geek Desk" which allows you to adjust the height to your specific needs, and with a press of a button it will raise or lower.  If you do get tired of standing, you can lower it and sit down for a bit.  Cool right?

3.  Rethink the importance of a fixed workspace entirely.  Why, with the multitude of options available to us, do we fall victim to the notion of "an office"  that is fixed in time and space.  I have been able to take advantage of wi-fi and be very productive in cafes and airports or even other areas of my own school.  Often, I will take a staff member for coffee or meet off campus, and we almost always find the "stepping out" to be invigorating.  It is also not a bad way to gain perspective.  

4.  Incorporate physical activity.  Why do we think that sitting in a stuffy boardroom and talking is more productive than going for a jog with a colleague?  Why not incorporate a walk and talk strategy? Some of my best ideas happened while working out or going for a run with a co-worker or staff member.   We know that being physically active is good for us, but too many of us get caught up in the idea that it doesn't look like work if we leave the office.  We must get past this.  In the end, it is the results that matter.  We know that physical engagement can stimulate the mind, reduce stress, and improve health.  Good leadership should embody this, and set the example.  Long days of drudgery are not impressive if the results are no better. In my own experience, drudgery rarely leads to great results.

5. Not to do lists.  I know. This seems silly.  But seriously, how many things do you do, or does your staff do, that are no longer required or important? Are you adding value with all the administrivia?  Every month or so, see if you cannot develop a "not to do" list.  You might be surprised.  And let's be honest, in a world where the "to do" list is always growing, it is not a bad idea to cull now and then.

6. Fun.  Remember to maintain a fun factor.  This helps the overall work culture, and shows our humanity and personality.  For years, after the long night of parent-teacher interviews, we would open the following staff meeting with a kind of "Academy Awards."  We would recognize staff in a variety of categories. Best dressed.  Longest line.  Biggest talker.  Rookie of the year.  Staff look forward to the "Annual Awards" and we all have a good laugh at an especially busy time of year.

Of course, as a high school Principal, I have also enjoyed re-imagining the learning spaces of our students.  Can you not imagine some of your boys thriving a stand up desk...no more squirming and rocking?  Why not have art class on the front steps in the sunshine?  Learn poetry under the cherry blossoms. Go for a walk around the school with a classmate and return with some solutions to the assigned problem.  Throw some beanbag chairs into the library.  Break up the rows....But I am saving this topic for a future blog.  In fact, I am co-chairing a whole conference on the subject of disrupting the status quo in education: DisruptED Vancouver 2014: It'sTime to Shake Up Education.   

Call for presenters and registration now open: http://disruptedvancouver2014.blogspot.ca

Hope to see you there!

Sean

  



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