behavior · brain · cognition · creativity · environment · happiness · health · Nature · work

Why You Should Take Your Work Outdoors

Happy Friday. I got to start off my work day sitting on my back patio drinking coffee. Here’s why more people should do the same.

Do you feel stifled by the four walls of your office or cubicle?

There’s a reason for that.

Trapping ourselves indoors has created what health experts call a “nature deficit disorder” — depression or anxiety resulting from too little time spend outside. Getting outdoors can do great things for your health. Reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving immune function are among nature’s health benefits. What’s more, incorporating elements of nature into your workday can also give your brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus and creativity.

Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub, co-author of Your Brain on Nature, says a drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain, since it “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure and improved immune response.”

Turning off the sensors that are involved in the stress response allows the higher brain centers to be accessed, resulting in increased concentration, improved memory, greater creativity and productivity and reduced mental fatigue. While Selhub says spending 20 minutes a day outdoors is recommended, studies have shown even looking at photographs of nature can deliver some of the same cognitive benefits as physically being outdoors. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed students who looked at photos of nature performed better on tests of attention and working memory than those who looked at photographs of urban scenes.

More reasons, and tips how, via Entrepreneur Magazine

anthropology · behavior · cognition · work

Inspire Creativity at Work With All 5 of Your Senses | Mashable

Work IS  a fully engrossing experience, so why not enhance all of those experiences?

You’ve probably heard of the debate about whether open offices or the oh-so-dreaded traditional cubicles are better in the workplace. All these discussions revolve around layout and arrangement, but did you know that ambience is equally (if not more) important for inspiring workplace creativity?

If only the interior designer had known that people working in white offices are more likely to complain of nausea and headaches, or that dim lighting jump starts creative freedom, your office might be a much happier place. In fact, the best offices engage all five senses — everything from colors and music to smells and tastes — to maximize your productivity and creativity.

Read the infographic below to decode why your office might be holding you back, and discover small things you can do to unleash your team’s creative powers in no time.

more via Inspire Creativity at Work With All 5 of Your Senses.

architecture · creativity · culture · environment · work

Twitter to Install 19th Century Log Cabins in its SF Headquarters | Inhabitat

Do you think better in a small, cozy place, or something a little more rustic than modern offices? Twitter now has got its employees covered in that department.

Employees at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters will soon have a chance to tap their creativity inside repurposed 19th century log cabins. The tech company has made a plan to install two homesteader cabins salvaged from historic ranches in Montana. The cabins will be installed within an open area in the headquarters, and serve as a creativity-inducing dining area.

The cabins, which are nicknamed Stanford and Belt to honor the Montana towns they were sourced from, will join other salvaged materials in the Twitter offices. Twitter’s logos throughout the office are made from reused California license plates, and the reception desk is made from salvaged bowling alley planks.

Like other tech companies in Silicon Valley, Twitter’s office is chock full of gimmicky but enjoyable features to inspire its employees. The refurbished office includes a yoga studio, rooftop garden, arcade and culinary treats like a cupcake shop, all clad in salvaged wood. The cabins are expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

more via Twitter to Install 19th Century Log Cabins in its SF Headquarters | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building, or from its source CBS.

Going into a novel space, or even a space that feels special, can really boost creativity and/or help people focus on a project. It can also help to have some place quiet and private to concentrate and really dive in to something, whether it’s a log cabin at work or just a small “phone booth” style room.

What small, perhaps quirky, space do you use for yourself to get work done? Let us know about it in the comments below.

behavior · community · creativity · work

Organize an Office Recess and Create Your Own Game | Play on GOOD

Yes! I’m in!

When you think of our everyday endeavors and going through life as adults, we’re not really encouraged to be playful. But when we play games, we relax and become more receptive and less judgmental. Games trigger our creative juices—through solving problems, navigating complex systems and managing resources. They present us with hard problems; like solving a puzzle or defeating a boss. As players we need to be creative and come up with good ideas to solve those problems. They make us more playful in our way of being and experiencing life. Best of all, games bring us together. Go ahead, organize an office recess and create your own game—and use the toolkit at the link to help get you started.

sign up and find out more at Organize an Office Recess and Create Your Own Game | Play on GOOD.

behavior · mental health · work

Successful People Relax and Take Time Off to Recharge!

More and more Americans are working through their weekends. According to a 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, more than one-third of U.S. employees log time on the weekends, putting in an average of five and a half hours, and a whopping 81 percent of respondents in a recent GFI Software survey said they check their email on Saturdays and Sundays. But enjoying those precious two days off can actually make you more effective throughout the workweek.

"There are 60 hours between that 6 p.m. Friday beer and that 6 a.m. Monday alarm clock," Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, writes in a Fast Company blog. "That’s plenty of time for fun, relaxation and more importantly, recharging the batteries. In our competitive world, successful people know that great weekends are the secret to workday success. You want weekends that leave you refreshed, not exhausted or disappointed."

From literary icons of the past to present-day CEOs, these successful people make the most of their time off with weekend rituals and habits that don’t involve catching up on email.

Get the memo, America! Unplug! Relax! Recharge! Take a Sabbath, even if it’s Wednesday evening, whenever! So long as you make space for downtime and contemplation, time to reconnect with family.

behavior · mental health · work

The Surefire Way To Be Happier At Work: Chat With Your Coworkers | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

Stock photo of ridiculously happy coworkers. Mine don’t usually wear ties to the office, but they do usually look this happy (ok, only sometimes).

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about making happy, playful spaces. But in the end the most important thing to making a space playful and happy is the people that fill that space.

According to a new study by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, published through the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, of all the things we choose to do at work (other than work!), it’s casually interacting with our colleagues that makes us happiest. From the study:
The largest positive net effect of combining work and another activity on happiness relates to ‘Talking, chatting, socialising’. . . . There are clearly positive psychological benefits of being able to socialise whilst working. It is the only activity that, in combination with working, results in happiness levels that are similar to those experienced when not working.

more via The Surefire Way To Be Happier At Work: Chat With Your Coworkers | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.

Now, according to this same study they found the strongest correlation between reducing stress and working was watching videos (film, TV), which indicates to me the study may not be the most robust, but to be fair other studies have found a strong correlation between watching cute things and destressing and an increase in the ability to concentrate, so if these study participants were watching cute puppies and kittens then that makes perfect sense.

I certainly know that having good coworkers makes a huge difference in how much I enjoy my work (and lucky for me I’ve got great coworkers!)

What do you think? Does your personal work happiness depend on your coworkers? Share your work stories in the comments below.

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · creativity · design · work

Workstations Designed For Collaboration, Modeled On Friendly Neighborhoods | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

This article brings up an interesting idea of a “forced” playful space. You can certainly encourage creativity and playfulness, but forcing the issue can backfire in a bad way.

“We have recently seen many offices that try to evoke a kind of forced playfulness,” says Sam Hecht, founder of London-based Industrial Facility. “Slides, chill-out zones, ping-pong, or a kind of home-like interior. We were very suspicious of this.”

For his own take on the flexible office system, Hecht and his partner, Kim Colin, adopted a more nuanced approach to getting employees to think fondly of their office–and not view them as places of mandatory drudgery. Locale, for Herman Miller, uses modular pieces that easily adjust in place and height to create what Hecht calls neighborhoods.

more via 1 | Workstations Designed For Collaboration, Modeled On Friendly Neighborhoods | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.

I definitely agree that everyone has to buy in or the “playful” environment doesn’t truly exist. A space designated for “play” just becomes a dead zone at work if nobody wants to hang out there, or knows they’ll be scolded by fellow workers for disrupting work, or viewed as “lazy.”

I’m curious to hear more of why the Locale design would make people feel more neighborly. Thoughts? Ideas? Leave them in the comments below.

behavior · community · environment · work

Creative Leadership Grows in the Garden

English: Photo of Robert Hart's forest garden ...
English: Photo of Robert Hart’s forest garden by Graham Burnett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great insight from Tim Brown of IDEO on how playing in the dirt can forge great leadership skills:

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to what gardening, design, and creative leadership have in common.

Gardening is generative, iterative, and user-centered
When designers in our Chicago studio first planted a roof garden, they noticed people were picking and eating the strawberries and tomatoes and leaving the eggplants and tomatillos to rot on the vine. They soon realized that planting a work garden for 60 busy people is very different from planting a home garden for a family of four. Project deadlines simply took priority over cooking, so any plants that took extra steps to prepare were ignored. The next year, the designers planted a “Grab and Go Garden” that contained only fruits and vegetables that could be eaten straight away. This time, more plants were eaten, less were wasted. A good garden, like good design, needs to meet the needs of its users.

Full article:

architecture · creativity · design · environment · health · work

LEED Gold Firm With a Picnic Green |

Bringing the great outdoors indoors for mental destressing, and maybe a little fun.

HOK’s London branch features a central patch of grass. But despite all the greenery, perhaps the greenest feature was its construction method and materials.

more via LEED Gold Firm With a Picnic Green |

architecture · community · culture · happiness · work

Does Not Having an Office Make You a Happier Worker?

Office Space
Office Space (Photo credit: steve-and-diane)

I read an article yesterday about “the next big thing” in office space. According to Uday Dandavate, the CEO of SonicRim, the next “megatrend” is going to be no office space:

Large working complexes will be pyramids for dead people. I’m not making a judgment. I am just observing. They are fading symbols of an era that is soon going to be a bygone era.The ideal environment is where people don’t have to go to a workplace. The workplace is distributed in the community.
Companies won’t be building offices; they will be building communities and nice places to work in those communities. It’s a fallacy that people want to stay at home to work. In a given moment they want to work where they would be most productive, or relaxed, in the kind of mindset they need to be in. We need to get away from constructing buildings that have flexibility to creating work environments that can evolve.

There needs to be a complex assessment of different moments at work. Recently we finished a global study on auto interiors for Johnson Controls. When you sit inside your car there are different moments that have different states of mind, going to work or coming home. Sometimes people want to feel their car is their home. At times people want the car to feel like a workplace. Take the same concept and apply it to architecture and work places. For any productive activity, not just working but cooking, reading, writing a letter, there is always a most conducive environment.

More at: The Registry SF

While Dandavate believes that the workers will be dispersed throughout the community, I’m not sure I entirely buy the idea that the central office space or main corporate headquarters is going to disappear. The emphasis on having everyone in one space my diminish, but there are a lot of reasons why having a central space sanctioned as “for work” is important.
To name a few:

  • Working parents who need a space away from family distractions, like screaming children and biting puppies. Or heck, noisy roommates for that matter.
  • People for whom going to the local library or coffee shop every day. This isn’t an option for a lot of people, even those living in big cities.
  • People who work very collaboratively and need real-time input, and face time in order to accomplish their work.
  • People who need more space to work than the kitchen table or their tiny apartment walls can provide.
  • Those who just need the peer pressure of others working around them to push through a hard deadline.
  • Extraverts!

Dandavate mentions a sense of identity for workers with the company that doesn’t require a tangible, geographical locale. I agree with his assessment that people don’t need a geographic place to congregate at to form a bond with coworkers or identify with a company, but they sure want one. Microsoft has a huge annual gathering of its employees in or near their homebase in Redmond, that most employees working from afar get really excited about. Traceurs (people who train parkour) will make pilgrimages to a small park outside of Paris simply because one of the sport’s founders filmed a video there. Elvis fans have Graceland.

Workers are also becoming more vocal about work vs. home life, and for many it is unappealing to have your work at home or not be able to leave it somewhere else (even places like Office Nomads you have to bring most of your stuff home with you).

Maybe I’m totally off-base, but while I think the workplace will become more flexible, we will always have the “homebase/headquarters” office buildings.
Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.