The Big News Part 1:
Exciting news for the Schematical Team: We have rented our first private office inside of the new 100State Coworking Space on West Washington St in Madison, Wisconsin. This is a big step for our small consulting shop and I am excited to see where we will go from here.
The Big News Part 2:
I also have another bit of exciting news. For a while now I have been talking about taking a little stroll around the world, especially in those cold January/February months. So on a whim earlier this week I booked a one way ticket overseas and I will be ringing in the New Year on the other side of the planet in a country I have never been to with people I have never met.
No I am not telling you where right now. You will just have to wait and find out. In reality since it is only a 1 way ticket I am not even sure where I will end up. But that is half the fun of going on an adventure.
The Big Problem:
Since I will be on the other side of the planet the Schematical Team will have to move into the new office without me there. This could be an issues as I have very specific thoughts on how I would like the office setup.
I do not want things to just fall into place. And I don't want to be that jerk that comes in after they have worked so hard to setup the office in a way they like it only to tell them that we need to tear it down and set it up my way.
My solution is to write this post describing what I feel is my ideal office setup. Hopefully this will guide my team in building the optimal office for us to work on our craft, serve our customers, and have a hell of a good time doing it.
Before I go any further the rest of this post will be written directly to my team. So if you read "You should XYZ," "You" refers to the members of the Schematical Team.
When to bend the rules and when to break them:
These are not set in stone directives that I will scold you if you diverge from this plan.
With my habit of over obsessing about my business I am just guessing that I have probably thought of some things that may get overlooked if I do not put them down into writing.
As you set up you will probably think of somethings I have overlooked as well. That is why I encourage you to get creative with your setup.
Hopefully this post will convey the spirit of what I am going for. From there you can chose what is the most practical way of achieving the best outcome.
A little history:
I spent preschool through 5th grade at a [Montessori School](
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education). We didn't have assigned seats that faced forward toward the teacher. We had little islands of desks facing in inward towards each other or we had big round tables with chairs around them.
A teacher would gather a few of us for a class or better yet they would tell us a class was going to happen at a certain time and if we were interested we could attend.
The teacher wouldn't just yammer on at us and then answer some questions at the end. We would circle up around the table and participate in an extremely interactive and collaborative lesson.
When not in a lesson we were encouraged to pick up various projects and learning tools around the classes and interact/learn from them. We were given assignments but unlike "homework" we could pick when and where to work on the assignments throughout the day.
The whole experience was designed to make children into hands-on learners, self-starters, and excellent collaborators with great communication skills.
Interestingly enough that is exactly the type of experience I want to create for my team. I want you to be able to work how you work best, where you work best, when you work best.
I am not going to lie. This isn't Disneyland. There will be unpleasant times when your putting out server fires at 3am but ideally that will be minimal. Ideally The majority of your time will be spent exercising your craft building something amazing so that you're excited to jump out of bed and come to the office.
Side thought: I wish there was a better name for our space rather than "The Office". We should come up with a nickname for it like "the fortress of solitude" or "the Snake Hole Lounge"(Parks and Rec reference)... okay those both suck. Let's work on it.
Putting it into action:
The Round Table:
I hate the concepts of cubicles: people locked in their little dungeon. It's just depressing.
I want collaboration. Yeah we all have Slack but nothing can replace some good old face-to-face communication some times.
I want a table that a team can sit around and if a team member has a question or thought they don't even have to waste time swiveling around to get the other team member's attention.
This means no wall facing desks. I doubt we can get an actual round table into the space we have rented, but we can take 4 desks and put them in a 2 by 2 row. That or what I would actually prefer is to get a long table and put it in the middle of the room or up against the wall furthest from the entrance. This way we should easily be able to fit 5 people around the table.
A bunch of you engineers probably just cringed when I said that someone could ask you a question at anytime and break your precious focus. I hate being taken out of my flow as much as you, I assure you.
Furthermore I know that not everyone works the same way. Introverts function at optimal performance very different from extroverts.
Beyond that everyone does not work the same way at all times of the day. I prefer to do my solo work earlier in the day and my more collaborative tasks later.
So don't worry I have a plan to protect your heads down focus time. Here are the two options to help you keep focused:
The Headphone Rule:
If someone has both ears covered by headphones or with both earbuds in then they are not to be verbally addressed unless all hell is breaking loose.
Alternatively if one of our team members has one earbud or no earbuds in means your are not in do not disturb mode.
We need to make an infographic that we can put on the wall describing this policy. Perhaps I will just doodle something up.
As a company policy I considering providing a couple pairs of noise canceling headphones that stay in the office that can be used by anyone working in the office. Just don't take them home with you.
The second way I plan on combating focus breaking distractions is "The Library." Back at Montessori we had a room called "The Library," yes it was an actual library with books and stuff but just like a normal library talking in that room was off limits.
At the new 100State I am told there will be two main common areas. One that is for normal co-working and the other that is intended to be a quieter area. This will be our designated "library." If you want heads down focus time get out of our space and go out into the quiet area.
Unless we're meeting on a topic or actively working together on something DO NOT FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO STAY IN OUR ROOM. Get out and stretch your legs. I hate feeling confined, it feels like 'Corporate Claustrophobia'. You now have my express written permission to go grab a bean bag chair, slap on your headphones, and get hammering. Hell, sometimes I will kick you out so that we can have meetings and such.
No Assigned Seats:
I don't want anyone laying claim to any seats. You want a good seat? Then get there earlier then anyone else. I want a fluid work space just like we had back at Montessori.
Besides do you really want an assigned seat? Like I said above: You may want to lay back in a comfy bean bag chair. Our team members travel so much for both business and adventure the last thing I would want is for one of us to assert ownership over a spot that then would go unused for a month while they are overseas.
Beyond that since I don't feel like fending for conference rooms some times one of us will need to clear the room for a meeting. Sometimes it wont matter if you're a fly on the wall for a meeting on a subject that does not pertain to you but sometimes we might kick you out when talking about something sensitive or meeting with clients and such.
Just don't get to comfortable in any one spot.
Another added benefit of "The Round Table" is that the wall space is freed up. What for? For whiteboards, dozens of glorious whiteboards. If we can do it I want to cover every inch of wall space with floor to ceiling whiteboards. We will go grab some of those massive 8x4 foot shower panels and set them up side by side 8 foot high in the office.
I want our goals and mission statement written in big letters staring us in the eye every day. Let there be no question what our mission is and why were all busting our asses. I want to update it every time we're one step closer to completing a goal.
Since goals are nothing without a system to follow that moves you closer to our goals I want our processes clearly drawn out on these boards.
When I was CTO of SnowShoeStamp.com I once spent 4 hours to draw out our ideal complete marketing, sales, ordering, fulfillment, and manufacturing process in a massive swim lane diagram on 2 of those massive shower boards complete with little caricatures of our team acting out the processes.
When I drew that all out basically none of that infrastructure existed, it was just something we had dreamed up. By that massive diagram clearly defined our vision. Month after month we followed that vision and carefully built out each piece of the puzzle until we finally had the whole thing built.
I want the same thing for what we're building at Schematical. I want the systems we will use to achieve our goals on the wall 8 feet tall complete with caricatures of us hammering out our killer services and products.
Anyone that steps into our space, new hires, clients, or even my mother, should have an absolutely clear vision of what our goals are and how we plan to achieve them.
Other Random Things:
Mini Fridge and Snacks:
I definitely want a little mini fridge in the corner. I am pretty particular about my diet and I know some of you are. I definitely want a place I can keep my intermittent fasting supplies.
We should probably have these things...
Since I sprung for the big bucks and got a space with a window I think we should prob get a plant. It will help us in the winter months to feel less like were at the north pole. Additionally I will prob get us a UV light similar to the one I use at home to combat seasonal depression.
Friday Scotch O'clock:
I definitely plan on bringing back the Friday Scotch O'clock back from the old Mobile Igniter days. Many lucrative deals had their beginnings over a glass of scotch at on a Friday night at this event.
Whether you are on my team or not, hopefully this post gives you some food for thought when setting up your own space so as to best optimize it for your culture and your craft.