Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Creating A Work Environment That Promotes Creativity

Let's face it. For many new writers, finding the time and place to write is tough. We try to work in the writing amid soccer practice, homework, outside work, grocery shopping and so forth. The odds are, we are also sharing that space where we are hoping to escape to with bills, emails, Facebook and probably the kids homework. If you work from home, you are now sharing that space with your business life. Not exactly the perfect setting to create.

One of my authors told me her first three books were written sitting on her bed with a laptop on her legs. Her house didn't have an office and dragging the computer downstairs to the kitchen was a hassle. She also noted that when she did that, she saw her messy kitchen and that suddenly became a priority. I have to say, knowing that set-up, it is a shock she even got her writing finished at all.

We do know, that the perfect work environment will create the outcomes you want. Architects are studying this. Psychologists are aware of this. Now it is time for you to kick it up a notch and make those changes to get your writing in high gear.

According to an article from Journal of Public Affairs, Administration and Management,  "practically, many organizations still do not give much importance to workplace design. As many as 40 percent of the employees believe that their companies want to keep their costs low that is why their workplaces have bad designs; and 46 percent of employees think that the priority list of their company does not have workplace design on top. When data was summarized, almost one out of every five employees rated their workplace environment from, ‘fair to poor’. 90 percent admitted that their attitude about work is adversely affected by the quality of their workplace environment. Yet again 89 percent blamed their working environment for their job dissatisfaction (Gensler, 2006)." Although this is dealing with the standard work environment, I do believe many trying to work from home are feeling the same thing these people feel.

The same article goes on to say, The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID, 1999) carried out an independent study and revealed that the physical workplace design is one of the top three factors, which affect performance and job satisfaction. The study results showed that 31 percent of people were satisfied with their jobs and had pleasing workplace environments. 50 percent of people were seeking jobs and said that they would prefer a job in a company where the physical environment is good. Brill et al. (1984) ranked factors, which affect productivity according to their importance. The factors are sequenced based on the significance: Furniture, Noise, Flexibility, Comfort, Communication, Lighting, Temperature and the Air Quality. Springer Inc (1986) stated that “an insurance company in a study revealed that the best ergonomic furniture improved performance by 10 to 15 percent.

So, let's examine the items Brill noted in that study: Furniture, Noise, Flexibility, Comfort, Communication, Lighting, Temperature and the Air Quality.

FURNITURE Let's first consider the furniture you are working at. Remember that when it comes to writing, you will be sitting for long periods of time. If the chair is uncomfortable (or for that matter too comfortable) your quality productivity is simply not going to be there. This means sitting at that kitchen table might create additional pain and stress on your shoulders and arms. Will that get what you need? If you are really serious about your writing, you will probably have to make an investment in a chair and desk that physically works for you.

NOISE Look, you need to be thinking about your story and not everything else going on around you. In this case, if the kids are running around the house creating a distraction, the flow you need with your writing isn't going to happen. You will spend more time yelling at them and not getting those characters to do what you what you want them to do. At this point, you have to mobilize your family. They need to know your writing is a priority and for those hours you want to write, you need the piece and quiet.

Adding music to your writing setting, fountain noises and so forth also add to that creative environment. I have my Pandora on while I am writing all of the time. What I am working on determines what I need to listen to. (While I was writing this, I was listening to my Downtown Abbey Suite station). Outside my window, the fountain is running as well.

I would also add here that turning off the phone might help out as well. No distractions. They can always leave a messge.

FLEXIBILITY Things will change when it comes to your writing. What you need for the writing of the story will be different than what you need for editing, marketing and so forth. That work environment has to give you the feedom to shift and change depending on your needs. Again, at my desk, I have my computer set up to allow me to type and respond to correspondance. When I read submissions, however, I shift the material over to my iPad so I can sit in a more comfortable chair and really get into the stories. I do the same for critiques and edits. When it is time to respond, the notes are ready and I move to that "business" environment of my desk and computer.

COMFORT The issue of comfort is not simply about the chair. Consider what you wear, your hair and so forth. We really don't care what you look like when you write that story. This means that if you write best in your bunny slipper and sweats, then go for it! If you write best naked, then go for it (you just don't need to tell us that). But let's take this a step further. Comfort also deals with having snacks to keep you going, something to drink, and certainly a bathroom nearby. You don't need to be getting up all of the time when you want a snack or a drink. Keep a supply of those snacks with you.

COMMUNICATION Although this can be a distraction, you need to have near you the ability to communication with those that will get you through those tough spots. You don't need to check that email, follow Twitter and all that while you are writing, but these tools need to be available for immediate access. For myself, when I log onto my computer to work, several programs are immediatly turned on. This includes, SKYPE, TWITTER, my personal email and my agency email. Before I write, I check all of that correspondance first and then I get to work. Now, if I do have a quick question, I simply click on the button I need.

LIGHTING I am going to return to a study for this one since I think it makes the point clearer than I can make. According to There is an undeniable emotional attachment to light, important to the general well-being of humans. People naturally feel better when working in well-lit spaces. And when people 
experience positive emotional states, they tend to be more productive.

Numerous studies have shown time and again that people prefer daylight over electric lighting as their primary source of light. The preference for daylight may be partly due to a negative view of electric lighting. One study found that people tend to believe that working by daylight results in less stress and discomfort than working by electric light. But the preference for daylight may also be because of its beneficial effects on our wellbeing. Life is drawn to light. Natural light stimulates essential biological functions in the brain, while the body uses light as a kind of nutrient for metabolic processes similar to food or water.

Light affects many of the body’s regulatory functions including the nervous system, endocrine system, circadian rhythms, and the pineal and pituitary glands. One need only consider the extensive and recent research on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to recognize the significant power of light to influence our well-being. Accordingly, people prefer to sit at desks that are positioned near windows, especially when those windows have access to direct sunlight. Many European countries have 
recognized this preference along with light’s beneficial effects on workers’ health and 
attitudes, requiring workers to be within 27 feet of a window.

Given the many benefits of daylight and its universal preference to electric lighting, 
the proper use of daylighting within the office environment can most certainly support 
workplace productivity. Indeed, numerous studies dating back to the 1920s illustrate time and again that office worker productivity can and will increase with the quality of light.

 A range of other benefits have also been studied and proven including increased alertness, increased 
interaction with co-workers, decreased absenteeism, reduced turnover, and increased employee retention and job satisfaction.

TEMPERATURE Are you cold? Hot? Again, another distraction that will certainly get in the way of your writing. Your writing space needs to be the right temperature for you. Along the same lines, there needs to be a bit of flexibility when it comes to the temperature. Since I work right next to my window, if things get too hot, I can open the window. Too cold? I can shut it, or even reach down and close the vent at my feet.

AIR QUALITY Fresh air. What more do I have to say. If we are breathing right, we will be getting that Oxygen to our brains. A lot of writers like to have potpourri or candles at their desk as aroma therapy. What ever works for you needs to be in place. For myself, I also have to take into account dust and pollen. Keep that area clean and the sneezing will not ruin that great writing.

Your homework the rest of this week is simple. Fix your writing environment!

And give us your suggestions here as well. We'd love to hear what you do. If you have a picture of your personal work environment that has helped you, send it to me. Email me the picture at scott@greyhausagency.com and put in the subject line WORK ENVIRONMENT PICTURE. Only one picture for each author. I'll post those pictures on Friday!

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