Monocle magazine is one of life’s small pleasures. It looks and feels like no other magazine or newspaper. It is a thing of beauty. Its latest edition is a “work-life-balance special”, something which leapt off the newsagent’s shelf when it caught my eye at the weekend.
I will be honest, I put my copy down a little disappointed by the overall analysis, which doesn’t get to the heart of the causes behind the imbalance that so many – me included – have felt at various times through their careers. It is light on realism and heavy on concepts. That said, it offered some interesting insights into the design and approach taken in some progressive workplaces around the world with some colourful examples of what works for them.
The piece that really caught my attention in the magazine was a feature on “my desk”; taking a look at some desks from leaders in design, business and public life. It focused on the type of desk, what they keep on it, personal items, books, music etc. It got me thinking about my own working space. My own desk.
Simplicity, tidiness and right angles probably best sum up my desk. Anyone who knew me would probably recognise me from my desk. There are some personal items that offer heavy hints – photos of Miss J, me playing golf (a giveaway!) and Fenway Park as well as a Liverpool Uni gift; a superlambanna – look it up. Neat piles of papers or books – organised and arranged in order of priority to match my to do list. Plenty of white space to create as calm and controlled a working environment as possible and yet practical too with post-its, pens and glasses in easy reach. I have a large bookshelf behind me for inspiration but keep one or two books I am using the most – at the moment a collection of Robert Frost poems and some PhD reading materials – close at hand. A plant – thank you Dr J – and some magazines I am currently reading – Monocle as discussed and the last two weeks of The Spectator. The key final ingredient – apart from my adorable MacBook and landline phone – is my music and radio: Bose bluetooth sound system and Pure DAB radio. My constant companions when working. That and The West Wing played through the Mac and then through the speakers.
My desk is clean and straightforward and aims to match my approach to work but it is also aims to help me create a settled, contented space; somewhere I am comfortable and relaxed to allow me to do my best work. Somewhere I enjoy being. Like so many others – whether they work for themselves, at home or in large offices – I spend more time sat in this chair (super comfy chair – thanks again Dr J) and at this desk than almost anywhere else. It makes sense therefore to take time to get the space to work for you. The surroundings matter too – artwork that soothes or warms the heart and natural light – a have a huge window right next to me as well as the ability to close the door on the world and create my own desert island. My desk is not the most important tool in my work-life-balance toolkit but it is more important than you might think at first thought. It can make or break your focus and your creativity. One of the contributors to the Monocle piece, Karen Heumann, the founder of Thjnk, Berlin, put it beautifully; :”Its important to have a space where your thoughts can wander”.