If you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, the response probably isn’t “I want to work in a small office cubicle.” Sure, not every kid can realize their fantasies of being an astronaut, pirate, or president of the United States. But I also don’t believe work has to be devoid of stimulation or adventure.
My 5’2” frame and inability to play basketball have effectively squashed my childhood dreams of being a WNBA player. But I still have high aspirations for an interesting and rewarding career. I want a job that allows me to engage with intelligent individuals, foster relationships, better the community, explore our world, think critically, develop personally, and maybe even laugh a bit while doing it. Yet can I do all this within the walled confines of an office?
Knowing that I can’t be a student forever, I decided to explore the options for “desirable” office environments around the country. The probability of me working in an office seems high, so I sought to identify workspaces that go well beyond bare white walls and dreaded fluorescent lighting.
And guess what? They do exist: interesting, stimulating, and interactive office spaces where I would certainly aspire to work.
Here are a few offices I’ve found that would make any child re-think his desire to be a rodeo clown:
I agree that not every office can be as elaborate as Google’s or Pixar’s, the champions of creativity. But what about an insurance or software company?
The four offices I’ve described above may be elaborate and costly, but it’s not the money spent that defines an enjoyable, creative, inspiring space. Take the folks at the Happy at Work Project. Their office consists simply of large tables, big windows, lots of nature, and open spaces to breathe, think, and engage.
For a different type of work experience, consider the movement toward shared or communal workspaces—also known as “coworking”—which is especially inviting for freelancers and other folks who would otherwise work alone. For a small fee, you can rent a desk in a comfortable but professional environment and meet other "coworkers" who may be doing very different work from you. The result? A stimulating and social space to get your everyday tasks done. Check out the Coworking Directory to find a coworking space near you.
Offices shouldn’t be isolating places that segregate and restrict. They should facilitate discussion, interaction, and innovation. To create happy workers, employers need to rethink the everyday office environment: less uniformity, more community.
Amy Curtis is a student at the University of Virginia and an intern at New Dream.