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06
04
2020

The workspace: how to optimize our office?

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard & Denis Billotte, CUSO

In past weeks, many of us have had to reorganise our domestic space and devote part of the living room, bedroom or kitchen to work. In our first blog post of this series, we mentioned the importance of delimiting areas intended for rest from those intended for productivity. What did we learn from this experience? What can we bring back to the office when we return to university?

Here are some concrete suggestions for improving our workplace, at home, at the university or elsewhere. Optimizing the organization of space is as important as optimizing time management : our efficiency can (also) be linked to our comfort and the environment can influence our mental space.  So let's focus on our desks (and adapt them)!


1. Geometry : Do you know the target rule?  Sit at your desk, spread your arms and "draw" a circle to be divided into concentric zones: this is your shooting range, the place where you can place the most useful objects (in the centre) and those less used (towards the outside). The first circle will include everything you have in front of you, everything you need to work with (computer, paper, pen...). The second circle will comprise the objects you need to keep handy (your diary, calendar, phone, containers with pens, highlighters...). In the third circle, you can put the objects you use the least, within reach by stretching your arms (the water bottle, your tea cup, headphones, staples and stapler, books and binders...). Beyond the extension of the arms (you have to get up from your chair), there will be the objects you use only a few times per day: the archives, the printer, stationery supplies...


2. Distances (between you and the desk; between you and the computer): count between 50 and 70 cm between your eyes and the screen which must be directed towards the face, trying not to create an angle greater than 35° with respect to it. The keyboard and the work surface must be at the right height: the forearms should not form an angle greater than 20° to the desk. Your feet should rest well on the floor (https://www.apoi.it/la-regola-del-bersaglio/).


3. The light : ideally it should be natural and lateral (the desk should be at a right angle to the window). Avoid placing the light source behind your shoulders or in front of you. This configuration allows for a fairly neutral contrast with the light on your screen, thus limiting unpleasant consequences such as headaches and eye irritations. It will also be perfect for your videoconferences meetings.


4. Empty your desk : Periodically, don't forget to clean your to do lists, your post-its, your flyers... A clean workspace favours calm, creativity and imagination, Mies Van der Rohe (and Marie Kondo) docent ;-)


5. Water : don't forget to drink regularly! And fill your gourd with your herbal tea of the day or simply with water throughout the day and during breaks. Hydration rhymes with concentration – and hydration also requires getting up regularly, which is also very good ;-)


6. Air : it is important to air the room where you work, not only in times of pandemic!


7. The rest : don't forget to take care of everything around your desk: your work area tells a lot about your habits and lifestyle: even if it is possible to apply fictitious backgrounds for your skype meetings, try to remain as neutral as possible just in case!