Get the Obstacle Course out of Your Office! Part One
Updated: Sep 6
Obstacle Course or Office?
Obstacle courses can be for the fun of it, or they can be used for training military and police forces, but having an obstacle course in your commercial construction subcontracting office is a surefire way to waste time, energy, and money.
This explanation of an obstacle course from Wikipedia is sufficient for understanding the concept.
“An obstacle course is a series of challenging physical obstacles an individual, team or animal must navigate, usually while being timed. Obstacle courses can include running, climbing, jumping, crawling, swimming, and balancing elements with the aim of testing speed, endurance, and agility. Sometimes a course involves mental tests.”
And the explanation is enlightening when you break it down into some essential components.
· a series of challenging physical obstacles
· that must be navigated, usually while being timed – (like an 8-hour day)
· it’s a test – (as in, can you figure this out?)
Because it is likely, that you have no intention of testing whether you and your employees can defeat the obstacles found in your office (while being timed,) the better route would be to get the obstacle course out of your office.
Before going further, I must add that while the obstacles may indeed be physical (like every time you want to enter a storage area, you must move a box or two first), or they may be conceptual (like determining the next logical, responsible person in a chain of events.) In either version removing the obstacle course is the goal. We’ll deal with the conceptual obstacle course in the second part of this two-part series.
It’s Just a Desk
Let’s start with the most apparent form of an office obstacle course – the placement of furniture, office equipment, and other objects. Because if you or your employees must take extra steps to complete a task, that can be an annoying obstacle.
This article from turnstone provides great information concerning the simple task of positioning your desk for maximum productivity. The authors of the article don’t know the size, shape, or configuration of your office, so they offer a variety of insights and options.
When the scope is more extensive, the entirety of your office, there are more options to think about as you proceed with the business of removing the obstacles.
Work Zones in Your Office
A straightforward way to remove time-wasting obstacles is to create zones based on activity while keeping in mind that simplicity is key. Here are some zones to consider:
· Home base (each person’s desk or workspace)
· Meeting rooms (conferences, workshops, training sessions)
· Central filing space
· Break-out area or kitchen (think rejuvenation)
· Resource room or storage area
· Hallways (consider using the wall space for messages but keep the traffic path clear)
It may be easier if you consider office placement needs based on spaces that provide:
· Collaboration or sequence
· Social interaction
Zones Within the Zones
Now is the time to put the idiom, a place for everything and everything in its place, to work. Because you don’t want to hear your employees put this other idiom to work when asked where an item is – your guess is as good as mine.
Being confident that each individual has all the tools and supplies necessary for the completion of their tasks is fundamental. Making sure they know where those items are is essential. Creating homes for “the things” is . . . well, it’s not easy.
Private or Personal Spaces
It is best to store items like tools and supplies by personality type within private spaces. When possible, it is best to consider the individual when thinking of the place for everything. In general, there are two different storage personality types.
I Gotta See It! For some, visual is essential. If an item must be hidden in a drawer or box, this type will forget all about it and typically not have a clue where it is. If this person must open a cupboard, take out a box, and then remove the lid before getting to the needed object, they’re likely to choose desktop piles of clutter instead. Provide storage for them that is open, clearly labeled, and meets their visual needs.
Put This Away! For the other type, files, drawers, lidded boxes, and “neatly tucked away” make their day function better. These folks likely agree with Carmine Gallo, who says, “Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. Create uncluttered environments instead.” Provide storage for this type that is near at hand, store items in an orderly manner (think alphabetical or chronological,) and meet their clutter-free needs.
Common or Communal Spaces
When personality storage types collide in common or communal areas, things can get heated. A general rule of thumb is to keep areas where clients or guests will enter buttoned-down, clutter-free, and visually simple. These areas can include the reception area or conference room.
As for the kitchen or break-out area, try mixing the types as best as possible. A cupboard where mugs are stored, as well as a mug rack on the counter, might be one solution. Labels, labels, labels might be another.
The resource room is another area where storage personality types may collide. Unless everyone in your office is one personality type or the other, there can be problems determining what goes where and how it is displayed. One way to deal with this issue is to provide open shelving rather than cupboards (remember the visual folks) and to neatly arrange items in categories that the “tucked away” group will find useful.
And you can slow the squabble factor by instituting these simple rules:
· If you get it out, put it away.
· If you empty it, fill it.
· If you fill it, empty it.
· If you notice it, take care of it.
· If you can’t do any of the above, consider looking for a different place of employment.
OK, so you may think that the last one is a bit heavy-handed. But it is worth contemplating. Team players just make better employees.
Next time, in part two, we’ll discuss removing the obstacle course from your construction office within the conceptual realm.
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