Entrepreneur’s Workspaces: What Makes a Productive, Inspiring Office?

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If I’ve learned anything as a remote employee, it’s the following indisputable truth:

If I start my workday on the couch, I will be 100 percent less productive than if I start the day from my office.

Okay—so I made up that percentage. But the point still stands; for me to have a creative, focused, and productive workday, it’s necessary for me to do my work in a clearly defined office space. When it comes to producing good work, the couch just doesn’t cut it.

The environment in which we work is crucially important. While there are different schools of thought on the value of open-plan offices versus more private arrangements, it is at least accepted that our work environment does have an impact on our overall performance and output.

Not only that, but our preferences when it comes to workspaces are highly personal; what works brilliantly for one employee might not work as well for the next.

How do successful entrepreneurs work?

With this in mind, I reached out to entrepreneurs with a simple question: What does your workspace look like, and why does it make you feel productive, creative, and inspired?

Katie Johnson at her standing desk.

They embrace standing desks and flexible desk arrangements

Standing desks are growing in popularity, and the benefits of using one during at least a portion of your workday are well-known. With office workers leading an ever more sedentary lifestyle, making an effort to sit less has been connected with lowered heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risk, among others.

Katie Johnson of StandDesk.co (unsurprisingly) agrees, and is a huge advocate for integrating standing desks into the workplace.

“My workspace is ideal for me because it supports my changing needs and gives me options. My workstation allows me to sit or stand depending on how I’m feeling—if I need an energy boost, I stand, and if I need some support, I sit,” she explains.

She also highlights the importance of having a desk that is flexible enough to support a variety of workstyles, beyond simply the need to both sit and stand.

“The desktop itself is large enough for two computers and my notebooks,” she says. “I’m a handwritten-list-maker, so this matters to me! It’s also big enough for extra lights and has space I might need for coffee—and some days, that takes up a lot of room.”

Johnson’s main priority? A workspace that remains flexible and can be customized to suit her needs as they shift throughout the day.

“My workstation’s ability to change and support me in different scenarios helps me stay productive or gives me a creative boost when I switch things up a bit,” she says. “It’s the best possible set-up for an entrepreneurial freelancer like myself.”

Stacey Chang in her office.

They favor creative, colorful spaces

Your workspace should be a place of inspiration, ideally a place where you feel energized and motivated to create your best work.

To channel this, Stacey Chang of female empowerment-focused footwear brand VEERAH has created a colorful, fun space that she calls both creative and “very Instagrammable.”

“Our design is based on bright colors and inspirational women, so we have purple details, an orange wall, and images and quotes from women like Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, and Audrey Hepburn throughout our space,” she says. “This helps with creativity, reminder of our purpose, and to remind us of our belief that modern women are warriors who take on every endeavor with great conviction, character, and confidence—and this philosophy is incorporated into all of our shoes.”

Samson Adepoju at his coworking space.

They use coworking spaces

For the remote employee, freelance worker, or bootstrapped entrepreneur, coworking spaces are hugely appealing. After all, as I mentioned earlier, it can be difficult to focus from the living room couch.

To that end, Samson Adepoju of Salon Your Way takes advantage of coworking spaces, as opposed to a set home office or office building.

“I’m usually at a WeWork, which is a shared co-working space in New York,” he says. “My workspace changes almost daily, or even many time during the day.”

Adepoju enjoys this flexibility and the motivational environment provided by a shared coworking space full of others working toward similar goals. “It helps me work better because sometimes, all I need is my laptop, my wireless headphones, and a comfortable couch,” he says. “I can focus and stay motivated among other people who are also building their business.”

Whitney Kippes’ office.

They create spaces that are both simple and inspirational

“Leading a creative business means that I keep my creative inspiration just as close at hand as my organizational tools,” says Whitney Kippes of Imaginary Book Club. “It’s taken years for me to craft the right balance between minimalism and having everything at my fingertips on my desk!”

However, Kippes managed to establish a workspace that married the need for a functional work environment with a streamlined, attractive aesthetic. She’s also a big fan of both high and low-tech tricks to keep herself productive while at work: “I use both a paper planner and an electronic calendar to keep on top of all the spinning pieces within my business,” she says. “To keep the day moving when I’m working solo, I use a Pomodoro timer to work efficiently.”

The American Bench Craft workspace.

They enjoy a little manageable disorder

Some workspaces weren’t meant to be orderly and tidy; for some, a little chaos is the best possible work environment.

“Our workshop is organized chaos,” says Jason Angelini, founder of American Bench Craft, a lifestyle brand offering leather goods and accessories for men. “The layout is well thought out and intentional, but it often looks like a tornado ran through our shop.”

While you won’t find much advice urging you to emulate natural disasters with your office setup, Angelini wouldn’t have it any other way: “A messy workshop is a busy workshop, though, so we like the mess,” he says.

The Media Captain office.

They maximize small spaces

While open-concept offices are still the trend, it isn’t all airy lofts.

“We have an open office space located in the heart of the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio, which is in the downtown area,” says Jason Parks of The Media Captain.

As such, it’s a tight fit—but that doesn’t take away from the functionality of the space, or its aesthetic appeal. “Even though we have a tight space, it is very creative and productive inside of our office,” says Parks. “Every time a client steps through the door, they feel are always surprised by how ‘cool’ of an office it is.”

Parks is also a fan of the way this small office setup allows everyone to work collaboratively, without micromanaging anyone. “I’m able to oversee everything with the open office space,” he says. “I hate to micromanage, but having a pulse of what is going on amongst all of our team members is very helpful. There is also constant communication going on amongst team members, which is great for the majority of our projects.”

Deborah Sweeney’s desk.

They create a comfortable space, complete with their favorite must-haves

Your office is your home away from home—so it makes sense to bring your essentials along with you.

Having a comfortable workspace that reflects this is important to Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation. “My favorite things are around me—my gum, my hand lotion, my caramels, my vitamins, my keyboard, and my favorite pens for taking notes on calls,” she says. “Voila—with these items, I’m pumped and always ready to go.”

Sweeney advocates for creating a workspace where you feel comfortable. “I run my business successfully when I’m content,” she says. “My desk is facing the rest of the office, it’s open, and I’m able to engage with others on the team. I’m near my important things, and I have happy reminders about me. When I’m engaged, in a good mindset (helped by my gum, caramels, and vitamins), all is good in the business!”

Thomas Fallarino’s office.

They favor sleek spaces (with inspiring views)

“Your work environment could make all the difference in how much you accomplish,” says Thomas Fallarino, founder and president of Empire Executive Offices and Empire Legal Reporting. “Lighting, furniture, and views all play an effect on your perspective while getting work done.”

To reflect this, Fallarino has created a beautiful workspace space that features stunning views front and center. “I like to create a space that is warm and inviting, yet organized and clean. Adding a small couch or chairs with a rug and lamp creates a relaxed ambiance,” he says. “The view is also absolutely breathtaking. From the 17th floor, I have an amazing visual of the ocean, right from my desk.”

For Fallarino, having an attractive office space offers far more than bragging rights; it also serves as a source of inspiration. “Sometimes when I feel like I’m starting to lag or lose focus, I walk over to my sitting area and take a 15-minute break to gaze out of the window,” he says. “I find it gives my brain and chance to pause and re-energize, that way when I tackle my next task, I can do so with a refreshed head.”

Carolyn Wilman’s workspace.

They have a separate office—even when they work from home

If you work from home, having a designated office space is more important than ever. Without at least a small corner of your home as a devoted workspace, it’s harder to stay present when it comes to work tasks, and productivity often suffers (and I say this from personal experience as someone who works from home!).

Carolyn Wilman of Contest Queen has had extensive experience navigating both the joys and pain points of working from home. “I have worked from home since 1994, with occasional long-term contracts on client site,” she says. “Since my first home, I have ensured I always had a separate place to work.”

Wilman feels that this separation is essential. “It makes it easier to focus when I am in a professional environment and can close the door to the normal home chaos,” she says. “I love my big desk as it gives me room to spread out or have a colleague use the far end. The shelves hold all my office supplies and keep me organized.”

Julie Frost’s office setup.

They stay in touch with the outside world

In the same vein, if you work from home, it can be easy to feel cooped up, and cabin fever can set in quickly. That’s why it’s important to either get outside as much as possible, or take a leaf out of Julie Frost’s book, and bring the outside to you.

“My home office on the Australian East coast, lets me ‘feel’ the weather; a grey rainy day, dazzling sunshine and heat, or fierce howling wind and combined with a Pacific ocean view that gives me a sense of being outdoors even whilst sitting at my desk,” says Frost, founder of Hubchair. “I believe it is my perfect environment and key to my success as a business woman.”

Frost also notes that in her line of work, the access to natural light is irreplaceable. “As a freelance designer of all sorts of things […] the ability to perceive and determine real color in natural daylight from within a workspace that lets me stay in touch with what’s going on outside is important to keeping me focused and creative,” she says.

Joanna Finney’s bike desk.

They get a workout while they work

So, you’ve heard of standing desks—but have you heard of bike desks?

Honestly, I hadn’t—until I went down to work in-office at Palo Alto Software and discovered that we actually have one!

Joanna Finney of Eleven 26 Talent is also a fan of the bike desk as one of her two different workspace options. Not only does this help ward against a sedentary office routine, but having a bike desk allows Finney to kill two birds with one stone. “I can get a workout in while working,” says Finney. “As you know, being an entrepreneur, you work all sorts of crazy hours!”

Erin Jump Fry in her office at Fancy Fortune Cookies.

They value cheery, inspirational workspaces

“I absolutely love love my whole office space, but especially my own work area because I chose very bright upbeat colors for all the walls,” says Erin Jump Fry, CEO for Fancy Fortune Cookies. “Every office is a different color and that fits perfectly with our brand (colored and flavored fortune cookies).”

Fry also surrounds herself with artwork and quotes and feels that her sunny, colorful office space helps inspire creativity, and puts everyone in a better mood. “I also added cheery original art—some by my young daughter—plus inspirational messages that keep my whole team in a positive frame of mind,” she says. “Bright colors are proven mood elevators and energizers; looking at art always inspires me to create new products and promotions, and I still smile every morning when I flip the lights on, as it’s always sunny at Fancy Fortune Cookies.”

What do you personally think is most important when it comes to creating a productive, inspirational workspace? Which workspace would you love to work in?

Leave me a comment and let me know! Or, better yet, share this article on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you think. I’d love to see your own office setup too—share it with me on Twitter @BrianaMorgaine!

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Posted in Goals & Productivity
  • Do you have a picture of your workspace at Palo Alto Software? 😉