Quiz: Is the Design of Your Office Space Making You Happy? Or Driving You Crazy?

From Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, here are some tips on how to tell if you need to reorganize your office space.

Of all the books I’ve read in the last few years, few have made a deeper impression on me than A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. This strange, brilliant, fascinating book uses architecture, sociology, psychology, and anthropology to describe the most satisfying architectural environments.

Instead of talking about familiar architectural styles and elements, for example, it focuses on the Sitting Wall, the Front Door Bench, the Child Caves, the Sequence of Sitting Spaces, the Sleeping to the East. I love these! I want them for my own apartment!

Ever since I read this book, I’ve been working my way through everything written by Christopher Alexander. Fascinating stuff.

The book discusses houses, but it also covers commercial spaces and offices. Are you being driven crazy at work by misplaced walls or the wrong kind of noise? Take this quiz to see how your office measures up.

I put a “yes” or “no” after each element, as it applies to my own office.

  * there’s a wall behind you (so no one can sneak up behind you). Yes.
  * there’s a wall to one side (too much openness makes you feel exposed). Yes.
  * there’s no blank wall within 8 feet in front of you (or you have no place to rest your eyes). No, I sit right in front of a wall.
  * you work in at least 60 square feet (or you feel cramped). No; my office is tiny.
  * your workspace is 50-75% enclosed by walls or windows (so you have a feeling of openness). Not exactly sure what this one means.
  * you have a view to the outside (no matter how large your office, you will feel confined in a room without a view). Yes—no nice view, but I can see outside. Having a window is enormously important to me.
  * you are aware of at least 2 other people, but not more than 8 people, around you (less than 2, you feel isolated and ignored; more than 8, you feel like a cog in a machine). No, I’m all alone.
  * you can’t hear workplaces noises that are very different from the kind of noises you make at work (you concentrate better when the people around you are engaged in similar tasks, not very different tasks). No, I can hear other kinds of workplace noises. The building next door to mine is undergoing a lot of construction, so I hear jackhammers, workmen talking, etc.
  * no one is sitting directly opposite you and facing you. No.
  * you can face in different directions at different times. Yes.
  * you can see at least 2 other people, but not more than 4. No.
  * you have at least one co-worker within talking distance. No.
  * to make the space more attractive, incorporate Windows Overlooking Life, a Half-Open Wall, Thick Walls, Open Shelves, Pools of Light (over the workspace), and a nearby Sitting Circle.

Most of us can’t change much about the design of our offices, but these elements at least furnish a few ideas.

By Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project. Buy The Happiness Project book here!