I have always wondered if my work setting is optimal for me. The search is over, I've finally reached Nirvana. Since a picture says more than 1000 words here's a shot of my new desk here at Renaissance.
Early this year we moved into new offices. With changes comes an adjustment period. It didn't take me long in this new setting, but writing it up wasn't on the top of the list…
Here's my guide for *my* optimal work environment
Environmental setting (In order of importance)
- Chair: Spend significant time picking your chair. Try a lot of chairs and then pick the best you can afford. You're going to spend more time on it than on anything else so make sure you get something comfortable.
- Light: Plenty of light. With a suboptimal lightening you'll get nothing but sore eyes and headaches by the end of a long day.
- Table: BIG. Lots of table space makes me more efficient. The switch between sitting in front of the computer and neatly laid out design docs or scribbling is a snap. It's not a mental hiccup where you have to deal with making space by moving things around or start looking for an empty place.
- Noise: Your white noise filters have to be reinstalled and fine tuned. Not that you can do much about it. I have pretty good noise filters. I just don't notice what's going on around me while concentrating. There are some restrictions though. I never listen to music when doing creative work like programming. The following sounds break my noise filter and will break any line of concentration. Dripping water, chewing (by someone else), kids, music I like (except classical), cell phone rings, IM and email alerts (I always keep these off).
- Toilet: Has to be close. I'm not kidding. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night needing to go? But you didn't get up because it's hard to get out of bed. Going to the toilet should be a less than a minute affair most of the time. If you need to go out of the building to get there, I bet you're doing some crappy work while pushing it off as much as possible.
- Coffee: Your favorite coffee must be available!
Computer setup & directly work related stuff
- Performance: Get the fastest computer possible. (I know, it's never fast enough so I guess the budget will always be the limiting factor) Here's a post on my current configuration. One advantage of using a notebook is that it is silent. It's not more silent, it's dead silent.
- Screens: Use 2! Once you get into the habit of actually utilizing two screens it makes a real difference on many tasks. If you look closely on the screenshot, you can see that the CodeRush training window is open on the secondary screen. Use an LCD screen! Why? Simple, it doesn't glare! We're not doing gaming, so size is more important than refresh rates. The current setup is one 19" Samsung 930B as the primary monitor and a 14.1" secondary monitor.
- Mouse: Get a comfortable mouse. Make sure it's different from what you have at home or at any other workstation you might use. Variation is imperative to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I'm currently using a 3M joystick mouse which is a great relief for the wrist.
- Keyboard: This one is hard. I think I have 10 keyboards in the closet and I'm still looking for something ideal. This one looks promising.
As with the mouse, variation is important.
- Email: I'm not a customer support representative or the CEO of the business. Meaning I don't have to be available to read email in realtime. I read emails three times a day (In the morning when I get in, at lunch and before I go home) In addition I will peek at emails at natural task switches.
- IM: This is harder, but I make myself unavailable before starting any longer tasks.
- Internet: Obvious? Internet today is a working tool just as any other tool. It must be fast and always available. We're currently on 5 MB downstream and 256 KB upstream which is good enough.
- Library: While hardcopies get less important with the internet, a well equipped library is important. Not all the books have reached the shelves since the move, but we're getting there. What you see is about 25% of the available library. In addition I depend on my Safari subscription for technical material.