CEOs are always at work, even when we’re not. As the CEO of several internet startups over the years, I’ve been invested in every aspect of my companies: getting briefed on every initiative, getting to know all employees personally, and jumping into any role as needed.
When you’re the boss, there’s always more to do. But at some point, you must accept that there are only 24 hours in a day. Modeling work-life balance is essential at any company, and it begins with how you establish your work environment.
Conscious choices about color schemes, lighting and decorations affect creativity and productivity, both of which are crucial to your success. What your ideal workspace looks like depends on your tastes and needs. For me, it means having multiple offices that serve different functions throughout the day. The better your workspace supports your team’s productivity, the greater success and engagement you’ll have across the board. Here’s the system I use that I’ve found works for me:
Office No. 1: Boardroom with a closed door
My office is the size of a typical boardroom and has whiteboard walls that I use to get my thoughts onto a working canvas. The table space looks like a control station with several monitors spread across it.
I keep the lighting low because fluorescent bulbs make me feel like I’m at a surgical table, and I think better when I’m not bracing for an incision. Science backs up this feeling, as fluorescent lights often trigger a stress response in the brain. The dimmed atmosphere, on the other hand, makes me feel at peace with my thoughts, which has a huge impact on my productivity.
As for the “closed door,” it doesn’t mean I’m inaccessible. As the CEO, your team members should know that they can reach you if the need arises. Keeping a chat window open on your desktop or letting your colleagues know when you’re available ensures they don’t view your office door as an impenetrable wall. However, putting a buffer between you and every day-to-day question gives you the freedom to think without distractions. On average, 28 percent of an employee’s time is spent dealing with interruptions. My VP of product development also oversees the daily issues that don’t require my immediate attention, which enables me to work more efficiently.
Office No. 2: The big bullpen
Collaborative spaces create a sense of ownership for employees. Emotional investment and a sense of accomplishment motivate employees more than salaries and bonuses, so you want to build an environment where they have the freedom to explore their ideas and give feedback.
I purposely sought an office space that had a great central area outside our individual offices. We call it our bullpen, and the environment is very different than our private offices. We’ve decked it out with a conference table, a projector, whiteboards, a pool table, a couch and bean bag chairs. In the bullpen, everyone can participate in conversations while enjoying a relaxed atmosphere, which is said to increase productivity in employees. It’s important to have a place where people from different departments can exchange ideas in a low-pressure setting. Once you step into the common space, you feel less guarded, and thoughts flow freely.
The only rule in our group office is that everyone observes the time allotted for collaboration. If people socialize instead of focusing, we all have to stay at work later than we’d like. That understanding keeps everyone respectful of one another’s time.
Office No. 3: Home
My home office looks completely different from my on-site spaces. I think of it as my locker room. It’s the place I retire to once my kids are asleep, and it’s where I’m most inspired. I come here to do research, think through my action items, and reflect on my work.
My home office is decorated with mementos that give me a boost when I’m tired or stressed. Studies have shown that decorating and personalizing a workspace can raise productivity by 32 percent, even in a home environment. My favorite decorations include a framed pair of trunks that Sylvester Stallone wore in “Rocky IV” and a signed photo of Nolan Ryan with Robin Ventura in a headlock. I also keep photos of my wife and kids in this space to remind myself that they’re who I work hard for every day.
Taking a break
As important as your workspace is, downtime and off-site bonding are also invaluable to your mental state. I schedule at least 30 minutes a day to take a break from anything work-related. Even if I just walk across the street to grab lunch, I need time to recharge. Our team enjoys three off-site days per year, during which we leave the office and spend time bonding and getting to know one another.
Workspaces are tools that should enhance your company. Craft the right space for your style, but don’t be afraid to leave it once in a while.