Quiz: Is Your Office Design Driving You Crazy?

Businesswoman peering over cubicle wall
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. It's one of the seven books that changed the way I see the world.

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!

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

The book discusses houses--obviously of interest to me and my research for Happier at Home--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 noise. The building next door to mine is undergoing a lot of construction.
  • 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.

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

My office is very, very small. If I had more room and space, I would love to have a horseshoe-shaped desk, with enormous amounts of surface space, as well as a treadmill desk. Oh, how I long for a treadmill desk! And, of course, Windows Overlooking Life.

How does the design of your workplace measure up? Do you agree with these points?

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