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5 Lessons From Moving Office Desks

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My very colorful desk!

The past week has been freezing. Literally. As temperatures across the country dropped to single digits or even lower – looking at you Chicago – the need to stay warm was paramount.

I am going to be honest. I am a cold weather wimp. Yesterday, I wore fur-lined boots (fake fur don’t worry), a heavy sweater, fleece lined jeans, a full body jacket and the warmest hat you can imagine. I was basically a walking snowsuit.

But despite all of my preparations, I didn’t count on one thing – the temperature at my desk. You see I sit right next to a wall of windows. And while the views of the DC skyline are majestic, the wind blowing through the not so tightly sealed panes is not.

So in an effort to stay cozy, I made a radical decision, I decided to switch desks. I know, I know. You are reading this post and are thinking I am the most dramatic and whiny person ever and maybe you have a point, but hear me out: it really was cold.

I moved to an open desk in the middle of our office. I should note that our office space is pretty open. And in the process, I learned some pretty interesting things.

5 lessons I learned from moving desks:

1. You can connect to co-workers in a new way: The GovLoop office is small by most standards. We have just over 20 full time staff members. We sit according to team. Which makes sense. You talk and collaborate with your team members the most. But what I learned for sitting in the middle of another team, is how much we crossover. I was sitting next to our graphic designers. They were adding imagery and graphics to the words we on the content team had crafted. I could never have imagined how difficult and time consuming it would be to find pictures to match to guide about smarter care. I don’t often think about how a word or phrase should look. Not the typeface, but the layout and the way a word can evoke an image. That’s what they do. They put pictures to words.

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My replacement desk – featuring the jar of honey!

2. There is no right way to work: I am a neat freak. I need my workspace to be clean and clutter free, but still really colorful. Not everyone is the same. The desk I sat at today featured a wide variety of delights. A jar of honey. Two empty coffee cups. No less than seven different types of notebooks. All mostly empty. A thank you note that says “You’re So Gangsta.” Yep. Not sure why it was there, but it made me smile. And it made working at the desk just a bit more enjoyable. What I learned was there is no one right work environment.

3. Sit near the kitchen: Are you new to the office? Looking to be a bit more outgoing? Sit next to the kitchen. The desk I sat at today was the thoroughfare to get to the kitchen, meaning in order to get a snack, glass of water or retrieve your lunch from the refrigerator you had to pass by my desk. My “real” desk is off in the corner. I found it amazing to see my entire office pass by my desk everyday. It was so easy to make conversations without even having to try.

4. Be nosy: I am a pretty curious person by nature. I like to ask people questions. I want to know what they think. I have sat in the same desk for almost a year now. I know my seatmate very well. He likes Abe Lincoln, Bob Dylan and working with the hood of his sweatshirt on when he needs to concentrate. You know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know my new seatmate needs to listen to bluegrass to design. Who knew?

5. A new work environment: As you can tell by now I am prone to hyperbole. But working in a new desk, was kinda like working in a totally new office. My balance seemed off. Different people asked me to lunch. I got the gossip on a whole new pool of people. I overheard conversations and idea pitches that I never would have heard before.

I know you can’t sit in a new desk everyday. And the experience would fundamentally be marred if you tried to. But honestly, by sitting in a new desk today, I found out things about my co-workers that I wouldn’t have if I stayed at the window tundra.

Have you ever switched desk for a day or two? What did you learn?

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6 Comments

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Megan

Thanks for sharing – I had no idea no-name design person listened to blue grass. I may have to switch up my desk sometime soon :)

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Tim Johnson

Makes sense. I have come out of my office and have sit in my administrative assistants cube…very interesting.

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Sara

Great article! Working at a governmental facility where people have sat in the same set-up for 20+ years, to moving them into more of a “bull-pen” set-up is extremely challenging, but I’m looking forward to the eventual benefits and positive outcomes. This gave me hope!

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Profile Photo Caryn Wesner-Early

I’ve always been a big fan of cross-training, so that as many people as possible can subsititute for others in an emergency, or just to give people a chance to see how other departments operate. Going to another department (including, of course, sitting at another desk!) can give you new insights into the organization. And, of course, it might be warmer!

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