In the last few decades, real estate has become more flexible when designing and utilizing spaces. Unlike previous generations where structures were built for one particular purpose, it’s common nowadays to see homes with offices and commercial buildings with restaurants and shops. And though this flexibility certainly brings more convenience, is it actually hurting our ability to focus?
In one issue of the Hamilton County Business Magazine, Robby Slaughter, founder and principal of AccelaWork, discussed the difficulties that can accompany real estate flexibility.
In his article “Workplaces and Workspaces”, Slaughter not only provides helpful hints as to how to deal with these integrated spaces, but also cautions:
The choices we make in real estate—whether as small as work areas or as large as whole buildings—affect our perspective and our ability to concentrate. Take advantage of amazing new developments, but keep your own objectives in mind.
For the entire article, see below.
Workplaces and Workspaces
Real estate is big business. The Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors tracks nearly 5,000 single family homes in Hamilton County, with a median value of $180,000. That’s something close to a billion dollars in assets, and we haven’t even covered multi-family apartments, public buildings, offices, warehouses, retail and other properties. Every one of these structures is different, but most have one striking trait in common: they were built to serve a single purpose. Much of the real estate in our lives has only one major function: either civic, commercial, residential, retail or industrial. Most buildings, in essence, we use solely to live, work, shop or play.
Today, however, we’re starting to see the lines blur from only a generation ago. Commercial buildings now contain shops, restaurants and day care centers. Residential floorplans now commonly include a home office. You don’t even need to make use of many of these multi-function buildings. Thanks to the Internet, we can do everything from run a business to order groceries from the comfort of our living rooms.
All of this flexibility in real estate does create more flexibility in our daily lives. However, there’s an irony that comes from having more choices. The ability to instantly select between multiple activities can actually be paralyzing. A few years ago, it was difficult to relax at work or to get work done from home. The latest in real estate developments provide more opportunities, but they do impact our ability to focus.
In his book The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz notes that “The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.” He continues, “There is a cost to having an overload of choice.” That’s why a home office can be a blessing and a curse: it provides the temptation to fold laundry or catch some daytime television. Likewise, a coffee stand in the lobby of your office offers an attractive distraction from your computer screen. New development is good, but with more opportunities we can find it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand.
The best medicine for the overwhelming choices in our life is a renewed emphasis on discipline. If you have a home office, close the door when you are “at work.” If there’s a favorite coffee shop that you often frequent on the first floor of your building, try putting your visits on your calendar rather than going whenever you feel the call of caffeine.
Likewise, the design of your workspace can also impact your productivity and satisfaction. If you have a window near your desk, you might want to think carefully about which way you face when you work. If your office overlooks a peaceful scene, looking up could be inspiring. If your window opens onto a busy street, consider turning your desk around to reduce distractions. Take advantage of the natural light and the natural scenery, but watch out for bustle and activity.
The choices we make in real estate—whether as small as work areas or as large as whole buildings—affect our perspective and our ability to concentrate. Take advantage of amazing new developments, but keep your own objectives in mind. Sometimes, we need specialized, single-purpose areas to get things done. We are most effective and most satisfied in spaces that meet our needs without distracting our focus.