Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Big Office Reorganization

The post you’ve all been waiting for: The Office Re-Org!

While most of you were having family time, buying last minute presents, and defrosting the turkey (or in my mom’s case, thinking enough days in the fridge would thaw the thing only to wake up on the 25th to a still-frozen bird), I was madly decluttering and reorganizing an office in Midtown Manhattan. Jealous much?

My dear friend of mumble years, Rob Hartmann, just took over as the Chief Creative Officer for Camp Broadway, an organization that focuses on theatre education for kids through phenomenal camps and study guides. Rob is a composer/lyricist/bookwriter who also has a tremendous gift for management, organization, and aesthetic. In addition to writing brilliant music and teaching grad school at NYU, he has helped many a company who has found themselves in need of someone to increase efficiency and morale.  He has a presence that automatically centers and calms a room. This super power makes him indispensable in a stressed environment in the traditional workplace, as well as theatrical situations, where we met (doing insane rep summer stock at Bigfork Summer Playhouse).

Camp Broadway has been active since 1998 and moved twice.  The nature of show business is somewhat transitory, and that has been reflected in the sheer turnover of employees and management. As a result, there have been no consistent protocols regarding...anything. The result?  There was no one person who really knew everything that was in the office, whether it was needed or how often it was utilized. Translation: stuff...everywhere. There were papers on every surface, a ton of file storage out in the open in wire racks or plastic stackables (my least favorite thing), and an overall feeling of insanity.

This square office (roughly 25’x25’) needed to have 8 workstations but was packed with 11 desks with hutches on top, 15 office chairs, two copiers (only one of which was used), and several printers not hooked up to anything. A conference table in the middle of the room had a huge cord coming down from the ceiling. The desks and hutches, probably purchased with the intention of giving privacy and storage, ended up making it a dark, segmented office with no flow or airiness. 

Although equipped with small lamps on each desk, numerous tracks of lighting, six huge, dome lights, and a wall of windows, this office was a dark cave. In the attempt to create a separate space, the last director had formed a cubicle with a desk and bookcases right by the windows, effectively cutting off any natural light source.

The most important issue: everyone was miserable. This is an office filled with vibrant people passionate about the arts. The oppressive office space and work environment had taken its toll. When I asked what they liked, if anything, about their personal space, one woman expressed that being in the corner “allowed her to hide” from the craziness. Not acceptable. 

In terms of feng shui, forget it. There was no flow of energy, the air itself was stagnate. The shredder was in the financial corner, a recipe for disaster, many things were broken, unused, or unneeded, and there wasn’t a plant in sight. 

I talked with each employee about their space, how they worked best (did they get easily distracted by sound or movement), and asked them to label what they needed all the time, what they accessed regularly but didn’t need to be directly at hand, and what could be put in storage or shredded. 

Here's what we were working with:

The first thing we did was clear out the refreshment area. It was a hot mess. The overflow of paper plates, cups, and napkins (the NAPKINS! Thousands of them.) had never been taken to storage, they were in the office. This area was in the Relationships/Helpful People corner of the office. We put all supplies in the lateral filing cabinet underneath the microwave, so they would disappear. An unused glass shelving unit was moved into the corner, and we put the Standing Ovation Reward Camp Broadway received from The Education Theatre Association recognizing it as a valued contributor to arts education. 

The next big move was to paint. The mustard yellow of the walls was a bit nauseating, instead of sunny, and peppered with framed study guides that weren't uniform and felt sloppy. They were also a bit precarious, not relaxing to sit under. How could we choose something that was art, in itself, and masked the somewhat less than perfect walls in this older building? Rob and Amy chose a beautiful shade of blue that is not only centering and calming, but exactly matches one of the study guides they use the most often. It creates a great background for the dark gray of the desks and Camp Broadway's signature accent color, a deep red. 

[Note to you all: if your office is networked with an insanely antiquated, cord-based system, DO NOT move anything without calling in IT to help you so you don't, um, unwittingly create a LOT of extra work for everybody.]

Then we went through every thing in the office. And I do mean 'thing'...some of these objects were a bit of a mystery. Why were there all these wicker baskets? What ARE all these unlabeled cds? Do we really have a box on tiny, usb mice? Why? WHY?

And the PAPER! The lovely people working in this office are so organized and together that they were able to do their jobs in spite of the insanity they were surrounded by. It wasn't a result of being slobs. Every surface was covered with paper because the file cabinets were filled with reams and reams of things that either shouldn't have been kept in the first place, or no longer served any purpose. Eventually, every piece of paper was touched by at least three people: whoever picked it up first, the person who was responsible for it and decided if it needed to be kept or shredded, and the person who put it where it ended up. We expected there would a ton of paper destined for storage, but ended up with 2 file boxes of tax info and official papers that didn't need to be in-house. We called a shredder service to pick up the 4 boxes of sensitive info we needed to go away.

Please don't get me started on the office supplies. If another legal pad or highlighter is bought for this office anytime soon, we'll be discussing a fine. Why were there so many? Because no one could find anything. 

Rob rightly decided there needed to be some plants in the office for oxygen and color. He also came up with the brilliant idea that a climbing vine could mask the awful, yet necessary, cord hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room. 

The result? A truly open and welcoming office that is both functional and welcoming. The employees feel emancipated and supported and are able to perform unfettered by clutter and mess. 

How does this inspire you? What are you holding on to that it's time to get rid of? 


Janet said...

I can attest to Anna's organizational talents! She is a wonder and very gentle when wresting the 50 pens from Costco out your clutched hands. Believe. Organization is worth every minute spent to do it. The office looks totally different...congratulations...know you will enjoy.

Lisa Stone said...

Okay, if you can do this, then we can clean out our garage--SOB!

My sin? Buying gorgeous remnant material for things I'll need to retire in order to sew. So you've inspired me: I shall go forth, catalog my remnants, make a list, send it to you and ye shall FINE MY A** if I buy anything before sewing something. Deal?

Seriously great post. This is my favorite paragraph:

"Please don't get me started on the office supplies. If another legal pad or highlighter is bought for this office anytime soon, we'll be discussing a fine. Why were there so many? Because no one could find anything."

JCK said...

What a fantastic way to begin in a space, to reorganize it and have everyone be a part of it. That is what struck me the most. So often we are overwhelmed by our own projects that need organizing. If we all had a good friend like you to work side by side with...perhaps we'd do it more often. Congrats on the great "new" space that was uncovered.

I do have some projects....mmmm...

Anna said...

Thanks, ladies! You can do it. My favorite rule? Set your kitchen timer or phone alarm for 30 minutes and work on cleaning out/organizing a finite space (drawer, closet, bookshelf) for that time. When the timer goes off...go to another task.

JCK, if you don't have a good friend to help you, consider hiring someone for a day just to get you started. I do end up in LA every once in a while, btw. ;-)

Dinosaur Superwoman said...
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Bluepainter77 said...

Anna Stone you are a GOD! Amazing work. And I should know a) because I am an interior designer and b) because I am a MESS in my own space. As soon as our office is unflooded (yep--you heard that right) I will be desperate for your help. Do you work on retainer? Maybe I can hire you to be my life coach.

Dear Any one who is reading this--you won't find any one who does this better than Anna Stone and, as a side bar, you won't find any one who can teach you more about yourself than Anna Stone. Get her now while you can. She's the hot ticket.

Bluepainter77 said...
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