The Researcher’s Workspace

Written by Dan Solkin

It dawned on me recently that many professions have an archetypal working environment that is tried, tested and proven to be beneficial to the work they undertake. Think of an architect; A high slanting desk with plenty of light and capacity for large planning documents. A developer; multiple screens arching around them, offering multiple perspectives of the task in hand. For an author their workspace is often littered with inspiration from other literature, whilst a designer might take their cues from neatly organised imagery. But what are the characteristics of a researcher’s desk? How should we construct our immediate environment to provide a beneficial platform from which to work? After all, our job requires us to masquerade as many different professions. We must construct methodologies with the meticulousness of an architect, design PowerPoint presentations with the creativity of a designer, script surveys with the precision of a developer and create stories with the imagination of an author.

Following a brief time researching blogs and scrolling through Pinterest, I came up with what I felt to be the five key hallmarks of a researcher’s workspace.

1. Tech
Under this umbrella heading I should like to include a lightweight, high powered laptop, hooked up to a large high-resolution screen. Nothing less will do if our industry is to keep pace with the evolving digital landscape around us. A second screen or making use of the laptop screen proves to be an essential resource when working in Excel and PowerPoint concurrently.

2. Literature
When it comes to reading, ‘a lack of time’ should not a reasonable excuse for any professional who is committed to developing their career and yet I confess it is an excuse I have made many times. I believe that a good researcher’s desk should always have access to a bookshelf full of inspiration on topics such as data visualisation, marketing theory and lateral thinking.

3. Standing Space
They say, “sitting is the new smoking” with claims that sitting down for extended periods leads to slowing down of your metabolism, blood pressure and blood sugar problems and cardiovascular health issues. Not every company can afford adjustable desks, but most can afford a communal high desk that gives the opportunity for colleagues to work whilst standing for a brief period.

4. Greenery
Studies has gone as far as to suggest greenery in the work place can improve productivity by as much as 15%. Whilst this was likely in comparison to working in a sterile environment, the case remains that providing stimulus that workers can subconsciously engage with will boost their productivity. Other studies claim that office greens can help reduce stress, improve wellbeing and creativity, reduce sick days and produce cleaner air to breath. If nothing else, they at least bring life and vibrancy to a desk, which are both characteristics I would champion in any employee.

5. Orderliness
Ok, so not specific to research, but I do think we are serial offenders when it comes to behaving like desk wombles. Questionnaires, discussion guides, presentations; print them, check them, edit them, but then securely dispose of them. Your desk should be a reflection of your mind. Ordered, logical, and home to least one cup of coffee.