A few months ago, Sixth Man moved into our wonderful, open-layout office space in the ILF Media building at 542 W. Cataldo, just East of the Spokane Arena. It needed some work, but toward the end of August, we were finally ready to start making it our own. I had many conversations with my boss, Ed, about the long-term goals for the office. Though I’m “officially” our lead writer / copy editor, I quickly learned that an employee at a very small business has more slashes than an actor that just moved to Hollywood. My business cards don’t say / gardener / contractor / painter / Home Depot courier / Get It Done Girl, but I might update my LinkedIn profile to reflect my new-found experience.
I think that plants make an office look happier, and we have these gorgeous bay windows, so I suggested that we should get some plants. That conversation went like this:
Anna: “What a gorgeous window. It needs some plants.”
Ed: “Okay. Here’s my credit card.”
He handed me his credit card. I went to Home Depot and bought some plants and pots and potting soil, then I brought them back. Ed decreed that they were, “Awesome!” Well that was easy enough. Now it was time for something a bit more difficult: paint selection.
We weren’t really sure if we liked the color of the walls, but we knew we needed to work with the desks, which are these cool built-in metal structures with white panels on wheels. So we needed to decide how we were going to work with the metal and the wood, also considering our logo colors of orange, brown and white.
A few times, my conversations with Ed, went like this:
Ed: “Anna, I don’t like the walls.”
Anna: “Okay, what don’t you like about them?”
Ed: “No idea. They just don’t work.”
Anna: “What do you think would help?”
Ed: “Not a clue, a different color maybe? Just test something out and we’ll see how it goes.”
Anna: “Uh… Okay.”
With this “direction,” I went back to Home Depot and bought paint, and painting tools. I painted some samples. Ed liked the samples, so I painted a wall.
Ed liked the color of the first wall, so I painted a second. We had conversations about color, and air, and space. We talked about intentionally creating a space that would be bright, and open, and a great place to work.
Eventually, Ed decided that it was a good start, but that the project should be given to a licensed contractor. He painted much faster than I did, while standing on a 12 foot ladder, without a tarp, listening to classic rock. Ed summarily declared that, “since the Stone Ages, the painter has listened to classic rock. Get it? The guy who paints, rocks however they want!”
We also talked with Mountain Dog Sign Company about hanging our shingle on the door and making a sign, so that people would know where we are. They did a great job.
But here’s the thing: for me, putting the paint on the walls gave me time and space to reflect on my place in this business, to put in a little sweat equity, and to feel like I belonged to something. The conversations about the color of the walls gave me an opportunity to shape the place where I work – which made me feel valued and cared about. Pulling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty added a level of ownership that wasn’t previously there. The wall is something I will see everyday, and I can look at it and say, “I painted that.”
When I was painting the walls of our sweet new office here, I had this revelation: “I’m a part of this.”
As far as revelations go, it didn’t move mountains, or have the patch of sunlight through the clouds feel – it was more of a feeling of belonging, and knowing that I would, in fact, do what it takes to help this business succeed.
Even if it means painting the walls.
A lot of people work in places where they have no say about the color of the walls, or even how much sunlight they get (if they are lucky enough to have a window). I feel fortunate to work in an environment where the office has been viewed as our personal work space canvas. I’ve been part of most of the choices (and many changes) along the way, and it’s been very surprising to me how something as simple as paint choices has left me feeling / fulfilled at work.
What is one thing that you could change about your office space that would make the most difference for you?
P.S. We have an adorable office dog, Camille. She’s a killer.
Please feel free to swing on by and say hello!
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