Last month Inc. moved from an office in midtown to new digs at 7 World Trade Center. It is a seriously beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of Manhattan. The effect is like those photographs of Earth taken from space. You sit at your computer, in torment over some intractable problem of language or logic -- then look up and suddenly everything falls into perspective. Furthermore, the sweeping views are visible from virtually every spot in the office, so even people without windows needn't labor in Bat Cave gloom. You could bottle this place and sell it as a cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I only have two complaints. First, the elevators freak me out. Employees are issued pass cards that we swipe across electronic readers in the lobby; the reader automatically calls an elevator and tells it what floor we inhabit. Consequently there is no need to push buttons inside the elevator. I can't get used to it: without that button the experience feels incomplete, like walking out of an outhouse without hearing the sound of a flush. And while the process is efficient -- there are no stops at other floors -- there's also no opportunity of overhearing intriguing snippets of conversation or gossip from strangers who work in other parts of the building.
The other problem is a paucity of storage space -- or even surfaces on which to comfortably pile things. I get that the lack of clutter is part of what makes the space so lovely. I don't really want to see it junked up like most editorial offices. Still, publishing is a paper-intensive undertaking, and who knows which of those press kits or conference programs or management tomes or trade-pub articles we've been carting around for years might yet turn into an award-winning article or reprint classic.
Some people, I realize, have no problem keeping their spaces clutter-free. They look. They judge. They discard. So my proposal is this: let's create a market for clutter credits, much as power producers have done with carbon emissions. People who are constitutionally unable to cut down on their paper accumulation could pay more-disciplined types for their unused storage space. In fact, I would recommend this system to any office that looks like the Kinko's exploded. Let the invisible hand make office junk equally invisible.
Last updated: May 15, 2007
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan