A Room of One’s Own at the Office

This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Thoko Madonko.

Virginia Wolf said a woman needs a room of her own. She also needs a little money, childcare and a handful of loving friends and family. What she doesn’t tell you is how you make the money. To do this a woman also needs a job. This piece is about making a room of your own out of your office desk.

I am fortunate; I have an office, desk and laptop of my own. On vary rare occasions I have to share it but essentially it is my space to come to. It has taken me the last three years to become accustomed to an office of my own. For months, I preferred the soft warm cocoon of my duvet to the hard cold lonely space of the office. I did not want to recognize the office. Only now, have I come to see what this space embodies – a room of my own.

I have come to a few insights into how you turn the solitary, cold masculine space of an office into something that is distinctively you:


Insight 1. Decide to make the space yours. No matter how small the desk or the chair place a thing, a picture, a badge, a splash of color that represents you. If you share the space, make the thing mobile and removable. I have a Buddha that sits quietly in front of me holding the serenity prayer. This, I believe, allows you to own the space. You might be working for someone else but they do not, or at least should not, own you.

Insight 2. Decide to connect you to the space through ritual. Rituals form a key component of any society. Ritual helps to define our place in time, space and community. I start my working day with a tea ritual. I boil the water and prepare a fragrant pot of tea. It fills the room with the smell of lavender, rose petals and mint; removing the stale office air. I sit down with these smells of nature and write. I write for twenty-five minutes clearing my head of the morning’s school run, last night’s argument, the unpaid bills, the new ideas. This is my time. A time of silence.


Insight 3. Decide that you are there to work. This has been a hard journey for me and I am reminded of the many days I dragged myself to the office only to spend the next eight or nine hours fighting with myself about why I was there. Why I was sitting at that desk, opening up those emails, readings those articles, saying those things on Skype. It needs to be clear in your heart and in your room that this is for you. It is for your work and not anybody else’s. Remember insight 1. My room is my space to contribute to something larger than me. You are short changing –no pun intended – yourself and those you work with if you are there just to work for the money.

Insight 4. Decide to shift your feelings towards your room by shifting your inner self. Many times the space, the walls, the desk, the building carry emotional clutter. A space cluttered with bits and pieces from the past and sharp edges of the future. Many times I think it is about looking at your space within and taking it to pieces to put something together that is of your own.

I encourage you to go out there and make a room of your own. If you have already done so, tell us how!

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