Ever asked yourself why you get so tired every day at work? You already stopped the carbs, took your vitamins, and went for a run before going to work, but nothing seems to work. Have you ever considered lighting? Photons around us have the power to make us feel good or contribute to serious fatigue. Let’s review the most important (yet underrated) lighting factors to promote the best work environment at any company:

Window seat

Having your desk by a window is a must. Good natural light sufficient to work comfortably generally travels up to 20 feet (6 meters) into the building. Beyond this distance, you will need to supplement with artificial light all day long. Since natural light is the best type, the farther you sit from the windows, the more fatigue you are prone to develop.

Lighting Temperature

How to recognize cool light versus warm light? Cool light tends to be more blueish and warm light is yellowish. Warm light is softer and usually less intense, and makes you less tired. Office space traditionally uses cold fluorescent light. We recommend using either full length or warm light to provide a cozy yet bright work environment. 

Dark office versus dark mode

We spend a great amount of time in front of screens. When evening comes, make sure there is enough light around and behind your screen. When too dark, the work environment can make your eyes tired. If you can’t control the light, a good trick is to switch your screen to dark mode to give your eyes a break.

Too much reflection on screen

Have you ever tried to work outdoors with a laptop in bright summer? You probably got surprised by how dark your screen seems to be. Even indoors, too much sunlight can provoke uncomfortable reflections all over your screen and workspace. If you are constantly moving your head around to see what’s on it, consider switching desks or ask the office management to install better shades. 

Overhead lighting not aligned to desks

Overhead lighting can be a nightmare if devices and workspaces are misaligned. Look up at the ceiling and you will instantly understand the problem. Overhead lighting can generate bright and dark areas across the office, creating a pattern of light inequality at the company. Employees with a brighter desk tend to get less tired and stressed than people sitting in the darker zones. You can always get desk lamps for the office, or talk to the building owner or manager for a more appropriate long-term solution.

There might be one more thing worth sharing regarding light. Take a vacation. Yes, go away from the office, as far as possible from the gloomy fluorescent lights. A few minutes of sunlight on your arms can generate enough serotonin to make you feel calm and sharp every day. Serotonin is the “hormone of happiness”, so now you know why so many people go to sunny destinations in the winter. Keep the energy high!

Whether you work in an open space or a private office, noise can quickly become a problem. As an office manager, head of operations or CEO, your job is to ensure a productive work environment for all. As our ears get easily distracted, here are 5 easy tricks to avoid noise disruption for you and your team:

1. Noise canceling headphones

Buying a pair of noise canceling headphones for the whole office might seem like an expensive solution, but think about the long-term benefits. Noise is very much psychological, and who doesn't like gifts? If people complain about noise or you know the sound conditions of the space are not good, showing employees you care with a high tech gift can go a long way, improving workplace culture and developing trust with your employees.

2. Organize strict silent areas

If your office is constantly noisy with people talking on the phone and to each other, you might want to rethink your noise policy. Go with the flow, let people be loud in the main area, and get soundproof panels to set a silent area apart. If your office does not allow it, then simply label one or several meeting rooms as “silent room” where people will have to behave as if they were working in a library.

3. Forget the phone booth

Phone booths are particularly popular in open spaces. But what about working booths? Nowadays, seating in a booth or meeting room to work in a silent environment has become an increasing trend. Since the office can be noisy with people coming and going, or simply talking over the phone, why not introduce a working booth?

4. Enforce silent times

Did you notice patterns in the amount of decibels during the day? Enforcing strict silent times might be a great and easy solution for your office. If you run a design firm, you can organize strict silent times between 9am and 11am, when people are usually the most productive. If you run a startup or sales team, you can allow sales calls all day long until 3pm or 4pm. People are less productive after 4pm, so allowing employees to get silent time at the end of their work day can be an amazing way to unwind, gather their thoughts and strategize for what’s next.

5. Check your windows

Let’s not forget about noise coming from the street. If your office is located in a dense urban area, or nearby a police or firefighter’ station, that can quickly become a problem. Single-glazed windows are to avoid by all means. Double or triple-glazed layers include some vacuum space in between the panes of glass, providing temperature and noise insulation. Whether you are moving to a new office or renewing a lease, talk to your building owner or property manager and make sure all of your windows are double-glazed.

Noise is always a subjective yet passionate topic. Some of us have no problem working in noisy environments, whereas if you are like me, you need absolute silence to focus on certain tasks. No matter what type you are, reducing the decibels at the workplace will likely improve employee wellbeing and increase the overall productivity of the company. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend 87% of their lives indoors. Whether you work in an office, a school, or any other indoor facility, air quality is crucial to ensure a good work environment for everyone. Air quality is a broad term usually encompassing bad smells, contaminants, bacterias, allergens, and even the proportion of the gases composing the air itself. Here are 7 tips to improve air quality and ensure a productive work environment.

1. Clean the invisible.

This is one of the most underrated solutions to improve air quality. Just because the space looks clean does not mean it is. Bacteria might be invisible to the human eye, not because they are small, but because they might form in isolated areas such as under a sink, behind a fridge or underneath carpets. A common type of bacteria is mold. Mold can be toxic and spread through the air. If you don’t get rid of the source, it can cause serious health problems such as fatigue, or skin irritation. So make sure to perform an in-depth cleaning of your workplace at least every other month. It will prevent the build-up of such bacteria and have a direct impact on long-term health.

2. Avoid endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are contained in all kinds of products such as furniture, pesticides, and artificial air fresheners. Don’t be fooled by the nice smell! Endocrine disruptors can contribute to a lack of focus, less productivity, disrupt your hormones, and even provoke some types of cancers. At the office, you will see air fresheners in the bathroom, corridors or lobby. They are placed on the sink countertops or on the floor. Some are installed on the upper part of the walls and spray their product every few minutes to keep spreading scent continuously. Some are even added to the HVAC system at the source. Some natural air fresheners are not harmful though. Check with your property manager or cleaning provider and try avoiding endocrine disruptors as much as possible.

3. Don’t mess with the trash

Use specific trash cans and appropriate bags to avoid bad smells. More importantly, make sure to remove all trash from the office. When trash bags start to pile up somewhere in the office, no matter how well they are tied up, they will start to smell, provoking inconvenience to the employees and potentially attracting rodents. If your office building does not have a chute or refuse room, try to get rid of the trash and recycles as soon as bins are full or find a place where odors cannot escape.

4. Open the windows

The best way to clean the air every day is still to open the windows. Not anytime, though. If you live in a dense urban area, try to open the windows before the morning rush hour, when air is not yet contaminated and generally colder. Cold air creates a convection that can freshen an entire office space in minutes. During the day, high levels of CO2 can build up over time, making people nervous and decreasing their ability to focus. Ever noticed a meeting literally heating up? Under ventilated meeting rooms are subject to high levels of CO2 especially when overcrowded, so make sure to crack a window open once and a while to keep everybody calm and focused.

5. Clean the HVAC

Air filters are a crucial part of the indoor air quality. One of the biggest mistakes made by property and office managers is forgetting to check the HVAC air filters regularly. Whether your office heating and cooling systems run via wall-mounted units or underneath the ceiling, filters are an integral part of any HVAC unit. They must be cleaned and changed three to four times a year so they can continue to filter dust, contaminants and even allergens. They help you breathe better and ensure a healthy workplace.

6. Get an air purifier

If you live in a building where windows cannot be opened or you feel like the HVAC system is underperforming, you may want to look into an air purifier. They can be very effective to get rid of bad smells and some types of chemicals. Portable air purifiers are known for being a cheap and effective way to clean the air continuously. You will have to change the filter regularly as for your HVAC unit.
But the best air purifiers are still the most natural: plants. Any greenery will generally clean the air day after day, and some plants are known for cleaning specific chemicals we deal with in indoor environments. Space agencies such as NASA performed extensive research on the matter and any good local plant store will show you the best plants for indoor air cleaning. In addition to cleaning the air for you, plants will make your office zen and relaxing.

7. Get an ozone ionizer

If all of the above is not enough for you, you can move on to a more drastic but still cheap solution: the air ionizer. I personally had to deal with a persistent indoor smell of cigarette smoke and, after leaving the windows open for days and trying all kinds of air purifiers, decided to get an ionizer. For a small price, the ozone ionizer will neutralize the molecules responsible for the bad smell and get rid of it. Be careful though, breathing ozone is harmful so make sure to activate the ionizer after hours when the office is empty, and allow plenty of time to ventilate and clean the space before anyone comes back.

Hopefully you won’t have to deal with #7, and cleaning the air will be an easy task for you and your coworkers. Remember that cleaning the air sometimes starts with cleaning the surfaces and avoiding indoor chemicals as much as possible. Do not hesitate to talk to your coworkers, office manager and property manager about the best solutions to improve air quality.

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Technology as a unifier between individuals of different backgrounds, skills and beliefs, sits at the core of SquarePlan’s message. So when we discovered G|Code while researching co-living communities in Boston, it was an immediate fit.

G|Code offers the Roxbury, MA community a home for minority women, and the opportunity to learn, share, and employ their technical skills out in the real world. 

Bridgette Wallace, founder and CEO, devised the 24-month intensive program, or Cohort Development, for 5-7 enterprising young women with an interest and aptitude for computers or technology. In her words, “...sustainable community development addresses the combined determinants of economic viability and promote income and opportunity equity.” 

How they’ll get there, is through encouraging shared experiences via communal living, residents who learn and work while preserving the character of their neighborhood, and a program built especially for a group tech appears to be leaving behind

Leveraging SquarePlan, G|Code will maintain greater control and oversight over the maintenance and improvement of the G|Code House. Bridgette knows the value of facilitating the best environment, as it translates to program participants giving the best they can. We’re just the framework to get her there.   

Coding remains one of the strongest practice areas within STEM. Simply put, it’s a vehicle for all people to define what they want, and who they want to become. SquarePlan supports that message every day, and one look at our team confirms it.    

Just as we’re the next generation of building management technology, Bridgette’s important work ensures the next generation technologist will represent more of what our community actually looks like today. 

We look forward to implementing our technology when G|Code goes live with their first Cohort Development this Fall. Best of luck to the participants, and to Bridgette for all her hard work and sacrifice!

The SquarePlan Team with thegcodehouse.com

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 NYC 2019 Cohort

NYC 2019 Cohort