Things I Do to Make My Shop a Happier Place

Take the time to bring comfort, convenience, and control into your environment

I admit it. I spend more waking hours in my shop than in any other single place. I walk miles in this small space, traversing from machine to machine. I sit. I stand. I sit again — sometimes for five seconds, sometimes for five hours. I talk, text, and Zoom with people endlessly.

I am a bee in my little world, bouncing from flower to flower in organized chaos. So why shouldn’t my hive be as comfortable and convenient as possible? Here are my top recommendations to keep your workspace cozy, convenient, and even sometimes calm:

  1. shop
    Interlocking 7/8” foam flooring prevents dropped items from breaking, helps make standing more comfortable, and keeps the cold from radiating into the room.

    Foam floor tiles — I’m in Michigan. My floor is cement. It gets cold here erratically. As I write this, the temperature this morning was 29, and tomorrow it will be near 80. My feet used to freeze in the winter. Then I tried thin foam tiles (1/4”), and they helped to make the floor a little softer and warmer to stand on. After that, I tried the thick foam tiles (7/8”). What a difference! The floor is no longer radiating frigidity. The 24” interlocking foam squares traverse my busiest areas but stop within 1/2” of machines and cabinets. That way, the dust and dirt falls into these gutters and is easily vacuumed up. Individual tiles are easily removed if machines need to be relocated. As a bonus, things that drop don’t break. It cost about $500 to tile a third of my shop, but it was money well spent.

  2. Fans and heaters — I keep the air circulating in my workshop with a few fans; that way, the area near the heater doesn’t roast while the area by the window freezes. I also have a heated wrist rest in front of my keyboard, a mini heater under my desk, and footwear similar to Ugg boots for really, really cold days. Catch me in a few months, and I’ll tell you about the air conditioner in my attic and the fans in the window that blow in fresh air. The workspace should always be the perfect temperature. Sometimes that is 76, sometimes it is 64. Be warm. Be cool. Be comfortable.
    A heated wrist rest adds softness and warmth.
  3. Chair — Now that you are warm (or cool), it’s time to look at your workspace. Your tush had better feel like it is in the best place on Earth. If not, get a new chair. You sit too much to be uncomfortable. Adjust for your back and neck, too! Concerned about the cost? You are likely going to be in that chair at least four hours a day. That’s pennies per day assuming you will have it for at least five years. Splurge. Your hindquarters are worth it!
  4. Snacks — Basic comforts are now in place, and after all that hard work, it is time for a snack. I know you want to reach for Twinkies, but resist the urge to stock them. Trail mix and fresh fruit are some of my favorites. Try to eat healthy, but keep chocolate in your desk just in case the day takes a turn for the worse.
  5. Declutter — Clear your desk of anything that you don’t touch at least once a month. If you can be ruthless, remove anything you don’t touch at least weekly. This decluttering includes the mug-pencil-holder. Remove dry pens, stumpy pencils, and whatever else is in the cup that prevents implements from sliding in and out easily. Consolidate those post-it notes around your computer screen and admit to yourself that you are never going to get to that project that has been staring at you from the corner for years. Away it goes. Simplify.
  6. Cat — Now that you have made space, the cat can more easily sit on your lap, on the desk, or wherever he chooses. Similarly, the dog can lay at your feet. Have a shop cat or dog. I have two cats. They are calming and keep me warm in the winter. Customers enjoy petting them. If you have a dog, you can take a break and get some fresh air by taking the pup for a walk.
    Tess appreciates clean tables so she can nap anywhere, and customers feel at ease with a kind and gentle animal they can pet.
  7. Take breaks — Get out of your comfy chair and get some fresh air. Walk around the block. Walk to the store and get more chocolate. Take a stroll around the parking lot and notice how many cars are messier than yours. Yes, I want to work every minute possible, but I know I work more efficiently when I take occasional five-minute breaks. Stretch a bit. You will return refreshed and work more efficiently.
  8. Take vacations—Guess what? You are never going to get caught up. Ever. Really. For the same reason that you go for a walk outside at least once a day, you should get away at least once a year for a week. An additional long weekend would be a good idea, too. It’s amazing how customers can seem like minions of the underworld before vacation, but one week later, they are just regular human beings.
  9. Auto message — Your real-world comforts are aligned, and now it is time to make your electronic devices work for you. If there are texts that you regularly send to people, you can save them and call them up with just a few keystrokes (On an Apple phone, those are: Settings>General>Keyboard>Text Replacement. Touch + to add new). For example, I have very specific directions that I send to anyone coming to the shop. I can bring the entire long paragraph up just by typing “dir.” Typing “PPP” yields the message “You’re engraving is complete and ready for pickup. Please let me know a specific date and time you would like to pick it up. I accept Venmo, PayPal, cash, or check.” I would go crazy if I had to type that every time I finished a job.
  10. Bluetooth headset or EarPods—Free up your hands and have adjustable volume. You will be able to hear texts and phone calls over the din of your machines. The people at the other end of your phone calls will be able to hear you. You can also pipe through your favorite music or podcast. You can hear the phone ring over your machines. Your phone can stay in one place, charging, and not get lost. If you get noise-canceling headphones, the ambient cacophony will be greatly reduced. Your ears will stay warm and happy.
  11. Tidy up — Clean up before you leave for the day. That way, in the morning, you come into a clean shop and
    It’s OK to say, “NO!”

    can hit the ground running. Nothing puts a crimp in my day like having to clean up before I even start working.

  12. “No” — Finally, it’s OK to say no. It’s OK to refer people. It’s OK to work with other shops. It’s OK to say that you cannot fit in another job this week. Life’s too short to ALWAYS work. It’s also OK to let a customer go. If their aggravation is not worth the money they bring in, then you have no obligation to make your own life more difficult. Yes, you can fire customers.

You spend a lot of time in your place of business. Distractions are inevitable, and unexpected emergencies pop up like critters in a whack-a-mole game. To balance with these inconveniences, shouldn’t your workplace offer solace? Take the time to bring comfort, convenience, and control into your environment. It will help keep you and your worker bees buzzing.

Lori Champagne

Lori Champagne

Champagne Engraving

Lori Champagne has owned two shops in her 28 years in the engraving industry. Her California shop was a retail space with employees and a neon sign in the window proudly proclaiming OPEN for far too many hours of the day and night. She now has a home-based studio in Michigan where she lives on seven acres of woods and wetlands with her husband. No neon, but if she is home, she is open.

View all articles by Lori Champagne   Visit Website

Related Articles

Back to top button