A Shoutout To Everyone Working In The Dark

Now that we’re nearly two months past winter solstice and the effects of increased daylight hours have a positive impact on the work day, it is worth pointing out that not everyone shares in the benefits. Here in Chicago, one performing arts organization’s administrative office complex is colloquially known as “The Bunker” which as the name suggests, is entirely bereft of windows and natural sunlight.

DarkGranted, it isn’t unusual for an orchestra’s administrative office to be filled with cubicles in an area without windows but there’s something more profound when the entire office is encapsulated in an environment with nothing but artificial light. Consequently, I wanted to take a moment today to focus on all of the arts managers out there toiling away without the benefit of windows and natural light. And for those who work in time zones that hug the eastern-most edge of daylight savings time (like Chicago) it isn’t unusual to arrive and leave work in complete darkness; as such, it makes working in an office like The Bunker that much more gloomy during winter’s darkest days.

What I’m curious to learn more about are what you’re doing to counteract the darkness. I’ve seen everything from natural light lamps to wall murals of sunny beaches, but one setting in particular comes to mind where my colleague had so many plants in her office along with a small armada of natural lights to keep them from withering away that I wondered if the work place ever came to the attention of DEA officials.

Sure, most people know that working in an office environment with plenty of natural sunlight only improves productivity, but for those of you who don’t share in that reality, take a moment to share your tricks for getting through winter solstice and/or working in a windowless environment.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “A Shoutout To Everyone Working In The Dark”

  1. I think I interviewed at the arts org that has ‘the bunker’! And yes, the setup was quite depressing. I also had an office at a former arts org that had no windows, no heat, no air conditioning. And another arts org office I had was a former laundry room. I think it’s just the reality of a lot of arts orgs that can’t afford nice, quality office space!

    • My my, no heat? That one may have violated some local ordinances. But you bring up some good points about office space and I see a number of micro and small budget groups spending money on a brick and mortar office space when they would be far better off by embracing mobile office approach. It’s been awhile since we’ve examined that issue so perhaps it is high time to revisit it.

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