Have you ever seen literature or websites with words and images crammed in so tight that your eye has no starting or finishing point?

The best designers will tell you that everything needs white space. Sometimes, adding more space can increase dramatic effect. The emptiness between words and pictures helps us to scan them and assimilate the messages more readily.

What has that got to do with leadership?

Have you ever had the sort of day when you come home feeling stressed and tired, but worse still, you can’t actually put your finger on one single task completed, or one item ticked off your to-do list? Have you ever thought “I just need some time to draw breath!”? You are not alone.

Pressures of modern work environments

In the pressure-cooker world of modern business management, even the most extrovert, high-achieving leaders need space during their working day. Lean working means the physical footprint of workplaces is shrinking, while the technology we use to communicate is growing exponentially.

In all this, there is a tendency to forget to leave any room for calm, quiet reflection, even though the greatest creativity can come during times of respectful space. It’s during the downtime between tasks that we can sort through information, store what is needed and plan the next step.

How to create time and space

It goes without saying that putting executives under too much pressure can result in serious time off due to stress-related health problems. So how can you build space into a senior manager’s day?

Timetabling gaps between meetings can certainly help. There also need to be clear rules about when they can be contacted outside office hours, and for what reasons.

Commuting in and out of work, or between meetings, could also be seen as sacred space for their own reflection and planning time.

Creating physical space

Open plan offices have substantial benefits, but senior staff also need their own physical space, where they can shut the door and put up an actual or metaphorical “do not disturb” sign.

Philip Tidd, Principal at design and architecture firm Gensler, has said: “Across all age groups and positions in their company, people need to balance their need for quiet areas to work, with their need for more dynamic, collaborative areas.”

In one survey of “high-performance employees”, 58% of those questioned said they needed more private spaces for problem-solving. A total of 54% felt their existing office environment was distracting them.

Telecommuting executives

If an executive opts for a day working from home, it’s important to provide support for that, unconditionally. Telecommuting is acceptable for many levels of staff these days but there is a lingering sense of panic if leaders abandon ship.

However, allowing them the space and time to think clearly and recharge their batteries – while still meeting crucial obligations – can improve managerial productivity.

In a nutshell, modern leaders need to be mindful of their own need for white space, to find the start and finishing points for daily tasks.

Contact Anthony Gregg Partnership today to find out more about effective space-creating for leaders and executive recruitment.

5/4/2010: To-Do List by john.schultz licensed under Creative commons 5