Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Lacey Schwartz, Design Lead at Powered by We for WeWork

Lacey Schwartz is a New York-based Design Lead at Powered by We for WeWork, working with the company’s enterprise clients to design their office spaces.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Absolutely! At a young age I realized the built environment had a large impact on my mood and energy, so I wanted to be able to create spaces that people feel good in. This led to me graduating university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

I started my career right out of university at a firm called Ennead Architects where I was a part of a small interiors team that assisted on many ground-up projects simultaneously. I left there after a few years for an opportunity as an Interior Design Lead at WeWork Headquarters.

At WeWork, I don’t actually design WeWork spaces – I design office space for our enterprise clients. This means I’m taking the WeWork design philosophies and marrying them to the client’s brand and spatial requirements – in their own spaces.

It’s been a welcomed challenge to introduce user-centric design ideologies to large companies who sometimes don’t always fully see the value in making space for their employees enjoyable and engaging.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I get to the gym most mornings, luckily there’s a Rise by We (WeWork’s fitness facility) in the basement of the building I work in. I do a strength training or yoga class, grab a quick shower and head upstairs for my latte to get into work mode.

At the office we don’t have dedicated desks – which is a concept I’m obsessed with. Everyday I get to make the decision of where I want to sit depending on what mood I’m in or what kind of work I have to do.

Where I began my career, in a traditional architecture firm, everyone has their assigned desk where they must sit all day because they only have a desktop (which is typical for many other companies) and no ability to work “mobile-y”. Moving to WeWork, where everyone is given a laptop as their main work hub, has been revolutionary to me and my mental well-being.

Back to my workday – I usually take a quick lap around the office with my latte in hand to say hi to my team. I’m known for my constant cheeky grin, which often confuses people because they don’t know why I’m always smiling.

Honestly, I’m just happy to see them everyday because I love them all so much. Also, it’s very contagious – so I recommend smiling at your colleagues more often for no reason at all. “Be the change you want to see” right?

Once I finally stop walking around smiling at people, I settle down where I want to start my day (which is probably at a hotdesk in the noisy lounge) and I go through my email to make sure I didn’t miss anything from the day or evening before.

Then I look at my to-do list, which I have on Google Keep at all times (Type-A status). It keeps me accountable since it’s right next to my email that I’m checking all day.

Some days I’m creating some sort of client presentation – whether we’re in beginning phases of design, finalizing the design or potentially having to change something because of the typical unforeseen curve ball. Other days I’m doing architectural drawings for the construction documents – which get sent to the General Contractor to price out and/or file for building permits.

My favorite days are site visits when the project is in construction and also when I’m approving the shop drawings as a final go to install. Those days are really enjoyable, but nothing beats when you’ve just installed the furniture and accessories, and all your renderings that you spent hours and hours on come to life.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes it does, like I said in my previous answer – mobile working. I have a laptop and I take it wherever I go and if I need a larger screen I can plug it into a large monitor. Occasionally I like to work from home, it’s a bit more restful and productive.

Taking the crowded New York subway everyday can be extremely draining, so the opportunity to work from home once in a while is helpful to recharge and reclaim some valuable me-time.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance to me means that I have the freedom to choose how I spend my day around and within the parameters of my work duties and schedule. It means that I’m happy to stay late at work to hit a deadline, but then I have freedom the next day to maybe come in late or work from home.

It’s when I’m empowered to take ownership of my work, and also have the flexibility to be there for my family and myself when needed. I work to achieve this by always showing up for my team and going the extra mile, but also creating boundaries to do what I need to take care of myself or my loved ones – even if it’s during the work day.

I also have to say this as a workplace designer: having an inspiring space to work in that feels like home is also a part of work-life balance. Most of us spend more time at the office than at home – if the ambiance of the office isn’t inspiring or comfortable to work in, I strongly suggest advocating to the appropriate parties for office design updates.

Adding a lounge area, or eat-in pantry to bond with colleagues, honestly – even a plant makes a world of a difference. The spaces we inhabit, whether we realize it or not, have a great deal of impact on psychology, creativity and productivity.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Yes! I’ve done a great deal of self reflecting on my physical health, changing up my diet and work-out routine. I was an avid Yogi for the last five years. While yoga is amazing and I highly recommend it to relieve stress, I wasn’t feeling really happy with my physical appearance.

So I cleaned up my diet tremendously (think – more real food grown from the ground and eating less calories) and added in some strength training to my workout routine. I feel much better in my skin and stronger than ever.

Another thing I’ve done is fix my sleep – huge news. I used to sleep with the TV on and the blue light ruined my sleeping patterns. I’m shamelessly afraid of the dark, so I purchased a light therapy machine (the iHome Zenergy one) that also plays white noise and other typical sound machine hits – it has changed my life, I highly recommend for people who have similar problems.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m mainly a podcast person:

I also really enjoy reading articles on IFL Science.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

  • For personal style and design inspiration: Pinterest
  • Personal finances: Intuit – Mint
  • Nutrition and weight management – Noom
  • Sleep – iHome Zenergy Aroma Bluetooth Speaker with Lighting

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Hm that’s a difficult one, but the first person that came to mind was Victoria Beckham.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Advocate for yourself. Never be afraid to say – “I need time to [insert self-care task here]”.
And smile more, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re in a good mood.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.