It’s official! REACH has finally moved! I’m writing this to you from my brand-new office here in REACH’s new location. I can’t tell you where exactly that is, because we don’t publish our address. But trust me when I tell you it’s very close to the old one, and perfect for us.
Over the past several years, we’ve looked at a lot of office spaces. We had our list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. In an age where all the cool offices have open floor plans and lots of gathering spaces, we were looking for private offices; these did not have to be spacious, sumptuous offices but they did have to be private and they did have to have windows.
Why do we need private offices with windows?
Often the survivors we work with are disclosing a history of trauma, and some may be making plans to leave their abusers. Survivors deserve private spaces in which to conduct these conversations, safety-plan with their advocate, and not be overheard. That’s why our requirements specified offices, not just cubicles. And yet in this space, difficult words are said, disempowering stories are told, and distressing images are described, so in this space, there must be light.
You may have heard us talk about ‘trauma stewardship’– this involves recognizing and processing the trauma we experience. In addition to a daily dose from TV/radio, newspapers and social media, staff and volunteers at REACH are listening to and seeing the impact of domestic violence on adults and children every day. Sunlight, trees, sky, people – the outside world helps ground us in our work. Bringing the light into our workplace helps remind all of us of the world, humanity, and the resources that are out there.
The new office has lots of windows and the offices are primarily located around the perimeter of the space. Several interior offices have big windows to provide natural light. Yes, privacy is important, so we are using decorative and functional elements to obscure the view without blocking the light. Inside each office, there is space – space for conversation, healing and empowerment. Enough room for a couple of chairs and a table to sit around rather than talking across a big desk that can feel cold and distant.
Also inside those offices are new phones and computers! Reliable technology is vital for everything we do (housing search, legal research, records checks, court preparation, job hunting, medical and mental health resources for survivors – adults and kids – and so much more). It has been at least five years (in some cases almost ten) since some members of our staff had new computers. We now have laptops for most of our team, which offer increased mobility so advocates can meet in different spaces around the office with providers, attorneys, or other supports, depending on the needs of each survivor. We also have a new phone system – ours was so old we couldn’t add more lines! The new phone system can grow with us as we spread our wings. (And remember those micro offices for survivors to use for staying in touch with supportive contacts when that might not be possible at home or on their own phone? There are phones and computers in there too!)
The rest of the furnishings are new – or like new – thanks to the many generous donors who purchased items through our registry, and our friends at The Furniture Trust who provided most of the larger items.
Right down to the finishes, this project fits with our overall approach to the work, which is to be both trauma-informed and survivor-centered. We want our office to be a warm and welcoming space for survivors that conveys our respect for them and their wellbeing. This past weekend, our friends at Personal Movers came and packed up the crates they dropped off earlier in the week. Since Monday we have been working on unpacking and settling in to this new space. We now have a spacious, well-equipped space that conveys our respect for survivors and hopefully boosts the morale of everyone who enters.