With healthcare top of mind right now it seemed timely to include an interview with Jay Parkinson, the co-founder of Future Well. Parkinson is a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist with a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins. He works from his apartment in Brooklyn and hopes to make the country not just healthier but also happier.
First tell us about Future Well. The site is only a few months old and like a lot of start-ups you’re working from home. How much time do you spend in your home office? The Future Well is a creative firm that marries the worlds of design and health. We identify creative opportunities within the health space and design beautiful solutions that positively impact health and happiness. Sometimes we identify the opportunity and find the right partners to execute it and sometimes we build it ourselves. Other times, we help guide clients so the product/service is simple, elegant, and wrapped up with a business strategy that leverages their core competencies.
Health needs products and services that make optimizing our health and happiness fun, easy, and, most importantly, simple. This applies to to the traditional healthcare industry as well as this new consumer space we’re calling health creation. So we work with some traditional companies as well as companies who are looking to enter the consumer health space.
We launched The Future Well in the beginning of February after I left Hello Health and Grant Harrison left Humana as VP of Innovation. Scott Switzer, the co-founder of Open X is our third partner.
I actually spend a ton of time in my home working on my laptop. In fact, it’s by far the unhealthiest thing I do in my life. I want to be active as I work. Just think if we could replace sitting with moderate activity! So many people sit for 8 hours staring at glowing rectangles. It’s really a public health problem. What if we could replace just one of those 8 hours with activity? Our nation would shed billions of pounds!
How would you describe your workspace? What is the design aesthetic? I’m a minimalist and don’t want to have any more space than I really need. If I don’t use something on a weekly basis, it doesn’t exist in my home or office. I’d much rather buy experience than things. And I have this thing for symmetry. So I feel a bit weird buying two of everything, but I like the balance. My space also has to be bright and happy. The natural lighting has to be magical and blanket the most important parts of a room.
I also love photography. I consider myself a photographer so I tend to hang photos I’ve taken of my friends or people I love. And I can’t let go of my roots. I grew up in rural Missouri and my grandfather had a zoo of taxidermy in his trophy room– so I convinced him to give me a few of them. I have a javelina and a reedbuck. I also a dog and don’t want him sitting home alone for hours on end. So I really enjoy working from my home and don’t see us getting an office space anytime soon. We’d all like to keep the structure of The Future Well as decentralized as possible. Nowadays, so many things can be done virtually. I think the definition of “workspace” is significantly changing.
Does anyone else use your home office? Does my dog count? He uses it as a play space but only when I’m trying to get serious work done. Scott and I sometimes meet here to do some work, but that’s rare.
How do you organize the space? Since I don’t have many things and mostly work only on my MacBook, I try to arrange a room to maximize open space. I have a long and narrow Brooklyn apartment so furniture is arranged to feel like I have more open space than I really do. Many people have walked into my apartment and asked if I just moved in!
What impact do you think color has on a workspace? There are happy, productive colors and sad, distracting colors. The color of a workspace should surely be designed for happiness– because productivity and creativity stem from happiness.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? I’m such a minimalist, I don’t even have a desk! So I’d have to say my MacBook. But next to my sofa I have two Bisley file cabinets where I hide things when I’m not using them. They’re beautiful little storage pieces that hold more than they should. I have two white ones next to my bed as well. When you live in a small space, creative storage is key. I couldn’t live without those Bisley’s cleaning up the clutter of my space.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? I’d love to replace my sofa as my primary workplace. I’m on a mission this weekend to find a standing desk, drafting table, or maybe even a pulpit!
What inspires you? People who design elegantly simple things in response to questioning the status quo. I’m so frustrated by health and healthcare in America. I truly believe being healthy can be so much easier if we rethink our physical environment, what it means to receive and pay for healthcare, the supply of food we eat, and the small changes we can make in our life that make a huge impact on a person’s sustainable health and happiness. Our nation’s health has been quickly deteriorating. If we want to improve our health, we have to use good design as a trojan horse to create things that make a healthy lifestyle as easy as possible.