The Enviable Workspace – Design your workspace for maximum productivity

We think this quote by Alexander Den Heijer sums up how important your physical environment is perfectly "When a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows. Not the flower”

Have you ever sat down at your desk, determined to crank out some serious work—only to find yourself two hours later no closer to finishing than when you started?

Adjusting your surroundings to make you more productive is easy to underestimate, but can actually make a huge difference. Most people think you can “will” yourself into being more productive. But willpower alone isn’t the ultimate solution to ramping up your productivity. If you want to change your level of productivity, you first need to change your environment.

Luckily, there’s been a lot of research put into finding the optimal work environment. So, whether you spend your days at an office, co-working space or coffee shop here are some simple fixes.

Greenery

A study showed that adding indoor plants to an office resulted in workers being 12% more productive and less stressed than working in an environment with no plants.

Indoor plants are also great air filters clearing the toxins to improve air quality. Using at least one plant per 100 square feet of office space is enough to clean the air. Even the potting mix can remove benzene from the air.   

Chair and table

If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of the day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

  • Eyes no closer than 50 cm from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
  • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
  • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.
  • Sit your bum right back into the chair– no slouching!

Get rid of the clutter (both physical and digital)

According to neuroscientists at Princeton University, physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention. This results in decreased performance and increased stress. However, it’s not as simple as just cleaning up and moving on.

We become overly attached to our “things.” So much so that the areas of your brain associated with physical pain light up when faced with giving something up. Mentally speaking, throwing out an item we’re even remotely attached to feels about the same as a paper cut.

This doesn’t mean we’re doomed to disorder, however. To clean up your workspace in a healthy and safe way start with these suggestions:

  • Apply constraints to what you accumulate: Parkinson’s Law says we fill the time we have available to us. Whether Twitter followers, open tabs, or notebooks, setting hard limitations is the best way to stop accumulating more.
  • Become a Digital Minimalist: Clear out any digital tool that doesn’t bring you high value. You can either do this by subtracting (deleting one tool at a time) or adding (deleting everything and only adding back valuable ones).
  • Conduct a monthly review of your space: Set time aside to clean, sort, and discard your physical and digital clutter. You can even do this daily, cleaning up your desktop each evening so you get a fresh start tomorrow.

Lighting

A particular problem in the case of cubicle-centric workplaces is the abundance of artificial light. Spending eight hours a day bathed in fluorescent light, far from any windows, is a recipe for depression and listlessness. And, as it turns out, the effects extend far beyond the office.

Studies have shown that lack of natural light exposure in office environments can lead to people suffering from abnormal sleep activity. Lack of exposure to sunlight disturbs the body's circadian rhythms and can result in a workforce that is perpetually tired and sluggish.

Noise

Working in a communal space ensures that, unfortunately, complete silence is a rare occurrence. While some people are affected more strongly by the presence of background noise than others – studies show that introverts suffer more ill effects than extroverts, for instance – the simple reality is that a noisy work environment leads to an overall decline in productivity.

Colour

You may not have control in regard to the overall colour of your office but you can make some minor changes to the colours you’re surrounded by in your office. When first analysing the colour types that might be best for your workspace keep these four primary colours in mind:

Red. Is associated with power; connotes strength, warmth, energy and stimulation. It can also bring to mind aggression and defiance.

Blue. Is associated with intellect; connotes communication, trust, efficiency and serenity. It can also bring to mind a lack of emotion, unfriendliness and coldness.

Yellow. Is associated with emotion; connotes optimism, confidence, extroversion and creativity. It can also bring to mind anxiety, irrationality and fear.

Green. Is associated with balance; connotes harmony, balance, rest and peace. It can also bring to mind boredom and blandness.

Try to choose calming colours even for your coffee mugs, plant pots or any picture frames you have on your desk to avoid the look of your workspace scrambling your brain with a myriad of colour before you even begin for the day.

Let the sun shine

Assuming you're not a vampire, letting plenty of daylight shine into your workspace is a proven way to increase your productivity, not to mention your overall mood and well-being.

Access healthy food and beverage options

This will help promote a balanced diet and dissuade harmful foods.

Post motivational reminders where you can regularly see them

This will encourage healthy activities.

Add personal touches

Where you can add personal items to your desk, cubicle or office that have some special meaning to you.

Treat physical space like software

In software we iterate, make changes, upgrade, and evolve. The physical space needs to be thought of in the same way. 

In the last 20 years, the modern office has gone through a number of evolutions. The early 2000s saw the death of cubicle farms and the rise of open floorplans, and 2015 brought waves of ping pong and foosball tables to offices everywhere. While office trends come and go, one thing that does not change is the impact that the office environment has on employee health and wellbeing.

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