Picture this: it’s mid-afternoon on a Thursday, and you’re at your desk. You have important work to do, but your attention is wandering, and you can’t seem to get the motivation you need to get anything done.
Sound familiar? You might need to reevaluate your work environment.
That’s not to say you have to relocate your desk or spend a bunch of money. There are actually quite a few small changes you can make that will give you a happier, healthier, and more productive work space.
1. Get More Natural Light
Feel your energy dwindling? You might just need some sunshine! According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Natural light significantly increases energy, creativity, and productivity. Workers exposed to natural lighting stayed on-task for 15% longer than their sun-deprived counterparts.”
Find ways to get outside or sit by the windows occasionally during your workday. Make use of common spaces that have more natural light than your own -- write your daily to-do list by the windows or sit in a sunny area to draft an email. If you need to have a quick discussion with a coworker or two, make it a “walking meeting” by taking the conversation outside. It will get you moving and provide you with more natural light, which will not only increase your mood, productivity, and creativity, but will also help you sleep better at night. Win-win-win!
2. Include Color in Your Work Space
Most office spaces are designed to be neutral in tone, but that doesn’t mean your space has to look like everyone else’s! Adding colorful picture frames, desk organizers, tablecloths, artwork, or other personalizations can provide a much-needed mood boost. You can also pin colorful fabrics or artificial flowers to cubicle walls for fun and non-permanent customization.
So what colors should you add? Well, according to color psychologist Angela Wright, that depends on what you do, and what you’re trying to accomplish:
- Blue evokes peace and tranquility.
- Orange increases productivity and energy.
- Yellow can boost your mood and lift your spirits.
- Red physiologically affects the body and elevates your pulse.
- Purple boosts creativity and spontaneity.
- Green creates a sense of nature and balance.
- In general, saturated, bright colors stimulate.
- In general, softer, muted colors relax and soothe.
3. Get Comfortable
We are creatures of habit: we drink the same coffee, shop at the same stores, drive the same routes, and yes -- we sit in the same position. We often don’t realize the effect bad posture can have on our productivity. Making small posture adjustments can make a huge difference for your comfort. Try some of these quick and easy suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:
- Add a small pillow for lumbar support at your lower back -- this can improve your posture and make your everyday office chair more ergonomic.
- If you spend a lot of time on the phone: instead of cradling your phone between your head and shoulder, switch to a headset to prevent neck strain.
- Adjust your computer monitor(s) so they are directly in front of you, about an arm’s length—generally 18 to 28 inches—away. The top of the screen(s) should be slightly below eye level.
- Check the height of your office chair to make sure your feet rest flat on the floor.
4. Add Plants
If you want to personalize your work space a bit, consider a plant or two. Research by scientists at the University of Exeter found that: “plants aid concentration, increase productivity, and boost staff well being by 47% at work.” Adding plants also improves air quality -- companies like TripAdvisor have actually installed “green walls” planted with moss and other greenery to improve both air quality and employee happiness.
In a study done by Washington State University, “common house plants were used to measure stress levels in employees at workstations. Participants working in an environment with plants present were 12 percent more productive and less stressed than their non-plant counterparts.”
In an eight-month study, a Texas A&M University research team found that in a work space that included flowers and plants can even boost our innovative thinking. Better mood, cleaner air, more productivity, and less stress --all for the cost of a potted plant!
5. Jam Out
While some people find music in the office to be a distraction (which is why headphones are everyone’s best friend), many people find that they are happier and more productive with some tunes on in the background.
Here are some tips to maximize the benefit of listening to music at your desk:
- Skip the lyrics: In a 2012 study published in Work, “researchers played music with and without lyrics for participants in a work environment and observed the effects on human attention and productivity. Background music with lyrics had a significant negative effect on concentration and attention.” Find music without any lyrics if you can, as lyrics can be distracting and can negate the benefits of your newfound focus.
- Go classical: Since we’re going lyric-less, add some classy tunes to your playlist. “Researchers at the University of Helsinki recently discovered that listening to classical music can alter gene functioning, which can lead to numerous benefits, including improved brain function.” If you’re the type who hates the symphony, skip this one, but if you’re not familiar with Mozart, Bach or Chopin, it could be worth a try.
- Nature sounds: If you can’t be outside, you can trick your brain into thinking you are -- and you’ll be happier for it. A 2015 study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that “playing natural sounds in an office environment could improve workers’ cognitive skills and mood.” So bring on those thunderstorms, bird calls, or ocean waves -- it can help you focus on what you’re doing.
- Choose the right tempo: “Heartbeat tempo,” or songs between 60-100 beats per minute, seems to be the speed that has the best impact on efficiency. Songs you already know, like “We Are the Champions” by Queen, “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, and “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, are all written at a speed right around your resting heartbeat.
If you don’t like your space, you’re less likely to feel motivated to work. You should feel energized, comfortable, and happy in your work space. By including these tips on color, music, plants, light, and comfort, you can change your space for the better!
About the Author:
Office Services Manager, Veristat
Colleen Kehew serves as Office Services Manager and has been with Veristat since April of 2016. Colleen spends her working hours partnering with all Veristat offices to ensure day-to-day office life runs efficiently, but in her spare time she sneaks Shakespeare jokes into casual conversation and has visited 49 of the 50 states.