Promoting Productivity: Changing Your Work Space For The Better

Karen Bradford

December 26, 2021

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We can all relate to the idea that our surroundings affect our emotional and mental state. We tend to put quite a bit of effort into making our homes into spaces that make us feel good. But we don't give the same level of attention to our workspaces, even though we spend most of our days there - why?

Maybe this is because we aren't aware of how much our environment affects us. Consider studies on suggestibility. A Yale study found that people were more likely to describe others as "warm" and "friendly" while holding a hot beverage. Another discovered that people surrounded by words and pictures such as "grey," "old," and "infirm" walked out of a room more slowly than those surrounded by words relating to youth and vitality.

So it stands to reason that what you put in your workspace will significantly affect how you work. Being more intentional about how you arrange your work environment is a way of "hacking" it for improved productivity. But what specific elements can make a difference?

Declutter And Organize

Everyone knows this on a gut level - walking into a room filled with piles of paper, objects scattered all over the place, and tangled cords can make you feel instantly stressed. On the flip side, a tidy room where everything is in its place inspires a sense of calm. The few minutes it takes to tidy your desk at the end of the day is undoubtedly worth the peace of mind you feel entering an orderly workspace at the start of the next.

An organized workspace isn't just about outward tidiness, though. Be intentional about what you keep on your desk in reach, what you store in your desk drawers, etcetera. For example, keep things you're not actively working on in your desk drawers, but arrange items you use throughout the day within reach.

Close Those Tabs

Clutter applies to the digital world, too. If your computer desktop is overflowing with random apps and documents, and you have 50 tabs open, this will also translate to mental overstimulation, the buildup of stress and potential burnout.

Organize your documents in a way that makes sense to you, only keep tabs open if they are in use, and choose a calming desktop background. This will also help minimize distractions and keep you on track.

Personalize Your Space

Of course, your workspace should be set up for work and productivity. But if it's all function and has no personality, it's likely to feel very uninspiring.

Adding personal touches that remind you of things in life that make you happy will nudge up those serotonin levels and give you a sunnier outlook on your workday. These could be pictures of your family, snaps from your favorite trip, art you love, inspirational messages, stickers from your favorite TV show, or whatever you like. Anything that reminds you of the good things in life and what you're working for can make a difference.\

Add A Plant Or Two

Plants improve the air quality and make any space look more beautiful and serene. Plus, according to this study, working in spaces with greenery makes people more productive. Make sure to choose plants that fit into the space you have and thrive with the amount of sunlight your workspace gets.

Sound Hacking

Despite the proliferation of working and studying playlists, research is increasingly suggesting that music hinders productivity unless you're working on repetitive tasks that don't require much thinking. However, listening to music for 10-15 minutes before you start working can trigger feel-good neurotransmitters and get you pumped up for the day.
It's also pretty clear that a noisy environment hinders productivity, as it inhibits your ability to focus. Instead of blocking this out with music, choose noise-canceling headphones that provide silence. A quiet environment has consistently been shown to be the best when it comes to focus and productivity.

Care For Your Spine

If you frequently struggle with headaches, a stiff neck, or pinched shoulders, the culprit is very likely to be your posture. And if you're constantly feeling stiff or uncomfortable, there's no way you'll be your most productive self.

If you're at your desk for much of the day, it's vital to make sure that you aren't straining your spine the entire time. Invest in an excellent office chair with lumbar support, and adjust it so that you have no choice but to sit tall yet still feel comfortable. Then, adjust your screen so that it's at eye level, along with your keyboard, so that your shoulders can relax while you're typing.

It may also be a good idea to invest in a standing or adjustable desk. Our bodies weren't designed to sit all day, and doing so can cause musculoskeletal problems and fatigue. You can combat this by simply getting up and taking a walk for five minutes every hour. This will also help give your brain those little refreshes it needs to remain alert. If you struggle with remembering to do this, add a reminder on a sticky note or set an alarm on your phone.

Keep Supplies At Hand

Not drinking enough water can hinder your productivity by 14%, studies show. And we're probably all familiar with those mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs that take our minds off work. Make sure you always have water on hand and keep healthy snacks like protein bars, nuts, and dried fruit on your desk. That way, you always have a little something available to boost energy levels and keep you going until lunchtime.

Make The Change That Works For You

These minor tweaks are great workspace productivity hacks, but they won't necessarily work for everyone. While there are some constants, different people work their best in different environments.

The idea of this is not to give you a recipe that will result in instant productivity. The point is to get you to start thinking about how you can intentionally arrange your space so that it works best for you.

As soon as you start thinking in this way, you'll notice how little changes can shift how you feel, think, and work. Then, you can begin to fiddle with the settings and observe the results.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.


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