Our physical environments have a major impact on our well-being. If you fall asleep in your bedroom with the lights on and the TV blasting do you think you’ll have a good night’s rest?
The same can be said about your workspace. If it’s filthy, cluttered and located in a dreary basement with no light — the likelihood of a highly productive day won’t be possible.
You want a place that gives off happy, creative, and productive vibes. An office spot that inspires you. Simply put, your workspace needs to be optimized so that you can be more efficient and productive.
With that in mind, here’s a closer look at how your workplace can affect your productivity. You can make the appropriate changes.
While a little clutter may encourage creativity, the fact of the matter is that cluttered workspaces are threatening your productivity.
For starters, when we have a messy and disorganized workplace it’s much harder to find items when you need them. For example, if you wrote down an important phone number on a post-it and it’s somewhere in a pile of papers, how much time will waste looking for it? Even worse, there’s a good possibility that it’s gone for good.
In case you’re curious, the average American spends 2.5 days annually looking for misplaced items. It also costs households a whopping $2.7 billion a year in replacement costs.
Secondly, neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that physical clutter negatively affects your focus and ability to process information. That’s because instead of focusing on the task at hand that workspace clutter is distracting you. What’s more, clutter like multitasking forces you to shift focus, overload your senses, reduces creative thinking, and makes you feel more stressed.
This doesn’t mean that your workspace needs to be Mr. Clean-approved every day. It just means that it should be tidy and organized so that you can easily locate items when needed and eliminate being distracted.
If this is a challenge, here are a couple of ways to get started:
- File your documents and properly identify them using folders.
- Trash any documents you no longer need.
- Group notes by priority and chuck any notes pertaining to completed tasks.
- Keep frequently used items nearby.
- Give everything a home and return them when not being used.
- Label items so that you can locate them when needed.
Unless you’re in solitude, there’s most likely going to be background noise from others talking. It could be your spouse on the phone while you’re working at home, a couple chit chatting next to you at the coffee shop, or co-workers gossiping next to your desk.
This isn’t just annoying and distracting, it’s also the hardest noise to tune out.
Here’s where this harms your productivity. You spend a lot of energy attempting to filter out this type of background noise. As a result, you deplete your executive functions faster and have to work harder than you have to. That’s definitely not good.
To block out background noise from others, try to find a quiet space when working on your most important and challenging tasks. If that’s not an option, then you might want to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and download an app like Noisli or White Noise.
Lighting and color
Did you know that Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors? That’s not just depressing, it also proves that we need more access to natural light.
Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, conducted a study that found that “workers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision symptoms, which can detract from productivity.”
Additionally, the study found that employees sitting next to a window reported a 2 percent increase in productivity.
“The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity,” said Hedge. “As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations.”
If you don’t have access to natural light, work under “blue-enriched” light bulbs that are 17,000K. These bulbs can boost work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality, and alertness. Researchers at the University of Greenwich discovered that those working under “blue-enriched light bulbs” reported feeling “happier, more alert and had less eye strain.”
Besides proper lighting, choose the right color for your job. For instance, since red is stimulating it’s a great fit for those in physically demanding jobs. Blue and green are calming and aid in concentration so they’re ideal for office workers. Yellow is perfect for innovators and entrepreneurs because it sparks creativity.
Add plants and artwork
One of the simplest and most effective ways to optimize your workspace is by surrounding yourself with a plant or two. Research shows that office plants can reduce stress, improve attention capacity, and help employees recover from demanding activities.
On top of surrounding yourself with plants, bring in some artwork, as well.
As Karen Higginbottom writes in Forbes, “Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier — they’re also up to 32 percent more productive.”
Another study conducted by Cornell found that when employees are cold they make more mistakes, while warmer workers perform better.
To find this out, researchers recorded the amount of time employees in an insurance office keyboarded and the amount of time they spent correcting errors. For this specific study they used an environmental variable: temperature.
“At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate,” said our friend Alan Hedge.
“Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”
“One of the surprising factors that can affect productivity is workplace ergonomics,” writes Kayla Sloan in a previous Calendar article. “Not everyone buys into the concept, but it truly does have an impact.”
This actually makes a lot of sense since ergonomics can help reduce health risks. Poorly designed workstations can definitely affect your back, hands, wrists, and joints. As a result you feel drained and are focused on how much you ache. Productivity can drop if you have little aches here and there. When this happens you may not even know it’s pain because you have gotten so used to being uncomfortable.
Here are a couple of ways that you can change the ergonomic environments around in your office — even your home office:
- Invest in an ergonomic chair.
- Position your computer screen correctly by using a screen or laptop support.
- Use a palm rest on your chair can help keep everything aligned when you are typing.
- Keep your hand, wrist, and forearm aligned when using your mouse — the palm rest can help with this situation as well.
- Use footrests so that you can rest your feet naturally. Much of the ergonomic sense is according to your height and weight.
Finally, after a 10-year study researchers at Columbia, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, San Diego found that air pollution like dust in the air, carbon emissions, and forest fires can lower productivity.
Plants and air filters can help improve the air quality in your workspace. However, if there is a pollutant that you can’t reduce, you may have to set up shop in a location that has better air quality.