By Ellie Batchiyska

We spend a large portion of our time at work. To be exact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. That’s about ten years, and it’s not even counting the amount of time we spend at our home office, taking care of our own tasks.

Rather than using this fact to dishearten you, however, it should serve as a motivation. If you know you’re going to live in a certain apartment for 10 years, you’re going to do your best to make that apartment as enjoyable and comfortable as possible, right?

This same philosophy needs to be applied to the workspace. We know that our environment significantly impacts our outlook, but we rarely know to what extent. Psychological research shows that unfavorable office environments featuring dull colors, hot indoor temperatures, and cramped layouts can cause a decrease in productivity. Conversely, a favorable one can boost our productivity by 5-15 percent.

Bring In the Outdoors

As human beings, it’s essential we feel a constant connection to nature and the outdoors. That doesn’t mean we want to conduct our work from our backyard treehouse. However, it does mean that indoor potted plants and plenty of natural light are factors essential to our overall productivity and concentration.

Greenery has notable stress-reducing effects on us. Studies show that it carries numerous benefits for our mental well-being, such as:

  • Increasing productivity by 15%
  • Decreasing tension and anxiety by 37%
  • Decreasing feelings of depression by 58%
  • Decreasing anger and hostility by 44%
  • Decreasing fatigue by 38%

Plants also help bring more fresh oxygen into the air, improving the overall air quality of the office, which could result in fewer illnesses and allergies.

Natural light is equally important. Absence of natural light is what sparks melatonin production, which is responsible for making us sleepy at night. With melatonin production in overdrive during the day, you’re more likely to experience symptoms of tiredness and fatigue during work hours. Move your desk closer to a window if possible, and pull those blinds up to get plenty of sunshine.

Feng Shui It Up

Not all believe in the benefits of feng shui, but it often consists of some very practical principles that speak to logic more than magic, despite what some people may think. Feng shui is all about how proper positioning of your surroundings can improve your general well-being.

As such, feng shui experts say not to sit with your back to your office door. This can cause a sense of discomfort and uncertainty. It’s best to face your visitors directly, but also not too directly. Chairs that are across from each other should not face each other directly as that suggests confrontation. Chairs across from each other should be placed at an angle to suggest open and inviting discussion.

Similarly, your chair should be supported by a wall, bookshelf, or cabinet behind it. A free-standing chair in the middle of a room can cause a sense of groundlessness.

Declutter to Unwind

Einstein once said: “If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” And guess what…

He’s wrong.

Now, that’s hard to say about Einstein, but chances are most of us can attest to its falseness. We’ve all felt a sense of unease when in the presence of cluttered surroundings. Neuroscientists at Princeton University even found that physical clutter hinders productivity.

They argued that clutter in your surroundings signals a competition for your attention, meaning you often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Meanwhile, organized surroundings decrease your stress, and therefore increase your performance.

Bookshelves, filing cabinets, and drawers make reducing clutter all the easier. The guideline is this: if you don’t use it daily, put it in a drawer.

Although not often considered, loose wires and cables can also create clutter and cause stress. Clip cables together and place messy powerstrips in a shoebox to keep that tangled mess of cords out of sight and out of mind.

Different Spots for Different Thoughts

It’s best not to work in the same space you rest. Our mind loves habit, and its association of one place with one task can make it hard to dissociate from that task entirely when we’re in that space. If you sleep in your office, expect a restless sleep. If you work in your bed, expect a general sense of weariness.

Separating spaces by the actions and mindsets taken in those spaces can help immensely. This concept has even been used to treat insomnia. You might even want to consider having two desks. One where you keep your phone, laptop, or tablet for personal tasks and unwinding; and another where you keep your desktop, documents, etc.

Create space where there is none. Separate your desk into sections to signify where you keep devices for entertainment and devices for work. Even the smallest sense of space separation can make an enormous difference.

Update the Color Scheme

Color is more than style and aesthetic. It’s about evoking certain feelings in the appropriate environments. The color of your office, cubicle, break room, or conference room can impact how you experience those different rooms.

While you may not have the leeway to paint your office or workspace, you can certainly incorporate more of certain colors through your décor selections. As a guide, beige, off-white, and gray should generally be avoided and counteracted where possible. Depending on the state of mind you hope to achieve, you should go for one of the following colors.

  • Blue: Inspires calmness, clarity, and encourages logical thinking. Best used in offices with logic-heavy work, such as engineering, accounting, medicine, etc.
  • Red: Signals warmth, high-energy, and creativity. Best used in creativity-oriented offices where a lot of design, animation, or writing takes place.
  • Green: A soothing color that is best incorporated in offices where the work tends to be high-stress. Plants are a great way to incorporate more of this color.
  • Yellow: This is best for your home office. It is neutral, preventing you from being stressed at your home domain, but still inspiring and will ensure your productivity remains high.

No matter how you spruce up your office space, the important thing is that you do it with purpose. You can paint your walls every color of the rainbow, line the walls with plants, remove everything from your desk, and still feel unproductive. You should be making these changes with meaning, and base them off of things that have worked for you in the past.

The goal here is not to design a vanilla workspace. Keep up with personal touches and small décor items that hold special meaning for you and bring you happiness. Ultimately, what will keep productivity highest is a workspace in which you feel comfortable.