Vitality

Work Smarter, Not Harder: How To Optimize Your Office Space For Productivity And Health

Work desk
Most of us don't consider the state of our work desk on a daily basis. But some effort and carefully arranged objects can make all the difference. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

We bet you don’t give much thought to what occupies your work desk. It’s a place for your computer, accumulated coffee cups, sad desk lunch crumbs, reference books, writing utensils and a few photos of your friends and family (pets included), right? Not quite.

What and how we choose to fill our office space can increase — or decrease — productivity and health. From feng shui, to basic ergonomics and brightly-colored post-its, here are ways to hack your work day.

Feng Shui

Pronounced “fung shway,” this ancient Chinese practice is used to cultivate positive energy. Practitioners believe the way we arrange certain objects can affect our chi, or life force. And unlike other organizing tips, each arrangement speaks to a certain psychological component. So, as reported by Greatist, if you were to split your desk into a nine-part grid — known as a bagua map — the back left corner would target prosperity and the back right corner would target the future. Something like a crystal vase could speak to your fortune in the prosperity corner, while a flower could bring luck or romance in the future corner.

Go Green

Speaking of flowers, a study from the University of Exeter in Australia found houseplants in the workplace may lead to increased productivity and well-being by 50 percent; flowers in particular have been found to make employee’s feel happier and less negative and forgetful. Dr. Craig Knight, a psychologist at Exeter, found plants produce a calming, friendly environment at the same time they negate the effects of a controlled or inferior workplace. Bonus: plants filter air to remove mold and bacteria, further boosting an employee’s health. If for whatever reason you can’t have a plant, get your fix outdoors; separate research shows a nature walk boost optimism and self-control.

Take A Stand

When human resources would include information on workplace ergonomics, they simply meant the position and height of your chair, desk, mouse, and keyboard. But as science continues to support evidence prolonged sitting significantly raises risk for death and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, standing desks have taken center stage. Whether one magically appears at your office (as it did here at Medical Daily) or you curate one of your own, it’s worth figuring out a way to spend less time in your chair. Note: Treadmill desks and surfing desks are also a thing.

De-Clutter

This one seems to be a catch 22: On the one hand, a clean environment promotes health and discourages crime and littering, according to research from the University of Michigan.But messy desks have been shown to inspire productivity and fresh insight, too. Given the many other ways to source creativity, we vote you keep it clean. Additionally, Forbes cited research that found clutter usually undermines productivity and motivation, and an organized, precise office space “creates the mindset and motivation to work.” In 2012, a survey found disorganization prompts employee’s to lose items, information, and it can hurt their professional image. Invest in file folders for memos, projects, and otherwise important information.

Color Me Motivated

Angel Wright developed the Color Affects System in the late 70s, and it’s used to learn how color works and influences individuals differently. According to her, each personality type has a natural affinity with one color family. For example, blue can affect your mind, yellow can inspire creativity, and green can produce calm and balance. Sherwin Williams cited research that found a room “bathed in blue” might be more relaxed and collaborative, and a conference room painted in a stimulating red or orange could move meetings along quicker. While the color varies person to person, the saturation and intensity of the color also matters. The brighter the color, the more stimulated an employee will feel, whereas muted colors are considered more soothing. Since many employees don’t have the luxury to paint their office or otherwise meeting rooms, accents, like post-its, push-pins, writing utensils and wall art can be an alternative way to get some color.

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