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Wondering How To Create A Productive Workspace? Here Are Some Tips!
Not feeling productive and think it’s your workspace? You are definitely not alone! There is a ton of office design productivity research that says that the place you work in – and even the desk layout in front of you – can have huge effects on overall mood and the work you get done.
Having worked in a number of university settings and then various workplace settings over the years, we have a pretty good idea of what works and doesn’t work for us. As a result, our current desk set up (at home) is how we best get stuff done. So, if you are looking to design (or re-design) your workspace, you are in the right place.
A thing to note before we get into the article: We’re writing this from a freelancer, work-from-home type point of view (literally sitting at a desk right now) but many of these tweaks and tips can also be said for a desk or workspace at a classic office work setting. You might not be able to move desks but you CAN make small changes to your set up that can pay off in big ways – like increased productivity, mood, and overall health!
Make It Comfortable
This one is a general tip and rule of thumb to remember – but you shouldn’t read this tip as “make it so cozy that you want to lounge”. However, it’s been said by some interior designers that the best office spaces are the ones that feel not like an office space. In other words, the clinical, technical, “here is your desk and chair, get to work” mentality is outdated thinking and doesn’t help to boost productivity.
How you make it “comfortable” is for YOU to decide since everyone has a different idea of what makes them feel secure and happy. Assuming you aren’t working with a whole room, you don’t need to go out and buy a plush couch – but a padded stool, plant, or pillow might make a difference. We will talk more about plants down below.
Keep Things Well Lit
Wherever your workspace is located, one of the most important factors that can shape productivity is to have it well-lit. So, having your desk set-up close to a window is a great place for it. Studies consistently show that natural light boosts productivity and mood for a number of biological reasons.
If you don’t have a window – or your office space can’t be moved or is in an interior room, then having a bright lamp (that emits a more natural white light and not yellow) to illuminate the space is important. You can invest in a number of different desk lamps or floor lamps designed with a productivity purpose in mind.
Face Out the Window
Related to keeping things well lit, where you work in relation to seeing the outside world can also have an effect on productivity. Again, this has to do with the amount of natural light you are exposed to but we also think there is more to it.
We find that facing out the window adds a subtle dynamic to the workspace – as opposed to staring at a wall. Seeing cars go by, birds fly by, smoke rising from the stacks, or even people walk by, adds a bit of “background visual” that some find great and some don’t like. We like it when we can see the world go by when we work, so our desk/workspace faces out the window.
Clear the Clutter
Looping back to visual cues and visual stimuli, having a desk space or workspace that is clear of clutter can really have an effect on productivity. It works something like this: The cleaner and less cluttered the space, the less visual noise your brain has to focus on – even if you think that it doesn’t bother you.
Over time, these papers lying around or sticky notes that need to be filed away into your journal can take a mental toll on your focus which reduces productivity. So, make use of good storage containers or systems that you can access things easily and keep things like papers, books, and essential tools handy.
Read Next: How To Actually Clear The Clutter At Home
Get a Proper Chair
For this one, we didn’t necessarily get a super comfortable chair because if it’s TOO comfortable you might lose your focus/mindset that you are being productive and not just relaxing.
A good chair for you is one that is good for your posture because bad posture – a slouched back, stretched neck, etc – can negatively affect productivity and overall body health. A good chair is both comfortable and good for your body ergonomically – that is, mechanically for how your body is shaped. Make sure it is one that is adjustable in a number of ways if you must sit for hours on end. This one is a good example of what we mean.
If you have a larger workspace to change up, then sure – consider a more comfortable work zone where you can work from some of the time. This can be a comfortable chair or couch with a more rigid back to keep you upright and able to work on your lap or at a table in front of you. We certainly wouldn’t recommend this as your main workspace – but it’s always nice to switch it up every once in a while. There are loads of furniture options now for you to find a set up that works for you if you are going that wild in redoing the workspace.
Get a Plant (or Two)
Even if you aren’t into plants or having them nearby, you should really just have one anyways. Studies consistently show that office spaces with plants (or just some form of greenery) have increased productivity levels and elevated self-reported moods of the workers in the space.
So, think about getting a plant. You can get a simple succulent for the top of your desk or you can go big and get a larger plant for the office corner. It’s really up to you, your style, size of space, and dedication to keeping it alive for long enough for you to find benefits from it.
Keep Things You Need Close
One of the biggest factors that can break up a workflow is having to get up for supplies or tools you need. This can be as simple as a pen or highlighter or as silly as a three-hole punch (do we still use those?).
Whatever the case, keeping things at your desk space where you do most of the actual work is a really good idea. That said, you don’t have to keep everything you’d ever use close by. That would create too much clutter and negate the above points. Just the essentials for whatever you are doing that day.
If you have a more creative day, maybe keep the scissors and supplies closer than the pens and highlighters, for example. You know what you use and how often you use them!
Find Your Motivation
All things considered, there are going to be days when you just aren’t feeling it and you need a bit of external motivation to give you a boost. For those, we’re big into quotes that help drive us forward or keep us focused on the overall goals we’re aiming to achieve (not just on that day).
No, we don’t mean have those motivational posters that you see in the older offices. We mean pictures, quotes, or photos that motivate you to keep moving forward. Maybe it’s a photo of your kids? Maybe it’s a photo to remind you that you are aiming to save money to buy a house or go on a vacation? Maybe it’s a quote from a writer or entrepreneur that inspires you to keep driving forward?
Whatever it may be, make it your background, print it out, frame it, hang it on the wall – whatever you need to do to be able to see it and refer to it when you need it. Bruce always liked the quote by Pearl Buck: “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”
Consider a Standing Desk
Some people read this one and think it’s really still just a trendy topic but there is now research that shows that standing desks can boost productivity. So, if you are sick of sitting – and you have the opportunity to get a standing desk, try it out!
Bruce has an MSc in Health Policy but it doesn’t take high credentials to highlight the fact that research shows an increase in sedentary time – that is, the time we are sitting – is a stronger indicator for poor health outcomes… more than a poor diet or a lack of exercise. Yeah, seriously. So, this makes the argument for standing desks that much stronger.
Keep Water At Hand
This one is related to “keeping important things close” but we wanted t emphasize the importance of water and not just desk supplies. This also isn’t just a consideration for a productive workspace but a good thing to keep in mind in daily life. When in your workspace, however, staying hydrated is good for the mind and can keep fatigue at bay.
Have a water source – usually a water bottle with a screw lid – at arm’s reach so that you can drink when needed. This way you don’t have to get up and potentially break your focus when you don’t want to break it. Also screw lids are good for around electronics because water and cords don’t mix well!
Turn Of Your Distractions/Embrace Noise
Lastly, be sure to remove/reduce distractions. This one isn’t so much a tip for creating the physical workspace but is handy to keep in mind as a behavioral barrier to getting work done. We all know how distracting our smartphones can be – so turn it off or put it on silent/do not disturb mode if you can’t turn it off completely.
It’s often shocking how much we actually check our phones in a single day – and so removing the temptation by removing the phone from the physical space can make a huge difference in your mind. It’s not good for our minds to keep jumping back and forth between stimuli – and this can have serious implications for workflow and focus on a task.
Related to this, if you have social media on your computer and you are computer-based at your workspace, consider those page blockers website that stop you from visiting certain pages like Facebook, etc.
You might also want to test out whether music and/or noise is your friend or not. Some people love working with music, some with noise, others with nothing at all – it really depends on how your mind works. Bruce is always productive in coffee shops so if he can’t be in one he uses a combination of “white noise” and sounds from Noisli and the sound of a coffee shop with a site called Coffitivity. Try it out – it’s honestly so great!
And there you have it – a few helpful tips on how to create a productive workspace (for you). Of course, not all of these will work for you – and not all of them pertain to you and your workspace – BUT it’s worth a shot. Being productive – and finding “your zone” – can be such a good, rewarding feeling where you want to work and it doesn’t feel like a taxing activity. We’re always working on our set up – so have fun finding yours!
As always, Stay Curious,
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