7 Strategies to Help You Work Smarter
Psychiatrist and Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. Samantha Boardman’s tips for optimizing your office will have you operating more effectively in no time.
From Samantha: Our environment matters more than we often realize. Research has repeatedly shown that our surroundings impact our behavior and emotions. Students do better in schools with more natural light. Painting prison walls a certain shade of pink reduces aggression. A high ceiling encourages more expansive and creative thinking. This is especially relevant for the workplace. If you spend a lot of time at the office—according to the American Time Use Survey, we spend 8.7 hours at work on an average day—it is worth channeling your inner interior designer and creating an environment that enhances your wellbeing and productivity. While changing the ceiling height of your workspace may not be an option, here are seven ways you can optimize your office:
1. Go green
Invest in a plant or two. Studies show that indoor plants boost mood and creativity. They also reduce stress and enhance concentration. They’re good for your health. Patients recovering from surgery in a hospital room decorated with plants and flowers had lower blood pressure, reported less fatigue and required less pain medication. Splurge on some fresh flowers occasionally. The positive effect will last for days.
2. Make your mark
Studies show that personalizing your workspace is empowering and linked with greater productivity. Bring in photos and other knick-knacks that matter to you. These personal items will help you maintain emotional energy in the face of stress and may help compensate for the lack of privacy if you work in an open office space.
3. Minimize distractions
If you don’t have a door to close, invest in a pair of headphones. Noise takes a toll on productivity. One study found that workers lose up to 86 minutes a day due to noise distractions. Wearing headphones also sends a signal to co-workers that you do not want to be disturbed.
4. Take a landscape break
While having a window with a park view is the dream, taking the time to look at nature—even as a screensaver—has been shown to improve attention and performance in the workplace. Just 40 seconds of staring at grass can help.
5. Don’t eat at your desk
As tempting as it is to eat lunch at your desk, studies abound about the benefits of taking a real lunch break. Stepping away from your desk gives your brain a break and replenishes energy and focus. You are less likely to overeat when you are focused on eating—just eating—and not multitasking. Taking a lunch break will help you recharge and make your afternoon more productive. If that doesn’t convince you, hopefully this will: studies show that there is more bacteria lurking on desks than the average toilet seat!
6. Think better on your feet
Getting up from your desk and taking frequent microbreaks throughout the day has been shown to improve energy, efficiency and engagement. Consider standing meetings if you want to increase productivity and collaboration. Standing desks make workers happier and are good for physical health, too.
7. Enjoy a little mess
We all know the benefits of having a tidy desk but there are also benefits to having a messy desk. Studies show that a disorganized desk promotes creative thinking and stimulates new ideas. Perhaps organized chaos is the best of both worlds. Feeling good about your workspace is essential for performance, productivity and overall wellbeing. Be your own architect and design your desk. If you spend a lot of time in your office, it is definitely worth making it your happy place.
Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump.
Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo