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How changing your workspace can mean greater productivity

Posted August 20

How much do your surroundings impact your ability to work? Lots of factors, including your office lighting, could be holding your productivity back.

Since most of employees’ time is spent in their workspace, it makes sense that it can impact how they work. Here are four areas to consider when changing your workspace for the better.

Customize

One size does not fit all when it comes to workspace. A few customizations to consider:

• Height-adjustable desks have been found to increase focus, energy levels and minimize headaches that come from sitting too long, Business Insider noted. Too much of anything can be bad, so height adjustable desks allows for variation throughout the day, bizjournals.com noted in an article sponsored by King Business Interiors.

• A 2014 study found plants can increase productivity by 15 percent, so consider a potted plant if you have some free desk space, the blog HubSpot suggested.

• If you can, use two monitors instead of just one. Customer service workers saw a 12 percent improvement in call time by just adding a screen to their workplace, with no added training or work load/design change, according to Harvard Business Review. Additional screens can be added to any laptop in under a minute by changing the desktop settings, Harvard Business Review noted.

Organized vs. messy

If you need to brainstorm, don’t straighten up. A desk in “slight disarray” can boost creativity, according to another article from Business Insider. The article cited a 2013 study found that, between participants who sat in an “orderly or disorderly room,” those in the disorderly room produced more creative ideas.

Still, if you’re trying to show good habits, a messy desk isn’t the answer. From the same 2013 study, when participants sat in an ordered or disorderly room for 10 minutes, those who sat in the ordered one donated more to children’s charity and were more likely to eat healthy (when given a choice between an apple and a chocolate bar.) Researchers concluded order generates thought on "tradition and convention," whereas disorder directs thought to "unconventionality," Business Insider added.

Whether messiness or neatness generates more productivity, the results are mixed. A different 2013 study found that undergrads stayed with a task longer when their environment was tidy than when it wasn’t, as the “mess threatened participants' sense of personal control,” according to Business Insider. But a 2015 study found that “a messy environment can prompt goal-oriented behavior.”

Experiment with what works for you, Business Insider recommended.

Light it up

Working near windows, for example, can lead to better health and mood, The Denver Post reported. If you don’t have a window, then intensify overhead lights, get a desktop light box, such as those used for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or take a walk either to a window or straight outside, it continued.

Much like organization, different lighting can have different results. A 2013 study suggests that bright lights mean more alertness, while dim lights can lead to more creativity, according to The Denver Post.

Just don’t create a space so brightly lit that there’s a glare. Position monitors so that window or overhead glare is minimized and avoid having a sole bright area in an otherwise dark room, The Denver Post article recommended.

The other senses

Sound and temperature can adversely affect how you work, with noisy distractions raising stress levels and warmer rooms bringing greater productivity. Have a blanket, sweater or space heater on hand for heat, and noise cancellation headphones to drown out distractions with concentration-boosting sounds, such as white noise or the sound of a coffee shop, lifehack.org recommended.

As for music, this may require some experimenting. Some research shows that classical music, video game soundtracks, nature sounds, instrumentals, “feel good” and “pump up” music can increase productivity, a post from Hubspot said. Other research shows that music improves performance when doing something you’ve done many times before, while “cognitively demanding tasks” are best done in silence, Time.com reported.

Smells can also increase focus and productivity, according to lifehack.org. Some scents and their effects are:

  • Pine makes you more alert
  • Cinnamon helps you focus
  • Lavender helps you relax if you’re stressed
  • Peppermint lifts you mood
  • And any citrus scent wakes you up, improving your spirits
Since your co-workers might not appreciate the smell, lifehack.org recommends keeping it discreet by carrying a few scented oils and putting a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball when you need a quick pick-me-up.

Email: smanderson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @Sarahsonofander.

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