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How does your workspace affect you?

Posted by: Megan Troster

Productivity is made up of more than just working through your to-do list, sending emails and making phone calls.

The environment around you can affect your working results and even your mood. In a time where people are now working longer hours than ever, shaping a workspace to minimise stress and distraction is important.

According to a study in 2006 at Rockefeller University, stress can prematurely age your immune system and even shrink your brain cells! By taking control of your workspace you could increase your productivity and overall well-being. If you haven’t really thought about how this affects you, and you don’t know where to start, first ask yourself the following question: What does my workspace look like? If your working area doesn’t promote organisation and inspiration, maybe it’s time for a change!

Let’s start with the basics

A good chair can be the best investment for comfort at work. If you have any issues such as back problems, let your manager know. Discomfort can really inhibit an individual’s productivity. If you are going to be happier and more comfortable at work, this will in turn lead to increased productivity, so I’m sure your manager will have no qualms with you requesting things like back support or a lumbar support pillow for your chair.

Alongside this, good lighting is also important. Fluorescent office lighting can really take its toll on the eyes, especially when staring at a computer screen all day. If you do spend a lot of your time in front of a screen, try adjusting your monitor resolution until it’s at an angle and brightness which suits you. Taking strain off of your eyes will lessen the fatigue you begin to feel during the afternoon.

Is your desk an “organised mess”? Organised or not, a cluttered desk will lead to a cluttered mind. Does that stapler or hole-punch really need to be there? No? Then put it back in the drawer. Do you need to have paper all over the desk? No? Then file it away. Organising workspace goes back to the Industrial Revolution when managers were testing ways of how to make their staff more productive. It was actually to find ways of preventing injuries originally, but they found that their employees were more productive once their workspaces were organised. You will soon find that a clear and tidy work area will lead to increased levels of concentration, as you don’t have to constantly shuffle things around to make space for yourself.

You should however, keep some healthy snacks at your desk (tidied away of course!). Your body needs food to function, keep some fruit or nuts at your desk to eliminate any distracting hunger pangs. You could also keep a favourite photo, or ornament at your desk to personalise the space, as long as it doesn’t just create more disorder.

As well as being linked to productivity, your workspace can also directly affect how you feel. Clutter, mess and office design can all play an insidious role in increasing our “allostatic load.” This is simply the “wear and tear” on the body which increases over time when individuals are exposed to repeated or chronic stress. Some people can work in any given environment, regardless of their surroundings. For example, if you like a bustling environment and work best with background noise, you can listen to music or a podcast (where permitted). There is even a free online site called “Coffitivity” which provides the background noise of real coffee shop sounds! Some however, like to personalise their space in order to work more effectively. It is worth being aware of what does and doesn’t work for you personally.
Even though there will be structural factors you cannot control, if you feel good about the working area you have put together, it will decrease your stress levels and inspire your creativity.


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