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5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace

5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace

Have you ever noticed how workspaces look so simple and organized in stock photographs? You know, like the image I’ve used for this article? That setup is so efficient it looks like work will practically do itself! Give me a break. No one’s desk really looks like that. Which can be a problem when it comes to productivity.

How Your Physical Workspace Affects Productivity

In 2011, OfficeMax conducted a workspace organization survey in which over 1,000 adults participated. A whopping 77% of participants said clutter damages their productivity.

Disorganization makes it hard to find things, and the time you spend searching through jumbled stacks of papers and folders is time you could have been using to accomplish a task.

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Over half of all respondents in the OfficeMax survey said that “disorganization impairs their state of mind and motivation levels.” Sooner or later, you start to feel buried under the conglomeration of materials you’ve accumulated. Getting your office or cubicle in order will help reduce stress and increase productivity.

Realistic Changes that Will Help You Get Organized and Be Productive  

I’ll guess that when you first started working for your current employer, the clutter you now face every day was not required for a job well done. Am I right? So there is no reason why you can’t get back to the basics of a more minimalist work station today. Don’t worry, your family photo can stay where it is.

1. Identify the Essentials

A great place to start is identifying what items you need to perform your job. We’re getting back to basics, here. Determine what your bare essentials are and then give each item a designated place where it is always within an arm’s reach.

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What should you do with the non-essentials you’ve had lying around? Toss them, file them, gift them, or return them to the appropriate person or place.

2. Establish a Filing System

Depending on the line of work involved, filing systems often vary from person to person. But there are some recommended basics to keep in mind when determining your method.

  • Separate “read” from “not read:” The papers you have already read should be placed in a separate folder or tray from the papers you have not read yet.
  • Categorization: Once you have read a document, categorize it appropriately. For some people this means color coding papers with post-it filing tabs to distinguish high importance items from standard, daily tasks. Others may prefer to file documents according to particular projects or clients. Choose the categorization method that makes the most sense for your job and—here’s the most important part—stick with it!

3. Minimize Noise

Has your office adopted an open floor plan? If so, you’re forced to work amidst disruptive noise. A study published by Cornell University reports that noise decreases productivity, increases stress and illness, and can lower job satisfaction.

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Your productivity also declines when listening to music, according to cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin and a growing number of research studies on the subject. “In almost every case, your performance on intellectual tasks such as reading and writing suffers considerably when you listen to music,” explains Levitin.

What should you do? Since asking for your own office is probably out of the question, try investing in some noise canceling headphones and foregoing the music while you’re at work.

4. Prepare Your Work Area Ahead of Time

It only takes five or ten minutes to prepare your workspace for the following day. Set aside about ten minutes every evening before leaving the office to clear your desk of trash, clean mugs and other dishes, install necessary updates on your computer, and create a to-do list for the next day. These few minutes of organization will allow you to come into work each morning to a functional workspace that encourages productivity.

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5. De-clutter Your Computer Desktop

Not only do many office workers feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter on their physical desktop, they also get stressed by the state of their digital desktop. If you’re working in an office environment, chances are pretty good that you rely heavily on a computer to carry out your duties. So it’s important to keep this part of your workspace clean and functional.

Create a digital filing system that provides quick, easy access to all of your documents. Again, the structure of this system will depend on your preferences and job function, but there are some guidelines that will help you along.

  • Avoid putting everything in one folder: This pretty much says it all. Saving all your files in the same folder is like dumping all of your papers and office supplies into one desk drawer. What a mess!
  • Logical categorization is key: Try taking the same categorization method you chose for your paper filing system and applying it to your digital documents.
  • Don’t go overboard with subfolders: Subfolders are great. But be careful not to over-complicate your system with too many of them. When important files are four or five clicks away, your intricate storage system starts to be a time waster instead of a time saver.

A workspace and the items within it should facilitate productivity rather than hinder it. Implementing these five changes will have you well on your way to accomplishing more each time you sit down at your desk.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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