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7 Simple Ways To Ramp Up Productivity In Your Home Office

7 Simple Ways To Ramp Up Productivity In Your Home Office

Big businesses are rapidly realizing something that self-employed workers have known for ages: allowing employees to work remotely does great things for productivity and happiness. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the percent of non-self-employed people who work from home has more than doubled over the last 10 years. What’s more, the average business saves approximately $11,000 per telecommuter annually, and nearly 70 percent of companies report increased productivity from their virtual workers.

However, the success of remote working depends a lot on the home office environment. Whether you have been working from home for years or are new to virtual employment, a positive work-from-home experience starts with a smartly assembled workspace. Here are seven easy ways to create the ultimate remote work setup.

1. Declutter

Clutter can infest your space with distractions and have a profound effect on your mood. To combat this, examine your home office and remove items that don’t belong, paying particular attention to your desktop or other work surfaces. Use of a variety of storage containers and desk accessories to keep the things you need handy but out of sight.

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Tip: If your office is tight on floor space, use a combination of shelving and wall pockets to organize your essentials.

2. Incorporate a personal touch

You spend a lot of time in your office, so creating a personal and positive space is well worth the effort. Start by establishing a cohesive home office style that you identify with, and then add inspirational décor that works with that theme. Whether you’re motivated by pet pictures, encouraging quotes, or vacation mementoes, a few carefully selected items can arouse positive vibes even on the worst of days.

Tip: For virtual work that requires a heavy dose of creativity or focus, consider changing the color scheme of your office. Different hues provide a range of psychological boosts — white is great for fostering imagination, for example, whereas blue can help promote a calm and centered mentality.

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3. Improve area lighting

Lighting is an underestimated element of a productive workspace. A dimly lit office not only increases eye fatigue, but it can also make you sleepy and negatively impact your mood. In addition to adjusting the ceiling-mounted fixtures that illuminate your office, it’s important to make use of task lights as well. These smaller lights can help ensure that your desk or other work area is sufficiently well-lit, improving both attitude and performance.

Tip: An LED dimming system is an easy and energy-efficient way to change the level of lighting in your home office as needed throughout the day.

4. Update your technology

As a virtual worker, you probably rely heavily on technology, which means keeping devices up-to-date is paramount to productivity. Whether it’s a printer you are always troubleshooting or software you have outgrown, make some time to evaluate your home office technology and upgrade tools as necessary. Plenty of new office tech products are released every year, so stay on top of recent developments to really enhance your work environment.

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Tip: You might not realize it, but a slow Internet connection may be hampering your efficiency. Test your Internet speed to find out if your connection is sufficient.

5. Elevate your computer

Hunching over a computer every day can ruin your posture and lead to an array of neck and back problems. Using a computer stand to elevate your laptop or mounting your desktop monitor to a more comfortable viewing height can help alleviate these issues. You’ll be surprised at how much more enjoyable work is when you don’t have to worry about physical strain.

Tip: Increase your comfort further by investing in a quality desk chair that provides ample support for your lower back. Or, if you want your workspace to double as a workout space, use a stability ball to help strengthen your core muscles.

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6. Play some tunes

A number of reports indicate that listening to certain types of music can boost productivity, creativity, and memory. Capitalize on this by purchasing high-quality speakers and using an app like Spotify to create playlists for different work-related jobs. Upbeat tunes are preferred for redundant tasks, and soothing music is the best choice for brainstorming and creativity.

Tip: When playing background music, stay away from songs with lyrics, as they can be distracting. Instead, listen to natural sounds, like a babbling brook or ocean waves.

7. Add plants

Adding plants to your home office will make the space feel more warm and welcoming. Potted plants also provide a natural way to help filter air and replenish oxygen — English ivy and golden pothos are two particularly excellent plant purifiers. If you don’t have a green thumb, opt for a more resilient plant, like a small cactus or succulent.

Tip: For a dose of aromatherapy, place a planter of lavender near your desk. The scent can help relieve stress and promote uplifting thoughts. Creating the perfect home work environment can be tricky, even if you’re a virtual veteran. Try a few of these simple suggestions to figure out what works best for you. In a matter of days, you could be working in a dynamic home office that catapults both your productivity and your happiness.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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