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10 Signs of a Productive Office

10 Signs of a Productive Office

Finding a new job is undeniably stressful. Polishing your resume, applying for jobs, interviewing, interviewing again – you really invest a lot in finding a new place to work. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of 10 signs you should look for in a productive office. These signs will tip you off as to whether or not you will grow as a professional in your office environment. They might be small, but they are emblematic of the larger culture.

1. Work Space Layout

The actual physical layout of cubicles and other types of work space is a vital indicator of how much the company is willing to invest in its employees. As you walk through the office for your interview, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the physical work space assigned to employees of your level.

Take note, as this is an important sign of a productive office. If people are working at what seems like random set-ups, with desks strewn wherever they fit, then the company is likely not all that productive. If they invest in high quality cubicles or office space, that means the position you are interviewing for was definitively planned-for and will likely be empowering.

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2. Good Lighting

This is a surprising tip to recognize a productive office. As you go in for your interview, try to note the details of the lighting and the layout of the fixtures. If there are any dimly-lit areas, or if the ceiling is a hodgepodge of random lighting fixtures, then the management has not made it a priority to ensure that everyone can see their work. I have experienced this first-hand. Some of the most productive offices I have worked in have been the brightest, while the worst have simply been poorly-lit.

3. The Office is Colorful

Average or entirely unproductive offices will be bathed in taupes and egg-shell whites, as productive office environments, while not necessarily painted with rainbow murals, will be accented in some way by bright blues, yellows, reds, and other colors. Even better, if you are able to notice that areas seem to be color coordinated to work-styles – for example, IT works in areas with reds, creative teams work in yellow – then you are in a highly productive forward-thinking office.

4. The Office Allows for Ergonomic Comfort

Write this one down: if you notice anyone with a standing desk, you are in a highly productive office environment. If employees are allowed their own level of ergonomic comfort as they work, then the upper management has seriously taken into consideration its employees – a company doesn’t invest in the health of its employees in such a way unless it seriously cares about them and their work output.

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5. The Office is Full of Plants and Artwork.

The best office I ever worked was a non-profit organization that lined its walls with high-quality, professional photographs of our volunteers executing the mission of the organization. These photos provide much motivation for executing my work. Further, around each corner was a beautiful orchid, or some other type of plant life. As you walk around, you should feel inspired because of the things you see, and productive offices will spend money to make that so.

6. They Avoid Micromanagement

Once you get hired, you will be able to tell a lot about the office productivity quickly. When executing a task, take into account how closely your manager, or any manager, looks over shoulder, so to speak. Managers in productive offices walk a very fine line between being too hands-off and too domineering.

But if a manager is consistently taking a project out of your hands, reanalyzing it, and taking it in a different direction that you intended, spending much time on every detail, you have a micro-manager. This is the most unproductive of any management style, and productive workplaces don’t tolerate it.

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7. Teamwork yields serious results

In many office situations, when groups get together to work on projects, less is accomplished than if each person worked on the project individually. The hallmark of a productive office is valuable, results-oriented teamwork. If you consistently find that team-based solutions are much more effective than anything each individual could execute on their own, then you have landed in a great office environment.

8. People Telework

Good offices have embraced flexible work situations and gotten on-board with people telecommuting. If you hear of people who are able to flexibly work at home or from a remote location, then you are in a great office environment. I once worked in an office in Washington, DC, and my supervisor telecommuted from Seattle, Washington – it was the most productive work set-up I’ve had, and that was because of the flexibility my supervisor was afforded.

9. Music Is Allowed or Encouraged

Offices should allow people to listen to music in order to concentrate. If listening to music while working is discouraged or frowned upon, then the office most likely does not have your own creativity as its central mission. Of course, workers should wear headphones or take other measures to keep from bothering coworkers, but if you find that your musically-induced concentration is disliked by co-workers, then your office will likely be unproductive in other ways.

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10. You Receive an Agenda Before a Meeting

Some offices have three-hour marathon meetings that produce nothing, and this is likely because they lack an agenda. Once you are higher, keep track how often you get an agenda for a meeting. If you don’t consistently get one, then the meeting has likely been scheduled because of a manager’s need to make it only appear they are leading. If you consistently receive agendas, then you are knee-deep in a productive office environment.

Photo Credit: mjlacroix24 via Compfight cc

Featured photo credit: Rear view of businessman reading document in home office via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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