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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

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15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

If you work in a company office:
You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

If you work from a home office:
Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

Chair and Table

If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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  • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
  • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
  • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

If you work in a company office:
Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

If you work from a home office:
Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

Clutter

Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

Room Color

The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

Room Temperature

Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

Room Scents

Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

Try using these scents to stay focused:

  • Pine – Increases alertness
  • Cinnamon – Improves focus
  • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
  • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
  • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

Noise Level

The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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Air Quality

Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

Different Spaces

If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

Organization of People

Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

Idea Storage

Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

Refreshment

Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

Bring in Nature

We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

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Digital Space

For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

More by this author

Heather Rees

Career coach and creative startup strategist

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Last Updated on October 19, 2021

Can You Really Get Over Cell Phone Distraction?

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Can You Really Get Over Cell Phone Distraction?

“Good morning Sir. It’s 7 a.m. The weather is going to be cool today with chances of light showers.” From this wake-up call to working, cooking, drinking your cup of caffeine-elixir, and working out, do any of these activities involve you without your cell phone?

A mere device of convenience has smoothly transformed to become a major intrusion. With cell phone distraction at bay, the increased dependence on screens has been an alarming phase for your life, maybe more than you care to admit. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we even stated that this has become a complete addiction.

Can we really get over cell phone distraction and end this addiction?

Considering this addiction, we will be treading with caution. Let’s dive into the journey to ending cell phone distraction.

Pre-Contemplation

This is all about denial—a denial that you can’t move your screen away from your eyes, denial that you may have Nomophobia or “no mobile phone” phobia. We completely understand that. But with this stage, it is all about making you realize how strong the addiction is (maybe stronger than Biohazard’s 928mg of caffeine)!

While you might have already internalized the damage, here’s offering some help with your addiction. We would be providing you a holistic idea about the consistent pandemic called mobile distractions and guide you around with hacks to tackle the addiction.

That said, it’s time to dive into the details!

Contemplation – A Peek at Cell Phone Distraction

Look around you. Apart from the N-95 masks and frenzied use of sanitizers, what do you see in common? “Expressions projected at the screen held in front of the eyes.”

It will probably be safe to say that smartphones have become quite the companion, so much that the real companion is often ignored for the virtual ones. You must have come across many memes based on this topic.

Additionally, the terrifying statistics on your cell phone addiction are not going exactly subtle on the massacre that this distraction has become.

Here’s to give you some perspective with the numbers:

  • Average mobile phone users click, tap, and swipe their mobile phones 2,617 times a day.[1]
  • Worldwide phone users have crossed the threshold of 3 billion and are predicted to have exponential growth of several hundred million in the coming years.[2]
  • 61.20% of the globe’s population own smartphones as of September 2020.[3]

While the latter two statistics prove the rising reliance on phones, the first number is indicative of the twiddling-thumb syndrome following the addiction.

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Considering your widened eyes over the numbers, we can safely assume that you have moved on to stage 2: contemplation. This stage will let you see the change that you need to undergo to ensure a screen-free healthier lifestyle.

While we acknowledge the crucial role that screens play for some activities, we believe you can easily do away with some of these engagements, reducing the time consumed to a bare minimum.

Think of the physiological, psychological, and sociological impact. With so much at stake and the distraction breaching all ages, it is time to start on with some hacks to break up this cell phone distraction.

How to Break Up With Cell Phone Distraction

Let’s not get obvious here. We won’t tell you about the:

  • reduced attention span,
  • potential loneliness,
  • mitigating eye-health, etc.

That’s something that parents all over the globe have been putting out on banners. As a result, these facts are much likely to be considered ‘preaching.’

We, on the other hand, have a greater concern—your cell phones, most likely, are gnawing away your me-time and hence, your creative potentials. That is something that should never be compromised. Thus, it’s time you follow up on the hacks from the pros that have been proven to be effective across all ages.

Here let me fire away the life-altering, screen-shattering hacks that pose as Stage 3 Preparation and Stage 4 Action to cure your addiction:

1. Lean on an App to Track Your Daily Usage of Cell Phones

It would be safe to say that you have some tiny “time thieves” lurking in your mobile phones, crunching and munching away your precious hours. For the hacks, we start with the most convenient one—installing phone usage tracker apps.

Here is a list of the best ones for both the Android and the iOS platforms in 2020.

  • QualityTime – My Digital Diet
  • YourHour – Phone Addiction Tracker and Controller
  • Stay Focused – App Block (Control Phone Addiction)
  • Social Fever App Usage Tracker
  • PhoneUsage Tracker

With either of these apps playing the ‘personal trainer’ or referee, your hours spent on social media platforms and your phone, as a whole, are tracked down. While you check the hours for the first time, beware: the numbers may not be for the weak hearts!

2. Re-Subscribe to Your Hobbies

The price that you pay for your cell phone distraction is your growing distance from your hobbies. While you kill time with your screen-related engagements, you lose the roots of your hobbies.

So, make sure to do the following steps:

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  1. List down your hobbies.
  2. Put it up on your headboard or sticky notes.
  3. Start slow on your hobbies.
  4. Set realistic goals, dividing the time spent on your phones and your hobby.

Once you rekindle your old, highschool-sweetheart of love, the attachment with the screen will eventually wither away.

3. Take a Vow of Silence From Social Media Platforms

When was the last time you ate without taking a click or went out with your friends without hashtagging the pic on Instagram? How often do you giggle while scrolling down Facebook feeds or go ‘aww’ at the cute kitty and doggo videos?

We are guessing, a lot!

The numbers confirm our opinion. As per the World Economic Forum, Millennials spent approximately 2 hours 38 minutes and Gen Z 2 hours 55 minutes daily on social media platforms.[4]

Additionally, if you thought Covid-19 changed Ecommerce only, you are mistaken.[5] The recent pandemic state and its lockdown and social distancing have unfortunately brought you closer to your screens.

The landscape looks something like this:

    So, here is the most challenging hack of all—go nuclear on your social media apps. Before you go AWOL on us after listening to this, hear us out!

    The potential impact of social media platforms goes even beyond the mere time spent on it. You tend to take more interest in others’ lives, ending up comparing that with yours. And this, our ‘friends, Romans, and countrymen,’ has innumerable adversities.

    Remember, even if you delete the apps, you still have your accounts there. Also, if deleting it seems too much of an anxiety trigger, follow up with the time spent (using the apps on Hack 101) and put a realistic cap to it.

    4. Get Your Silent/Do Not Disturb Mode Working Occasionally

    For this hack, acknowledge first the fact that introspection or “me” time is incomparable. The diverse ringtones and tunes emerging from your cell phone are baits that will draw out hours from your life.

    While putting your phone on silent during meals or work meetings is a matter of manners, doing the same at other times means you are just prioritizing yourself. This will help you go back to your old habits and stay away from technological labyrinths.

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    5. Set a Realistic To-Do List for the Day Sans Any Screen-Involvement

    How often do we treat ourselves for a great performance at work? Maybe a pizza or a bowl of ice cream? Why don’t you do the same for your cell phone distraction?

    What you need to do is:

    1. Sit down with a daily bucket list before sleeping off at night.
    2. Make sure that the list of activities involves minimum screen time.
    3. Accomplish the listed jobs and then reward yourself with some social media scrolling.

    So, do we have a deal? Get started, ASAP!

    6. Where Have Your Books/Magazines Gone?

    Ask around, and your last generation will tell you the attraction of the tangible books—the tranquility involved in flipping the pages while your palm hugs a cup of your warm caffeine.

    With Kindles, Ipads, and tablets, that charm is long lost. However, for those looking and determined to dig away from this distraction, we suggest you try this reconnection. Reading, not on screens, but with the physical and tangible books will help you feel grounded and rekindle yet another hobby that will be responsible for your personal growth.

    So, dust the cobwebs off your bookshelf, and get your mind its treat of imagination!

    7. Go Serial Killer on Your Notifications

    Don’t get us wrong! We are not asking you to go all ‘Ted Bundy’ on your notifications but also, can you do that, please? Hear us out before freaking out completely.

    All of your sneaky apps frequently give out tiny beckonings via notifications, reminding you of their existence.

    While being notified is appreciated occasionally, it can surmount to considerable distraction if the phone goes off every 5 minutes.

    The best way out? Turn off notifications, even if for a couple of hours. You will then have the power not to be distracted from your contemporary activity and enjoy scanning through notifications at your preferred time.

    8. Get the Screen Glares Away an Hour Before Sleep

    What’s the best excuse that you put on for keeping your cell phone on your nightstand?

    Let me guess. Alarm?

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    Quit the excuse queue, your alarm clock can serve the purpose well! Additionally, you won’t have the ‘convenient access’ to your screen right before you sleep.

    Seems harsh? Follow through and you will experience a sudden and considerable improvement in your daily schedule. Without your phone in an arm’s reach from your bed, you also won’t start your day by scrolling social media feeds.

    9. Go for a Black and White Mode

    OLED or Organic Light-Emitting Diode is the latest call of the display technology in cell phones. With promises of better black themes and incredible pixel-views, the color contrast in this display is too attractive.

    However, it is this color-coding that fetches and attaches you for a longer time on your cell phones. For those seeking to get rid of your cell phone distraction, your best way forward is by opting for grayscale. This makes the screen much less desirable to look at.

    As of recent, multiple phones come with ‘bedtime mode’ that switches off the phone to grayscale mode. With the color drained from your phone, the social media platforms become immediately unattractive. In case you are seeking a reference, think of the memory Dump ground in Pixar’s Inside Out.

    10. Be Ready for the Withdrawal Symptoms

    Much like any addiction, acting on the cell phone distraction also brings in withdrawal symptoms (read up Nomophobia or “no mobile phone” phobia). While planning to leave your phone at home might seem a brave move, agitations, distractions, stressing out, and getting upset are surefire consequences.

    Considering that cell phones have become the representative for connectivity, staying away from them is a huge stress. Researchers have also gone their distance to say that compulsive cell phone behavior is a resultant of the Pavlovian conditioning system.

    The tune of cell phone notifications somehow sends a signal that some great news is on its way, and you are compelled to check your phone, considering that the notification meets up to your expectation leading to a release of dopamine into your system. With that dopamine release around, your anxiety is sure to kick in. So, prepare yourself for that!

    11. Pro Hack: Embrace Your Smart Speakers

    Do you know that grey pretty piece of technology greeting you with the weather update? Your Alexa/ Siri/Cortana/Google at play via smart speakers? They can be quite the acquaintance when you are trying to get rid of your cell phone distraction.

    Considering that you need the support of your phones to carry out daily activities, you can always rely on screen-less technology. This will help keep the smartphone away from your hands for a prolonged period.

    Final Thoughts

    Nearing the end of your addiction recovery, it’s all about maintenance and recovery. Don’t let your cellular bridles go loose thinking that you are over your cell phone distraction.

    You can always rely on the ‘hair band technique’ to keep the scrolling thumbs away. Maybe, you will be reminded that those opposable thumbs of yours can do much better—the guides of which you can find in the diverse blogs posted on the site or our social media sites.

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    What say, you game?

    More Tips to Avoid Cell Phone Distraction

    Featured photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo via unsplash.com

    Reference

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