How to Make Your Workspace Healthier and More Productive
Whether you work at home or in an office or other place, your workspace matters and can affect your mood, productivity and health. Yes, really. After all, this is a space where most people spend 8 or more hours a day—at least a third of your day.
So, check out how you can make your workspace work better for you and hopefully reap some benefits.
Office clutter can affect your productivity and your clutter may even cost you a promotion. Too much stuff in our workspace (and in other spaces) can distract us, cause us to feel more overwhelmed, and can waste time and energy when we need to find something under that stack of papers or in that messy drawer.
- First, clear out what you don’t need. Put only what you use on a daily basis on your desk or within reach in an organized drawer. For most of us, a computer, notebook, writing utensil and perhaps a phone are all we need. It can be tempting to buy fun office supplies but ask yourself if you’ll ever actually use them and if they’ll ultimately add value to your workspace and life. If they’ll end up as clutter, just say no. For me, that means not buying that gold Nate Berkus stapler from Target or all the other office accessories I think are attractive (pretty much all the gold or Nate Berkus things) since I literally can’t remember the last time I needed a stapler or any of those other items. Décor is one thing—we’ll get to that below—but even that can add up to clutter and take up space (and money).
- Try this workspace experiment from The Minimalists: Get rid of your office stuff today (box it up or simply get it out of the way), then slowly reintroduce items to your workspace as needed over the next few days. Then get rid of anything you didn’t reintroduce—anything you don’t use this week. If that seems extreme, try two weeks. But if you’re not using the things you’ve packed up (and, chances are, you won’t even remember everything you packed up), ask yourself: Why am I keeping this? If it’s because you may use it “someday” but the last time you used it hasn’t been in months or years—or maybe ever—it’s probably time to give it away.
- Try Forbes’s 10 tricks to de-clutter your office.
- Don’t forget to de-clutter your computer’s desktop too!
Working at a desk for hours a day can do a number on our bodies. We don’t move much, which can cause a host of health issues. We hunch forward to type and our head is often looking down or leaning forward, all of which can cause pain and issues with our neck, shoulders and back.
Typical laptops are not ergonomically designed since your screen should be at eye level while your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle while you type. And don’t even get me started on the non-ergonomic keyboard and mouse pad that can contribute to wrist and arm pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and other ailments.
Help your body, your health and your work:
- Check out how to set up an ergonomic workstation.
- Get moving at your desk more with these exercises you can do at work.
Go natural with light
Access to natural light helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, which help the body to feel awake during daylight hours and sleepier toward the end of the day when we are getting ready to go to sleep. But artificial light is disrupting those circadian rhythms, a study found. Forbes cited a study that found people who worked in artificial light were sleepier at the end of the day compared to those who worked in natural light.
Try to work near a window, skylight or somewhere with natural light if you can. If you have a boss who's open to feedback, perhaps mention the studies above about how natural light is best for workers—and therefore, the company. Maybe you can move your desk or work in a space with more natural light for even part of the day.
Bring the outdoors in
Being in nature has positive effects like lifting mood and increasing mental clarity and creativity. But if you work inside, you can still get some of nature’s benefits. Studies show that people who have a view of some sort of nature outside their window recovered faster in hospitals and performed better in school, National Geographic reported. Looking at just pictures of nature was also helpful and was shown to lower stress.
If you’re able to get a view of nature from your workspace, go for it! Otherwise, get a plant or two—even fake ones if you have a black thumb—or put a photo or poster of a nature setting that calms you near your workspace.
While some people work best in a minimalist type workspace, others work better with some decoration. “A group of researchers found that when employees were allowed to decorate their offices—with personal pictures and knickknacks—their work performance was positively affected,” Inc. reported.
If you want a workspace with just the essentials, then no need to add anything. At least try a few weeks in your de-cluttered workspace to see how it feels.
But if you want more inspiration or color, think of what you like that will help accentuate your workspace but also not distract you or feel cluttered. Maybe that’s wall art (like a nature scene mentioned above), a family photo or two, a small chalkboard or whiteboard on which you can write inspiring phrases or goals, etc. You don’t need to add a bunch of stuff to your workspace all at once. Try adding one thing at a time and see how that feels for a few days.
Get Some Air
Air quality is something we can take for granted, especially if we’re inside and the air doesn’t seem noticeably bad. But there’s no way to know what allergens are in your workspace, from the carpet and furniture to dust—who knows how often, if ever, the air ducts are cleaned? Poor air quality can affect your health and your ability to work, so help clean it up.
If you can open a window for some fresh air, try that. Or, get a good air purifier for your space at home or in the office.
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.