Create a Workspace You’ll Be Inspired to Work In

During a typical workweek, the average person spends eight hours a day, five days a week plugging away at their desk.

Take a moment and look away from your computer screen. What do you see? Is your desk tidy? Do you have a window view? Are there any plants in sight? Did you personally choose the decorations near your desk?

All these factors and more have interesting psychological effects on how people work and how good they feel about it. Here are four tips, based on psychological research, for creating the ideal workspace.

1. Decorate

The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your workspace has an empowering effect and has been linked with improved productivity.

Craig Knight, Director of the Identity Realization workplace consultancy, showed this in a 2010 study involving 47 office workers in London. The employees who were given the opportunity to arrange a small office with as many or few plants and pictures as they wanted were up to 32 percent more productive than others not given this control. They also identified more with their employer, a sign of increased commitment to team and increased efficiency.

If not given much autonomy when it comes to personalizing your workspace, the use of a simple pin-board to post your own pictures and messages could help you feel that the space is yours with consequent benefits to your work.

2. Room with a view (or at least a picture of one)

Most of us know that a nice walk through nature has a calming effect on the mind. Why not bring a little nature into the office? A study conducted by Rita Berto found that just viewing pictures of natural scenes facilitates recovery from mental fatigue. Posting a photo of a natural setting that you’ve visited, or would like to visit, in your workspace could reduce short-term stress, as well as benefit overall health and well-being.

3. Plants

Just as natural scenes can calm the mind, plants work as well. Research has repeatedly shown that the presence of office plants has a range of benefits including helping workers to recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels. A study conducted in 2011 found that after being exposed to an office setting with four indoor plants, people’s attention capacities were restored in comparison to the control condition, which had no plant life.

4. Neat vs. Messy

There’s a lot of pressure these days to be organized. How are you supposed to get your work done if you can’t find a clear space on your desk for your mouse? However, new research suggests that Einstein may have been onto something when he said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Kathleen Vohs and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota found that working in chaos could actually have its advantages. College students were placed in a messy or neat office and asked to dream up new uses for Ping-Pong balls. Those in messy workspaces generated ideas that were significantly more creative, according to two independent judges, than those working in offices where stacks of paper and other objects were neatly aligned.

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition,” Dr. Vohs and her co-authors conclude in the study, “which can produce fresh insights.”

It is easy to disregard the importance of your workspace, especially when deadlines are looming. However, study after study has proven that the spaces we occupy can really impact us psychologically. It is imperative that you choose an office space that you feel happy and comfortable in. If your freedom is restricted, shape the space as much as you can to make it your own. Get your surroundings in order and the rest is sure to follow.

We want to hear from you: How have you optimized your workspace?

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