“Fifty-eight percent of your working life is spent in the office”
The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave. This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance. Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.
Take ownership of your work space
The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your work space 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 with Alex Haslam involving 47 office workers in London. Those workers 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 the team effort and increased efficiency. If you are a manager or business owner this suggests you should give your staff as much input into the design of their office and immediate workspace as possible. Alternatively, if you’re a creative in an open-plan office, try to find ways to make your mark on your immediate environment. Even the simple use of a pin-board to post your own pictures and messages could help you feel that the space is yours with consequent benefits for your work.
Take advantage of color, light and space
Choosing the right color and lighting scheme for your office is one of the simplest ways your environment can enhance your performance. Different colors and light levels have different psychological effects, so the ideal situation is to install a lighting system that allows you to alter the hue and brightness of your room to suit the kind of work that you’re engaged in.
For instance, exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas.
However, the color red has been linked with superior performance on tasks involving attention to detail. Another study out this year showed that a dimmer environment fostered superior creativity in terms of idea generation, probably because it encourages a feeling of freedom. On the other hand, brighter light levels were more conducive to analytical and evaluative thinking.
Not as easy to modify, but ceiling height has also been shown to have psychological effects. A 2007 study found that a higher ceiling was associated with feelings of freedom, together with a more abstract and relational thinking style that helped participants see the commonalities between objects and concepts.
Make use of plants and windows
If you only do one thing to optimize your workspace, invest in a green plant or two. Research has repeatedly shown that the presence of office plants has a range of benefits including helping workers recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels. As a bonus, there’s also evidence that plants can reduce office pollution levels.
Another feature of an optimized office is a window with a view, preferably of a natural landscape. This is because a glance at the
hills or a lake recharges your mind. Obviously a view of nature isn’t possible for many people who work in cities, but even in an urban situation, a view of trees or intricate architecture have both been linked with restorative benefits. If you can’t negotiate a desk with a view, another plan is to bring the outdoors in. A painting of a lush landscape will revitalize your mind and compensate for your lack of a view.
Reflect, enhance and reinforce the culture of your business
All businesses as an organization have the run-of-the-mill mission and/or vision statements and maybe a few additional identifiers to shape their business culture. A sure way to have the organization living and and breathing it’s culture however, is through translation into it’s office design and decor. The colors, setup and layout cohesion of an office will have a direct impact on the productivity, dedication and passion of the employees working in the space.
It’s easy to neglect the importance of your workspace, especially if you’re under pressure with deadlines and not so into interior design. But hopefully this review has convinced you that the spaces we occupy really can affect us psychologically. It’s vital 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.