How To Stop Your Office From Zapping Your Productivity

You write your to-do lists and prioritize your workload, but something still seems to be standing in the way between you and productivity. Have you ever considered your office environment as the culprit?

How To Stop Your Office From Zapping Your Productivity
[Image: Flickr user Wolfgang Lonien]

Productivity is about knocking out tasks one at a time and staying in the moment, but what happens when your office environment gets in the way?


Numerous studies have found that your office design is vital for reaching your productivity potential.

In order to save you time, here are five areas you can easily tackle for a productivity-conducive work environment:

1. Lighting

Photographers get it, scientists get it, and you should get it too: Artificial, fluorescent lighting just isn’t the same as natural light.

According to research by Swiss neuroscientist Mirjam Munch, people exposed to direct daylight are significantly more alert at the beginning of the evening, while those exposed to artificial light are significantly sleepier at the end of the evening.

You may be surprised just how much positioning yourself next to a window could help you with the 3 p.m. slump.

2. Organization

How Office Tech & Decor Affect Productivity [INFOGRAPHIC] by The Everygirl, LLC

Office Depot teamed up with the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to survey over 1,000 office workers about how messy their workspaces are. They found that 32% admitted to having a disorganized workspace, and 47% believed that their messiness led to lost work time.


NAPO has some tips about how to organize your office space, though, that could come in handy:

  1. Keep only the supplies you use on a daily basis on your desktop.

  2. Create a paper flow system for your incoming documents, and use your inbox only for items that you haven’t looked at yet.

  3. Don’t stop halfway. Look at a document and decide what to do with it–then follow through. Don’t leave it sitting on your desk.

  4. Create a filing system for your electronic documents similar to the one you have for paper. Sort, file, and purge electronic information regularly.

For a more visual view of NAPO’s extensive organization tips, check out their Pinterest page.

3. Office Plants

Office plants are a simple and cost-effective way to boost worker productivity and satisfaction.

University of Michigan psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan believe that our brains expend a lot of energy on tasks that require direct attention, causing mental fatigue. We can give our direct attention a break by shifting our minds to an effortless form of engagement, like nature.

“Desk plants should be as essential as office supplies,” Kaplan says.

How Office Tech & Decor Affect Productivity [INFOGRAPHIC] by The Everygirl, LLC

Some of the best plants for the office can also have health benefits:

  • Areca palms: According to researcher Kamal Meattle, three common houseplants, including the areca palm and variegated snake plant, can produce all the fresh air you need. “In fact,” he says, “you could be in a bottle with a cap on top, and you would not die at all, and you would not need any fresh air.” Areca palms remove CO2 and convert it into oxygen.

  • Variegated snake plant: Also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, this is a very common plant that converts CO2 into oxygen at night.

  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm contains chemicals that appear to have a calming effect. According to research from Ohio State University Department of Psychiatry, the lemon scent the plant produces is described as activating and mood enhancing, reliably raising levels of norepinephrine in study participants.

4. Color

While we’ve taken a look at the effect color can have on consumers before, color can affect your productivity as well.

As we’ve seen before, color can have real psychological affects on people, and color psychologist Angela Wright believes it is not just color itself that affects productivity, but also color’s saturation and intensity.

Here’s how Wright breaks down some of color’s effect on the mind:

  • Red: Inspires physical effects, like strength, warmth, excitement, and aggression.

  • Yellow: Inspires emotional effects, like feelings of optimism, confidence, and self-esteem.

  • Green: Inspires effects on balance and feelings of restfulness.

  • Blue: Inspires intellectual effects, like stimulating clearer thought and greater concentration.

  • White: Signifies sterility and purity and gives a heightened perception of space.

Based on Wright’s teachings, bright, saturated colors will stimulate workers, while softer, muted colors will soothe them. Makes sense, no?

About the author

Rachel Gillett is a former editorial assistant for’s Leadership section. Her work has been featured on,, and elsewhere