If you’re like many office workers, you move into whatever cubicle or workspace you’re provided, perhaps prop up a family photo, and get to work.
But productivity expert Carson Tate, author of Work Simply says investing in your work environment can pay huge dividends in increased productivity and happiness. "If the space you work in isn’t set up to optimize work flow, you’re going to end up expending a lot more time and energy to get that work done," says Tate.
Worse, if your workspace is boring and unfulfilling on a spiritual or emotional level, it can quickly drain your energy and cause you to feel uninspired. Optimizing your workspace requires two components, according to Tate: It must be both functional for the job and emotionally fulfilling. Here are five things to consider to bring both components to your workspace:
Tate says knowing your productivity style can help you find the right organizational tools that work for you. Individuals who are more analytical, structured, and organized tend to excel in environments that have clean, simple lines and are virtually free of visual clutter. One or two family photos are all that are needed for these individuals to feel inspired by their work environment. Organizational tools and sleek, streamlined furniture that emphasize function over aesthetics make them most productive.
Creative individuals, on the other hand, tend to excel in colorful environments that are adorned with plenty of artwork, personal memorabilia, and casual furniture that is more aesthetically pleasing than functional. They prefer spaces that are designed to appeal to all five senses. They often have music playing in the background, a scented candle, and fun pieces such as a bright green stapler or fluorescent memo pads to keep them inspired all day long.
Your ideal workspace design will highly depend on the type of work that you do. Tate advises assessing your core accountabilities before making any changes to your workspace.
In my line of work, the core elements of my job involve talking on the phone, typing on my laptop, and doing research. Tate recommends a space that provides plenty of storage for idea books, magazines, and newspaper clippings, a phone that is accessible and located next to my laptop, and an ergonomic chair that allows me to sit and type for hours on end.
Could it be true that everything we needed to learn about organization we learned in kindergarten? Tate says the kindergarten setup is ideal for most office workers. "In kindergarten, we have very distinct activity zones," she says. "Everything has a place and there are no objects in a zone that don’t belong there. In the dress-up area, there aren’t any books, and in the book area, you’ve got beanbag chairs and books because that’s what you’re doing in that area."
Tate says the most effective office setup—the one that maximizes our productivity—is one that mimics the kindergarten model. As a coach, Tate has a zone in her office where she conducts phone consultations. She's put a comfortable chair in a quiet corner of her office, and placed a high-quality headset away from her computer to avoid being distracted.
"Space shaping is the cornerstone of working simply," she says. "It’s making the space fully support the type of work that you do."
The design of your workspace can impact your work behavior. Think about your kitchen. If you decide to go on a diet, then the first thing you will probably do is clean out your kitchen of all temptations. Salty snacks and leftover Halloween candy are replaced by a bowl of apples and oranges to support your new healthy eating habits.
The same concept is at play with workspaces. Maximizing your productivity means designing an office space that allows for the behaviors you need to exhibit to get the job done.
If you work in a cubicle maze, then it may be hard to imagine you can do anything about your drab surroundings. While you may be restricted by the size of your workspace, Tate argues you can still make this space work for you.
- Bring in a small task light to create a more welcoming ambience
- Use noise-reducing headphones when you require a quiet workspace
- Tack up inspiring artwork to dress up your cubicle walls
- Purchase colorful accessories or organizational tools, such as file boxes, to meet your productivity style
Even the smallest change can make a big difference in how you work in your space, and how your workspace works for you.