What does your workspace look like?
Does it resemble NASA’s mission control, stacked with monitors and an assortment of blinking gadgets, docks and ports?
Or is it like the emptiness of space, with only a laptop and a mug in hand?
As more and more people get to work at home, the issue of workspace design becomes an emerging and evolving curiosity—from the gaming chairs that probably have nothing to do with lumbar support, to trendy water bottles for hydration.
Workspace decisions are very important because it’s the piece of real estate in your home that you probably spend the most time in.
So besides making it look cool and worthy of an Instagram flex, how should a conscientious worker design his work environment for productivity?
#1 Keep things within reach.
This hits on so many levels.
Keeping things within reach—pen, stress ball, notepad, mug, etc.—isn’t just about minimizing effort. It prevents you from unnecessary activity that could break your momentum and focus.
Remember that time when you needed a pen and you had to trudge to the next room and something happened along the way? Maybe your eye caught something, the TV, your phone, your wife in the kitchen, and before you know it, getting a pen becomes a whole conversation with your wife about what she should be making for dinner and that turned to making plans for eating out that night.
Arrange your desk so that there’s minimum movement from your hands. You’re left-handed? Keep your pens and pad on the left side of your desk. (You might as well keep the stress ball on that side too, so you can still work the mouse with your right as you squeeze the life out of that thing.)
Keeping things in a tight space or in one room does not only keep the workflow efficient. It also allows you to come up for air. If you have work-related things lying around the house, they’ll always going to be reminding you of work, even when you want to be taking a break.
Keeping things in that “work bubble” gives you boundaries so that when you want to “get away from it,” you can actually mentally do that.
It’s friendly to your mental health.
#2 Think “Mother Nature.”
There’s just something about nature. Whether it’s a potted plant, a window that looks out into a green scenery, a picture on the wall depicting nature’s beauty, or even natural lighting in the room—all these help your productivity.
Nature has a calming effect on the weary and worried soul, helping you focus and make better decisions at work.
There’s really just something about nature. No wonder when we want to relax or take a 15-minute breather, we close our eyes and think of a happy place—a secluded beach, a lush garden, a cool waterfall, or a quiet lake.
There’s really something about nature. When we have a free weekend from work, we go out of town, to a quiet retreat, amidst waters and trees. We drive to bodies of water or scenes of green. We hike trails and bike paths.
Imagine incorporating nature triggers in your work and embedding all of nature’s benefits.
A potted plant can be your secret weapon.
#3 Think hues and scents.
When you have that much flexibility, you might as well finetune everything to your liking.
The ladies are probably already in this game, but guys definitely need to think about details like colours and scents in the room.
You might say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Things like this don’t matter to me.” Yeah, but they do.
Studies have shown that, by and large, different colours hit us and affect our moods in different ways. You don’t want to be stuck in a room with a colour that always brings your energy down, or, for some reason makes you feel antsy.
Scents have their role too. A pretty big one, in fact. A Japanese study has found, for example, that a simple whiff of a lemon scent decreased errors by 54%. That’s like half of the mistakes gone with the wind.
Scents dramatically affect how we think and act. Of course, it will affect the way we work.
It’s little details like this that can either derail your productivity goals or send them to the moon.
#4 Change your scenery.
You have your home office. And as advised, you have everything in your “work bubble.” Everything you ever need is in that room that shields you from any form of distraction.
Over time though, you’ll feel choked. Things will get stuffy.
You’ll feel like everything is stagnant. Your creativity is drying up, and motivation is too few and far between.
The moment you feel these things, don’t waste a single second staying in the room. Either you take a breather and decompress, or you pick up your laptop and work somewhere else.
As a remote worker, you have that flexibility. It’s not like the office where you only have to stay in the room, the desk or the cubicle that has your name written on it.
You don’t have to go far.
Work in the next room. Work on the kitchen island. Stay for 30 minutes in the yard.
#5 Try mindful experimentation.
Go ahead. Re-arrange your desk, your room, and your work sequence. You might just discover something cool.
You might already be so into your work groove that introducing something new becomes quite difficult. But there are reasons why you should always be trying new things—whether it’s a new arrangement of your desk, a new colour scheme, a different time to work or a sequence of tasks, just a new way of going about the job.
First, it keeps things fresh. It breaks routine and routine-based thinking. (Excellent for creativity!)
Second, it opens you up to the possibility of discovering something better.
This is an act of optimization.
You might discover, for example, that a new playlist or music genre hits you differently, or that you’re a productivity monster when you begin working late afternoons, instead of early mornings when your brain is halfway back in bed. Or, by reordering the sequence of tasks, you realize some difficult tasks are actually easy.
Purposely dismantling your routine takes mindfulness. It’s not easy, but the reward is discovery.
#6 Keep things cheap and simple.
Beware of the unnecessary flex.
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of workspaces and set-ups in social media that make you go, “How much are you earning from your job? And where do I apply?”
These flexes are ostensibly shared to inspire others, “If I can make it…so can you! Never give up! #Blessed”
But the truth is that you often don’t need to have these same setups to be effective and productive at work. An inspiring workspace or desk doesn’t have to break the bank. It only has to be clean and well-arranged.
So instead of splurging on the latest tech, focus on the absolute essentials: an ergonomically designed workstation that fits your body type.
It’s very easy to conclude, for example, that a second monitor is an absolute must for productivity and workflow. This will largely depend on the tasks you perform routinely. But if you’re not running multiple programs anyway, or switching windows doesn’t cramp your style or split screen works perfectly fine, then a second monitor can be optional. Use judgment here.
(Sometimes, having a second monitor can encourage needless double checking, triple checking, making you think you’re being productive, but is only really straining your eyes and slowing you down.)
It’s much better to keep things simple.
With these little tips, you can have a workspace that (1) works for you (2) is friendly to your mental health and (3) friendly to your budget.
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