Whether your office is in your home or in an office building, personalizing your workspace can greatly impact your productivity. If you own your space, it might benefit you to learn about how color and other factors impact mood, then you can make some big changes—paint walls, bring in artwork, invest in an ergonomic chair—but not every entrepreneur has the means or the ability to make big changes.
Even if you rent office space or work with a limited budget, you can make small changes that can have a major impact on your wellbeing at work.
“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.” – Allen Klein
Color matters. The effect of color on mood has been the subject of dozens of studies. Choosing the right colors is crucial to creating a stable, productive office environment. Reds and yellows tend to be unsettling in large swaths, but they can have positive effects when used as accent colors. A bold pop of color here and there draws the eye and brightens a dull mood.
Nature colors like blues and greens, on the other hand, inspire creativity and foster calmness. If you’re stuck in a dark or boring environment and can’t paint the walls, plants are a great way to bring the outside in, boost your creativity, and help make the air in your office more breathable. Toxic indoor air is detrimental to your health and a real productivity killer.
Add a Splash of Style
A 2007 study showed that gray, that most ubiquitous of cubicle colors, inspires sadness and depression…especially in women. White and beige have the same effect. So what can you do to combat the gloom of neutrals if you can’t paint?
Try replacing ordinary items you use every day with more colorful versions. Purchase cheerful office supplies (like a fun deskpad calendar) to express your individual style. Find ways to transform humdrum office supplies into smile-inducing spots of color. You can even add some artsy lighting to really accentuate your style and your space.
Choose curvy over hard edges. Oregon State University researchers found that rooms filled with rounded furniture made students feel relaxed, happy, and hopeful. For inspiration, check out the office furniture at Google HQ. I think you’ll agree that Google is one of the most productive companies in history. Google offices are spacious, colorful, and cozy, with rounded furniture that looks inviting and comfy.
Daydreaming is a natural cognitive function of the brain, and provides a much-needed mental break. While it may seem like a waste of time, when you daydream, your brain is not idle. It’s working things out on a subconscious level. Daydreaming is often beneficial to your creativity and your work. Although sometimes your subconscious is working out non-work-related subjects like how to solve a pool-algae problem or what you’ll wear to dinner, science shows you can work out sticky problems by turning off your cell phone, closing your laptop, and just allowing your mind to wander.
To bring your daydreams to life, invest in happy-place art. If your vacation dreams are of sunrises in the mountains, a hammock on a tropical beach, or an exotic destination, find photos that lift your spirits, fit your aesthetic, and inspire your dreams.
Art may be more than a simple mood-enhancer. Compelling evidence shows that art makes you smarter—and nicer! Of course, in this study, they took children to an art museum (so not quite the same arena as a work environment) but the implications are certainly intriguing!
Let the Sun Shine In
Ambient natural light is more restful on the eyes, helps you focus, and enhances your morale. Being able to look out will boost your energy and make you feel more rested and refreshed. You’ll even sleep better.
Most indoor light sources fall far short of the natural light spectrum. Incandescent bulbs provide light from the red end of the light spectrum, and cool sources like fluorescent and LED lighting provide light from the blue end of the spectrum. But neither provide the full-spectrum light of the sun. You can buy full-spectrum bulbs (they’re expensive)…but if you can turn off the lights and open the curtains to get natural light, do it.
Make a Small Space Bigger
Being confined to a small space can be depressing and have a dampening effect on your productivity. One of the easiest ways to make a small space seem bigger is to decorate with mirrors. Strategic placement of large mirrors will make your space look bigger and amplify your light to brighten your office, especially if you can position a mirror to reflect a window. Bringing the outdoors in can make even a tiny room feel spacious.
Lighter colors with pops of bright color for emphasis, and minimal, multipurpose furniture will also support the illusion of space.
Clutter or No Clutter? The Jury is Still Out…
One school of thought calls for a spartan, clutter-free environment, and lists a whole host of benefits.
My own desk is a hopeless, cluttered mess. There’s an order of sorts; I know where everything is, and when I try to get organized, I invariably lose important things.
I suspect the answer lies in your personality. Are you a creative, like I am? Or an analytical numbers person? While the right-brain/left-brain concept isn’t really accurate, people who prefer numbers—characterized by order and structure—tend to like no clutter, while artsy types are more comfortable surrounded by disordered chaos. It’s your office. You decide.
Most importantly, your office space, whether it’s a tiny gray cubicle in a huge featureless building, rented space in a shared environment, or a home office converted from a spare bedroom…is yours. You probably spend most of your life there. To increase your productivity and make every day more enjoyable, decorate with the colors, layout, lighting, and personal touches that make you smile and help you get through the day.
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