A Super-Simple Way To Be Happier At Work

Don't just sit there all day.
Ezra Bailey via Getty Images

You're probably familiar with the afternoon slump: It's that drop in energy you feel after you've been at your work desk for hours -- maybe you even ate a sad lunch there.

While it's a good idea to stand up and take a break every so often, you might also be feeling less energized -- or less engaged overall -- because of the way your office is set up. Do you have the option to pick up a laptop and relocate to a small, quiet huddle room? Is there a couch near the windows that you can rest on while you take your next phone call?

There may be a link between feeling passionate about your work and how much control you have over your workspace, according to a new report. Having the ability to change where you work within the office not only can help you beat the afternoon slump, it could also play a role in how enthusiastic you are about your work.

A new survey from research firm Ipsos and the office furniture maker Steelcase asked 12,480 people from across 17 countries if they have the option choose where in their office they can work: The people who said they can move around if they need to also tended to say they feel more engaged on the job.

Eighty-eight percent of highly engaged employees said they can relocate throughout the day, compared to 71 percent of those who are somewhat engaged and 59 percent of neutral respondents.

Individuals who are less enthusiastic at work tended to be more limited in their ability to change locations: Just 24 percent of "somewhat disengaged"and 14 percent of “highly disengaged” said they can choose where to work.

A flexible workplace means employees are better able to change position and readjust their posture as they settle into a new area. Research has shown this to provide a quick energy boost, among other benefits, but it also gives workers more control over their options for personal privacy and quiet.

“Those who can say, ‘I’m going into a library space where I can focus,’ they’re feeling organizational trust and control over their circumstances,” Chris Congdon, global director of research communications at Steelcase and editor of the company’s 360 Magazine, told HuffPost. “It’s the feeling that they have privacy, and can work where they won’t be disrupted.”

Not everyone has this luxury, though.

You can blame the rise of the open floor plan for a loss of workplace privacy. In the U.S., almost half of all office workers said they don't have walls between their individual workspace and their neighbor's, per the Steelcase report. A survey by the International Facility Management Association says 70 percent of U.S. offices feature this kind of setup.

While open offices, in theory, use real estate more efficiently and let coworkers interact more easily, people still crave the option of private space, according to research on the topic. Breaking down walls between coworkers can actually make them more distracted, less productive and more likely to get sick. In fact, research has shown that having a physical barrier between yourself and another worker is tied to a sense of privacy, which in turn improves job performance.

Another factor that keeps people from moving to a more comfortable working space is the technology they use at their desk, according to Steelcase's report. Globally, 86 percent of respondents said they have landline phones at their workspace, and 80 percent said they have a desktop computer. Less than half said they are equipped with mobile phones and laptops. Though globally, 39 percent of respondents said their employers provide work cell phones, in the U.S. that dropped to 26 percent.

Of course, it’s not just about the configuration of your office and how portable your technology is -- a company also has to actively promote workspace flexibility.

“How much does a company support people who want to be mobile in the office?” Congdon said. “If the social norm is that you’re expected to be at your desk, people will stay at their desk.”

If a workspace switch doesn't do it for you, there are a few little ways to keep yourself alert and engaged, without resorting to caffeine. You can try some yoga poses, take a walk around the block or even sniff some lemons to relieve stress and boost your alertness. It might not sound like much, but it helps.

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