Hack Your Workspace: Simple Tweaks to Boost Your Happiness at Work

Stop being a passive victim of your workspace! Here are some simple tips for making your desk a sanctuary of calm, productivity and happiness.
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Americans are obsessed with home décor and design. In 2013 U.S. furniture and bedding sales reached $98 billion. Home decor is the number one industry driving the growth of the popular image-sharing site Pinterest. In 2013, HGTV had more average viewers than The Food Network.

During a typical work week, the average employee spends 5.7 hours per day sitting at his or her desk (out of 8.8 average work hours). Since we spend an average of 7.6 hours sleeping and 0.9 hours commuting, that leaves a maximum of 6.7 hours a day for running errands, going to the gym, and meeting up with friends, let alone relaxing at home. Given these stats, it's surprising how little time and money people invest in improving their workspace versus their home. Few people realize that after a few simple tweaks, our improved workspaces have the potential to dramatically improve our overall well-being.

Stop being a passive victim of your workspace! Below are some simple tips for making your desk a sanctuary of calm, productivity and happiness.

Color Me Happy
Choose your office décor colors wisely, keeping in mind the advice of world-renowned color psychologist Angela Wright. Shades of blue stimulate clear thought, yellow boosts creativity and lifts spirits, red physiologically affects the body and elevates one's pulse, and green creates a sense of calming balance. Highly saturated, bright colors will stimulate while softer, muted colors will relax and soothe. If you are like most people and don't often have the opportunity to change the color of your whole office, choose accents (desk accessories, posters, etc.) in colors that best suit your type of work. Poppin offers playful, vibrant desk accessories in a variety of shades.

See the Light
A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that natural light significantly increases energy, creativity and productivity. Workers exposed to natural lighting stayed on-task for 15 percent longer than their sun-deprived counterparts on average. Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago found that study participants who lacked direct sunlight exposure during the day lost an average of 46 minutes of sleep at night (and we all know that sleep deprivation has serious side effects!) Not surprisingly, artificial light leaves people sleepy and stressed. If your desk doesn't have a direct window view, you may want to consider requesting a relocation or finding alternate spaces (sofas, conference rooms, etc.) from which to work for part of the day. It also helps if all windows and skylights are cleaned regularly for maximum light intake. Those who have no choice but to work in a fluorescent environment may also consider investing in a lamp that imitates natural light. Studies have shown such lamps to reduce seasonal depression, reduce fatigue and improve moods.

Smells like Team Spirit
Scent, though the most powerful of our senses, is an underutilized tool for boosting productivity. In Japan, a study by the Takasago Corporation found that 54 percent percent of the professional typists studied made fewer errors when exposed to a lemon scent. Jasmine produced 33 percent fewer errors, and lavender produced 20 percent fewer errors. In order to create a quick DIY air freshener, mix water and a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle and mist around your workspace.

One With Nature
Investing in a small potted plant for your desk is one of the easiest ways to boost your productivity. Scientists at the University of Exeter conducted a series of experiments that confirmed that plants not only improve creativity (by 45 percent) and overall well-being (by 47 percent), they also give your ability to concentrate and focus a boost, spurring greater productivity. Plants also help clean the air, removing pollutants and bacteria. According to NASA, some of the best air-filtering office plants include Gerber daisies, spider plants and English ivy.

Turn Up the Heat
Your chilly office could be distracting you from your work! A study from Cornell University tested the impact of temperature on productivity. Some people believe that a frigid environment will help keep them alert, but the study found that cool temperatures are actually detrimental: when working in temperatures below 68 degrees, employees made 44 percent more mistakes than at an optimal room temperature of 77 degrees. The optimal temperature for productivity is between 70 and 77 degrees. If you don't have any say in the temperature of your office, make sure you have a sweater stashed away for colder days.

Move It, Move It
According to the International Management Facility Association, nearly 70 percent of all offices in America today are open-plan workspaces. While open layouts encourage a great deal of interaction among team members, many people don't do their best work or thinking in a stimulus-filled environment. In order to help counter distraction, experiment with working from different areas of your office. Is there a lounge area with sofas, an empty conference room, or another space that helps you avoid distractions? Try to identify such spaces and utilize them as needed. As an added bonus, moving from space to space will help add some movement into your day!

Research suggests an ergonomic setup can alleviate symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders. Some ergonomic best practices from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Center your body in front of your monitor and keyboard. Sit up straight, keeping your thighs horizontal with your knees and at about the same level as your hips. Keep your forearms level or tilted up slightly.
  • Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are about level with your hips. If your chair doesn't offer lumbar support, place a cushion between the curve in your lower back and the back of the chair.
  • If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck. Experiment with various styles until you find the headset that works best for you.
  • Use a wrist rest to minimize stress on your wrists and prevent awkward wrist positions. While typing, hold your hands and wrists above the wrist rest. During typing breaks, rest the heels or palms of your hands -- not your wrists -- on the wrist rest.
  • Place your monitor directly in front of you, about an arm's length -- generally 18 to 28 inches -- away. The top of the screen should be slightly below eye level.

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