golden_retriever1.jpgWhatever the design of your company’s workspace – cubicles, open floor plan, office with a door – there are studies that suggest that some very simple things can make it better. They can improve your mood, and your productivity. They might help you become the best coworker ever.

Here are seven suggestions that might surprise you:

  1. Bring nature indoors (part 1): A recent study suggests that sunlight can affect mood and job satisfaction. Windows that provide natural light are not an option for every space but providing as much of it as possible is clearly the goal. If the break room, lunch room, conference rooms or other shared spaces can be sunlit, that provides an opportunity, as does encouraging breaks that include a walk outside.
  2. Bring nature indoors (part 2): The same study looked at the affect natural elements like plants, flowers, etc. had and found similar results to sunlight, improved mood and lowered stress. Greenery in the office makes a difference, and guess what? Pictures count! Consider decorating your cube with live plants, a serenity fountain, or pictures of beautiful natural scenery and feel the benefits flow. Another study suggests you add the sounds of nature to your playlist; it’s more effective than silence (if that’s even possible) at slowing your heart rate, relaxing tense muscles, and promoting lower stress levels.
  3. Bring your dog/pet to work: Studies have shown that pets, like dogs and cats, provide numerous health benefits to their human owners and allowing dogs in the workplace extends those benefits. Some have pointed out that even the task of walking the dog becomes a benefit as it gets the employee outside and engaged in exercise. And one or two dogs can help many people as employees ask to pet them and take them out. Perhaps it’s not practical for your office to welcome all or any four legged friends, well then consider a fish tank. Aquariums have long been touted for the relaxing, hypnotic effect they have on us, producing the same stress reducing effects that lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improved mood and well-being. Again, while not quite as effective, pictures count.

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  4. Pay attention to the thermostat: Office temperature is an ongoing debate, (um, argument?), in office everywhere. Adding new evidence to the discussion, a recent study suggests that warming the office by up to 10 degrees dramatically improved accuracy. One thing is certain, uncomfortable employees are not happy or productive. If you’re not comfortable physically, your work will certainly suffer in some way.
  5. Don’t clean up your messy desk if you want to be creative: Like the thermostat debate, messy versus neat is a long standing battle. This study linked better creativity to a messier work environment. While not a battle ending conclusion, it’s certainly vindication of a sort for those with a messy desk. At the very least, if you’re feeling frustrated and need a creative boost – don’t clean up.
  6. Understand the power of the 50 minute hour: A study of productive people showed that those who worked for 52 minutes and then took a break of 17 minutes were the most consistently productive. We’re not designed to be focused for hours at a time, mentally or physically, so giving ourselves breaks, true breaks from work, is important, not just to our feeling better but to actually working and producing better. Whatever you do with your break time, you must completely disengage from work, not just switch tasks. Take a walk, run a quick errand, relax and look at your company’s fish tank, but take a break.
  7. Move: This one seems like a no brainer because at this point, what doesn’t exercise help with? The benefits are seemingly endless, so let’s add making your work life better – happier and more productive. Use your breaks or lunch hour to move around. Take the stairs from your desk to the conference room instead of the elevator. Simple walking does wonders. Walk to the client meeting when possible; converse with your coworker during a quick stroll instead of sitting at your cubes. Add physical activity to your day in whatever ways possible and you’ll find yourself happier, healthier and a better employee.

Those are 7 suggestions as to how you can boost your mood, creativity, productivity and job satisfaction at work. Make your office space a boon instead of a bane. Cheers to those companies and workers who can, or already are, doing all of this but we think the beauty of this advice is that many of the suggestions are relatively simple to enact, and can be done company wide or on an individual level, especially relevant to contractors. Decorating with plants and landscapes, or bringing a suitably sized one of either to your desk, can make a difference. It’s also important to note the cross benefits of many of the ideas – walking lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and alleviates depression, while also boosting creativity and productivity. Nature affects us across a similar arc.

So improve your work space with these seven tips and improve your entire work life!

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