Start the New Year right: Hack your work space for productivity gainsTopic: Lifestyle
Improving your productivity at work is a surprisingly popular New Year’s resolution. It also happens to be a relatively easy New Year’s resolution to follow through on. Just a quick adjustment of your surroundings at work has the potential to boost your productivity.
The appearance of your workspace, and the office around it, has a surprisingly powerful effect on your productivity and quality of work. But, did you know different types of work environments impact different personalities in varying ways? Some people thrive in chaos, while others like the hard focus created by a bare cubicle.
We compiled some of the latest expertise on how to hack your workspace to gain every advantage you can, no matter what your personality is. And if you read all the way to the bottom, we’ve got some ideas on ways to put these hacks into action.
- Be careful who you sit near.
Sitting near toxic workers can be a big drag on your productivity. In this Harvard Business School paper on workplace design, researchers examined what they call the “spillover effect,” the impact of social interaction has on work quality.
In one part of their examination, they divided workers into groups according to their attributes. Some workers were considered productive workers. They did a lot of work, but it wasn’t always high-quality work. Some were considered quality workers. Their output was slower, but it was very good. A third category straddled these two groups.
When re-arranging teams to put quality-focused workers next to productive workers, productive workers increased the quality of their work and vice-versa. The researchers attributed this to a competition effect, and the increases lasted for about two months. Sitting near a toxic person, however, had much longer-lasting negative effects. In fact, people sitting near toxic people had a much higher likelihood of being terminated themselves.
- Mix it up for creativity, or find a quiet place to focus.
The design of your office can impact the overall culture of your organization, and have a big impact on results. There is some research that suggests cubicle farms, for example, wall people off and keep people focused on individual tasks. That’s great for jobs with a clearly defined roles and goals — like accounting and sales. Workers in these highly-focused spaces tend to follow procedures and do routine tasks very quickly.
That same research can be used to tout the benefits of open floor plans. In theory, common work spaces force workers to interact with each other. When workers interact, creativity flows. The culture of offices with open floor plans tend to encourage collaboration for long-term goals and creativity. Organizations with these types of cultures find new breakthroughs and work strongly together.
And then there is research that claims the exact opposite: In open office plans, people avoid personal interaction, presumably to avoid being overheard or disturbing others.
Of course, not everyone has a choice over how their workplace is designed. Every brash new startup with an open floor plan needs an accountant, and every buttoned-down insurance firm needs a graphic design team to make marketing materials.
Our point is: find what works for you. If you need to focus, find an office or a conference room to sit in for a while. If you need to interact to get your juices flowing, don’t be afraid to get up, get some coffee, and talk to everyone you see along the way.
Visual clutter tends to cloud our thinking and take up a significant amount of mental energy. A researcher at Princeton showed how difficult it is to shift our focus away from visual distractions.
She asked a group of research subjects to find the cars in a series of pictures. Over time, she gradually introduced new objects in the images. Using an MRI to conduct brain scans, she found the research subjects registered the introduction on the new objects at a very faint level, because searching for cars took up so much brain power.
Her conclusion was that multiple objects in your visual field tends to make the brain work extremely hard to filter them out.
- Maybe don’t declutter too much.
While clutter takes up a lot of mental energy, de-cluttering takes a lot of time. In “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” author Tim Harford notes that a clean desk could hide a lot of paperwork in its drawers. But, when paperwork is hidden, it may mean that important work isn’t getting done.
De-cluttering efforts can actually hurt corporate morale as well. Harford looked at studies of how people react to “clean desk” policies and found that people reacted very poorly to not having control over space they considered “theirs.”
So what does having a clean desk have to do with smartphones and chargers?
The answer: Most of us charge our phones on our desks all day. But everyone works differently. The right accessory can be tailored to your personal style, and your personal work ethic.
Maybe you are in a creative field, where music might be the inspiration for a sleek new visual campaign. Your desk might look like this:
It’s not what we would call cluttered, but there are lots of information displays and the headphones are always in reach.
Then there’s those open office plans, where everyone shares a single table, and lots of conversation and interaction. Ventev’s wireless chargestand keeps phones upright and visible while charging. It stands out, making sure you never miss a notification, even when your attention is focused on your co-workers, or your screens.
On the tidier end of the spectrum, the Ventev wireless chargepad+ mixes a soft design with powerful charging capabilities. It’s great for spaces that have just the right amount of personal touch, but remain highly organized.
There are so many ways to build the perfect office space, whether you’re highly focused, or highly creative, or a little bit of both. Just remember: your phone isn’t clutter, it’s an important productivity tool. Here’s to starting the New Year fully charged.