Is the space in which you work working for you? When you’re there do you feel energized and ready to excel? Is it a comfortable and pleasant place to be? If not, you can use research from a little known branch of psychology to improve it.
Environmental psychologists study how people live in the physical world. We investigate the psychological implications of sensory experiences: how colors influence lives, what sorts of furniture arrangements are best in various situations, our relationship with the natural world, and so on. What we’ve learned can help you create a workspace that makes you feel secure, calm, and capable — a place where you can accomplish your best work.
Sit so your back is protected.
Research consistently shows that humans are more comfortable when they sit so that their backs are not exposed to passersby. If you currently sit so that your back faces the entry into your workspace, pivot your desk chair and use a different section of your work surface. Find a way to sit so that your side is to that entry and not your back.
Minimize the amount of red you see as you work.
Research by Andrew Elliot and his colleagues found that people do not work as well cognitively when they see red, even a small amount for a short time. These scientists believe that this may be because teachers use red pens and pencils to grade papers, and seeing red brings the idea of failure unconsciously to mind.
Add some leafy plants to your workspace.
We work better in spaces with leafy plants than without — we’re better at doing things that require we pay attention, for example. Putting a few plants around your workspace is worth the effort of watering and feeding and finding a sitter when you’re out of the office — particularly if those plants have rounded leaves and not pointy ones.
Solving small discomforts yourself — adjusting your desk chair, or adding a light to your workspace if it is a little dark, or bringing in a small fan from home if it’s a little warm — will help you feel in control of your physical environment. That feeling of control has been linked to being more satisfied with your job, and that has all sorts of positive repercussions.
Tell your story.
Make sure that visitors to your workspace leave knowing a little about who you are and what’s important to you. We are more comfortable with other people when we know they understand who we are as people and they are more relaxed being around us when they have a better idea about what we value. People who personalize their workplace are more satisfied with their jobs.
Organize and declutter.
We are at our best psychologically in environments with moderate levels of visual complexity. This means that the clutter of papers, pens, and coffee cups on top of your work surface needs to be tamed and organized. Too little visual complexity can be as jarring as too much. If the décor at your workplace has been pared back to well, nothing, don’t be quite so hard on your own clutter. If you’re working in a space with a “nothing-goes” look, add a painting or photo to your workspace. Research shows that images of nature help to restore cognitive performance.
The suggestions above will get you started, but don’t hesitate to move beyond them. Sit in your workspace and take a sensory inventory of what it’s like to be there. Deal with the negatives — put on a sweater, find a glare screen, or listen to white noise through your ear buds, whatever it takes. If you take inventory and act, your performance will improve.
Article by Sally Augustin – Harvard Business Review Blog Network