For most of us, our workspace is where we spend most of our time. The quality of our workspace inevitably influences our mood, our thoughts and desires, our ability to concentrate and work. Whether your workplace is in an office or at home, desk-bound or you are free to move anywhere, create a workplace sanctuary that bathes all your senses and makes you a happy and inspired worker.
Here are my top 10 ways to make your workspace fuel your productivity, as well as unleash your creativity and full potential.
Plants are so important for boosting your happiness and energy levels, as well as improving concentration, as they emanate fresh oxygen in the air around you, diminish CO2 levels, dust and toxins which you would otherwise inhale. They also reduce air temperatures and background noise (by as much as 5 decibels). Plants also help you to look healthier, as they reduce dry skin by 20%. In other words, they do good and they also make us feel good.
Researchers from the University of Exeter found that enriching a ‘lean’ office with plants could increase workplace productivity by 15%. This is due to the fact that plants increase our work engagement by making us more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in our work.
Another theory suggests that plants invoke our ancient instincts that there is food nearby (berries, fruit etc) and so we relax, become calmer, are happier and more creative.
I only bought 3 small plants for my desk at work (as shown in the cover image of this article) - the nicest and lowest maintenance ones that can survive air conditioning: succulent, non-spikey cacti. They are lively enough to make me happy and cheerful whenever I look at them. So, I encourage you to bring plants to the office to help you flourish while you work.
For a comprehensive guide on the 15 best office plants that are easy to maintain, check out this article: https://happydiyhome.
2. Inspirational quotes
There are times at work when we might get discouraged, stressed, distracted or lose sight of what’s important. To counteract this, I encourage you to write down on separate cards or post-it notes several quotes that inspire you and whose wisdom can keep you motivated in your work.
Quotes from classical thinkers, the artists you admire or even your own mottos will all remind you of your values. The best way to make sure that they are in your mind at all times is to see them often. It’s a blessing to have something powerful to guide your mantra and refocus your thinking when you feel like your creativity and productivity are impoverished.
3. Inspirational pictures
Surround yourself with photos of your idols or pictures that take your thoughts to cherished memories.
You could make a little collage of these pictures, so that you can have as many in view as possible (and are small enough not to reveal too much of your personal life to your work colleagues), or you could use a digital photo frame that creates a slideshow out of your favourite pictures. These will lift your mood whenever you catch sight of them.
When you lose motivation to continue with a challenging task, you can quickly look at your role model and remind yourself that the only way to get close to meeting his/her performance is to keep going in your pursuit. Also, looking at happy pictures from your free time will remind you that your favourite activities and the sense of joy that you derive from them await for you at the end of your work.
4. A nice scent
The best way to personalise your workspace is to subtly infuse it with your preferred fragrance. I brought to my office a natural reed diffuser, that even though I can’t smell much, as the fragrance spreads out into the open office, the cosy look of the reeds soaking in scented oil, makes me think of domestic bliss.
If you work from home, I encourage you to unleash the power of good smells to its full potential. An aromatherapy kit, either an oil-burner or an electric aroma diffuser in which you can put water and a few drops of natural oil will bring a long-lasting fragrant mist. Also, you can bake some cocoa beans for a few minutes, which will leave your home smelling of chocolate.
However, if you work in an office where social conventions require you to be subtle about the way you unleash the power of good smells, then you can just buy an intensely fragrant hand moisturiser (such as, Balance Me which smells absolutely divine while deeply nourishing your hands, or A’Kin Lavender, Geranium and Jojoba, or Soap & Glory from Boots) and leave it uncovered near you so that its nice smell bathes your senses. This can instantly boost your happiness levels.
Or, you can just peel an orange and enjoy the refreshing smell of its skin. I sometimes revert to this trick and put the near orange peel near my tub of cinnamon (I spoke about my cinnamon obsession here).
Candles create a sense of peace and serenity, ideal for when you need to achieve deep focus and relieve stress at work. I love scented candles, such as vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon or lavender. If you want to create a spa-like experience to enable to enable you to enjoy your work fully, then you may want to get some long burning wicks that create a magical view of floating candles.
Apart from keeping you calm and in good spirits at work, candles also create an inviting workout space, perfect for when you need to take a break and practice some yoga (if working from home).
Alternatively, if your workspace is in an office, you can bring these battery powered tea-candles that mimic the glare and the fragrance of real ones.
Seek to infuse a sense of play into your workspace. Use little artefacts that remind you of your hobbies or things that define your personality. Or bring some souvenirs from your travels, things your treasure or small gifts that have an emotional value for you.
I love knitting and therefore I’ve brought with me to work a little yarn and small needles as well as a knitted bag that I made a while ago. I placed them in the corner of my desk and whenever I catch a glimpse of them, it incentivises me to work productively in order to finish quickly and enjoy my relaxation time fully. Also, they give me the option to knit in my lunch break (although, I never have the time to do so).
Soothing background music such as piano jazz, classical or ambient sounds can be a great enhancer of your work-sphere. Also, music can be a great source of calm, reflection, deep focus, creativity and inspiration.
This study has shown that music helps work performance by improving positive affect and the quality-of-work and by making the time spent on a task seem lower. As art decorates space, so does music decorate time. Music makes repetitive tasks seem more enjoyable.
In a noisy office, music can be an escape to the sweet spot of your deep focus. Moreover, music creates an atmosphere of creativity that nurtures your abstract thinking, enabling you to more clearly identify effective ways to conduct your work.
Depending on the work you do, you can listen to various types of music to boost your work performance. Lacking in lyrics and often considered the finest form of the craft, classical music, has been found to improve accuracy, which is ideal if your work requires a high attention to detail or if it involves solving equations and working with numbers. Alternatively, listen to pop music if your work involves data entry or working to deadlines, as this music genre is best for spell-checking quickly, and, alongside dance music, has been found to enable the fastest overall performance for getting work done. Dance music also helps proof-reading and problem solving.
Let music seduce the cognitive centres of your mind, boost your mental activity and elevate your mood. This will help you to derive more pleasure from your work.
8. Back massager
If your work requires you to sit down for 8+ hours a day, make yourself as comfortable as possible with the help of a normal cushion or, if you want to take it to the next level, a shiatsu massage cushion will keep you happily seated while giving your back a little workout.
9. A standing, workout desk
Since embracing a more active lifestyle, I started to dread sitting down. Apart from studies which point out that sitting down is more harmful than smoking, sitting down gets me into a passive state of mind, which trigger thoughts of relaxation, comfort and gratification. This is why, I’ve noticed that, while seated, I find it difficult to work efficiently and maintain momentum in my work. A standing desk counteracts all of these problems, as it literally keeps you grounded to the floor, alert, energised, and therefore ready to work at full capacity. Also, when your work colleagues come over to your desk, you won’t feel like they are talking down to you, as you will be literally standing on the same footing.
It’s easy to maintain yourself active while working at a standing desk: you can do quick exercise such as shifting your body weight from one leg to another, or my favourites: foot to knee back-leg raisers. These quick movements can quickly fire up a bit more energy in you when you feel that you are getting sluggish. I find that it’s a lot easier to exercise at a standing desk than do leg raisers under the table while seated.
If you want to make the most of a standing desk, you can get a twist stepper which you can place under it, so that you can work your glutes, calves, quads and hips. Or, if you feel like motivating yourself to enjoy invigorating work exercises, you can get a treadmill desk or a desk with a built-in exercise bike. For the times when you feel tired of standing up and therefore you need to lower your desk to allow a seated position, I recommend you get a DeskCycle which easily fits under any desk and turns your chair into a fitness workstation.
Any of these innovative tools will help you feel that you maximise the time you spend at work, so you get to work your body while you work your mind.
I love looking at my goldfish while working... It makes me feel like this little creature accompanies me in the journey that my work takes me through. And I long for the day when I have a pet that I could engage with more, such as a dog or a cat.
If you are lucky enough to be allowed to take your pet to work, I encourage you to make the most of this opportunity. Research has shown that pets, through their calming nature, create a sense of well-being, improve your ability to bond with your team, boost your morale, and bring a sense of comfort and leisure into the workplace.
So, go on create your sanctuary that makes you love your work. Please use the comment section below and let me know how you boost your happiness at work.