Why you should care about how your office space looks
Personalizing your desk may be the key to workplace serenity.
Not that you need an excuse to add to the Jason Momoa shrine in your cube, but decorating your workstation – often deemed “distracting” by Mr. Burns managerial types – can make you a happier and harder-working employee. “If you empower people and give them control of their own space, they feel more psychologically comfortable and seem to perform better,” says Craig Knight, a researcher at the University of Exeter, in England, who specializes in the psychology of working environments. It’s also thought that being able to express your personality at your desk can make you feel more connected to your colleagues, notes Jennifer Veitch, principal research officer at the National Research Council Canada. The theory: You may feel closer to Blanche from HR once you realize you have matching ceramic corgi collections. Here are some easy ways to pretty up your cube or corner office (Momoa optional).
Image by: Barry Calhoun
Surround yourself with things you like
According to research, women are more likely to fill their office space with items that have a personal connection – photos, artwork and the like. Men, meanwhile, tend to post evidence of their career achievements. (Where’s Freud when you need him?) The most important thing is that your décor – whether it’s a coaster from your fave resto, a signed Orlando Bloom headshot (no judgment) or nothing at all – makes you happy. “Somebody who likes clean, minimalist conditions is every bit as creative in the space they choose as somebody else who wants to surround themselves with photos and plants,” says Knight. From a design perspective, grouping items, like your face-mist collection, in bunches rather than letting them spill over your desk makes a space feel more chic and inviting, says Tiffany Pratt, a Toronto-based interior designer whose clients include Saks Fifth Avenue and Dermalogica. Thoughtful extras go a long way: Stack coffee-table books underneath your laptop or stash pens in a Lucite container beside your fave Diptyque candle for instant elevation.
Add some colour
While there’s no magical hue that will turn you into the Hermione Granger of the accounting department, some colour is better than none, says Knight. That’s because it’s engaging to the senses. (That engagement makes us feel better, which, in turn, makes us work harder.) If you’re a minimalist, don’t panic. Pratt suggests white as a base colour and adding bright accents like ’80s-inspired minty greens, subdued blues, mauve and the ubiquitous millennial pink.
Bring nature indoors
According to Knight’s research, being surrounded by plants can boost work effort by up to 15 percent. Plants are also major mood boosters. Stick with greenery that doesn’t require a lot of sunlight or attention: Choose cacti and succulents over testy ferns and orchids. Or try a terrarium. “A terrarium is a fun place where you can show your personality,” says Pratt. “You can put everything from a plastic dinosaur to your grandmother’s brooch in it.” If flowers are your jam, many flower shops now offer weekly, biweekly or monthly subscriptions so your fave peonies can be delivered straight to your desk. An added bonus? You can pretend they’re from a roster of admirers.
Let there be (a lot) of light
Generally speaking, the brighter and more natural the light, the higher the productivity. Given that we can’t see the whole outdoor-office thing happening in Canada anytime soon, your best bet is an overhead bulb instead of a desk lamp. (The latter only gives you a puddle of luminescence, says Veitch.) Pratt recommends the
Philips Hue bulb (starter kit $180, at Home Depot, homedepot.com), which, when connected to a compatible app, changes colours, allowing you to bathe your workstation in lots of different warm to cool hues.
Don’t ignore the floor
Grey carpet is peak office bleakness. Nothing says cozy (and comfy) like a pillow on your seat and a vibrant rug at your feet.
Keep it uncluttered – or don’t
Like the whole minimalist versus maximalist thing, your best working situ is the one that you enjoy – even if your vibe is more Grey Gardens than Monica from Friends. That said, if your productivity is impaired by the Machu Picchu of paper on your desk, here are some baby steps from Linda Chu, a Vancouver-based professional organizer. Separate your to-do list into “active,” “reference” and “archival.” Active files (anything from paperwork to marking) can be organized in an accordion folder on your desk, and reference items (things that you may need to refer back to) should be organized in a nearby drawer. Finally, archival info should be moved far, far away from your workspace. At the end of each workday, take 20 minutes to organize these folders and straighten up your desk. Your caffeine- depleted self will be waaayyy less overwhelmed when you arrive at the office the next a.m.
Pin up a motivational poster
We’re not kidding. But the mantra has to appeal to your sense of ambition. So, if you’re in a job you hate, don’t bother – your cynical brain will do an eye roll at that “Great things never came from comfort zones” poster, notes Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and the author of The Idiot Brain. Etsy is a gold mine for these. We also love Ork Posters’ cerebral “thinking cap” poster or the “What would Beyoncé do?” desk plate from He Said, She Said. A word of warning: Switch up that mantra often. Your brain quickly adapts to what’s around you, and those inspirational words will become background noise.