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Work Productivity and Hacks

The Science of Workspace (Dis)Organization

By Marga Salvador on December 1, 2015

The battle of neat vs messy is no more. Kathleen Vohs is a consumer psychologist and marketing professor from the University of Minnesota and she made a study on physical orderliness and disorderliness and their outward effects.

Vohs found that students made to work in a clean and organized environment were "cued to 'do the right thing’—that which is expected of you." Conversely, the freer  and more unkempt environments inspired the breaking of tradition "which can produce fresh insights." Both subject groups were asked if they would donate to a charity and were offered a snack—either an apple or a chocolate bar— while they thought about it. The clean room subjects showed higher inclinations to be charitable and eat healthier by choosing the apple. The subjects incubated in the messy setting, working on desks scattered with paper, went for the chocolate.

On an institutional level, different industries require a mix of people in order to remain competitive. In fact, there have been recent findings that employees with varied desk organization patterns (one week neat, the next messy) have also shown to have a much more varied skill repertoire which make them appealing to potential employers. There are simple things you can do to your office, desk, or cubicle that can help you be more productive in an environment that is conducive to you and your workspace style.



Round up the furniture

Whether you prefer messy or neat spaces, everyone needs furniture. If you have some liberty when it comes to decorating your workspace, direct your eye to more round-edged furniture as opposed to rectilinear pieces. The rounded furniture and their lack of sharp angles make them appear more comfortable and inviting. Having a workspace that is inviting and where you can envision yourself for long periods of time is important because majority of your day will be spent here. It's conducive to feel comfortable, physically and mentally.


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Sounds like productivity

If you are the type who puts their headphones on in order to drown out the rest of the office (and even if you aren't), try an ambient playlist. The cool sounds that are synonymous with cafes have been shown to help in data analysis. Conversely, high noise sounds can lead to the stifling of information processing. If you are they type who works better in silence, which is almost impossible to achieve in a busy office, the sounds of ambience might be everything you didn't know you needed. Playlists like Coffivity could be your cup of tea.

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Lights, color, action!

Glaring lights bouncing off of bright walls have been shown to induce feelings of lifelessness, anxiety, and a lack of productivity. Harsh, bright colors like yellow and red can shock the eyes and stunt psychological activity. Move in favor of muted colors that are subtle and fluid. Blues and greens promote idea generation while reds are associated with high attention to detail. Track lighting works when you want directed light coming from above without hitting the floor. Recessed lighting means the light bulbs are tucked back behind the ceiling so you avoid the round glares from the bulbs. You don't always consider the color and lighting of a room beyond your first impression, but if you are forced to encounter them day in-day out, they matter.


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A view of Mother Nature

After spending eight hours, five days a week staring at your computer screen or the never ending influx of paperwork, it's a good idea to give your eyes, and your mind, a break. You might not have been able to score an office with a view, or a window for that matter, but if your office address is near a park of sorts it will do much good to take some time every day and just take a stroll. If that isn't possible, you can bring nature to you. It's been proven that a few house plants or simple potted plants around the office can increase memory retention and lower stress levels.

Whether you are a neat freak or clutter bug, a desk dictator or a pile junkie, your workspace is your workspace. You do you.

Feeling productive yet?
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