9 Science-Backed Ways How To Organize Your Office Desk To Boost Productivity
Somehow, out of all the places where people tend to think about business-related matters – the bus, the coffee shop, the bed or the desk – the latter seems to be the least inviting to get your hustle on. According to a 2018 survey , 65% of workers think they would be more productive working from home compared to a traditional office environment.
But even if you’re getting down to business in the comfort of your home office, you’ve got to admit that your surroundings, and your desk, in particular, has a huge impact on your productivity. How are you going to make those bucks if you just can’t focus sitting at your own desk?
Here are our 9 simple and science-backed tips on how to redesign your workspace so that it becomes your main inspiration for productive work and steady focus.
1. Befriend plants
You don’t have to be a vegan or a hippie activist to know that plants do so much good for our environment. Same applies to our indoor habitats where we spend most of our days. Besides purifying the air and keeping your lungs clean and head fresh, the potted greens reduce stress and are actually amazing productivity boosters.
Researchers at the University of Exeter found that simply enriching a plain and minimal office setting with plants helped to increase productivity by 15%.
The conclusion that green offices were found to house happier and more productive workers is a really strong argument to bring in some greenery into our workspaces. Moreover, potted plants are a simple and excellent way to decorate your desk, which, in turn, will lighten up your spirits. If you’re not exactly endowed with green fingers, you can always go for low maintenance options like succulents, aloe vera, jade plant, parlour palm, dracaena, or a snake plant.
2. Organize your clutter
This isn’t probably that big of a surprise, but for those who need reinforcing – newsflash! – you can’t be your most productive self if you spend 15 minutes every day looking for your stapler. Disorganized desk damages your productivity as much as it affects your colleagues, as these statistics reveal. 41% of the surveyed office workers believe that tidy workspace is crucial to getting work done, plus it can also increase your chances of promotion.
Not only that by the time you retire, you will have wasted days of your precious life searching for missing items, but excess clutter on your desk can also be accountable for your stress levels. In other words, a messy desk isn’t something you should let slide. In the long run, it can cause mental overload and make your habits of unproductive procrastination worse.
That being said, it’s not that you should keep your desk stripped of any items. The key to an organized desk is a system. Designate a particular spot for pens, stationery, post-it notes, folders, and documents. Make use of labeling to sort your documents. At the end of the day, spend 3 minutes putting everything in place, keeping at least 80% of your desk visible. That way you’ll start your working day with an organized desk and an organized mind.
3. Personalize to inspire yourself
So isn’t it just easier to keep your desk free from any clutter and go the minimalist way? Well, your boss would probably want you to, and not just because they might judge you by your desk. In fact, many companies put limits on how many and what kind of personal items can be put on the employees’ desks.
The approach stems from several management theories , particularly widespread in the 90s, advocating that clean desks increase focus and productivity. It’s easy to follow the logic – if your workspace contains only the items necessary to fulfill a certain function related to your job, then you’ll be more likely doing only what you need to do. However, these strict and authoritative management theories go against recent studies.
Several studies found that personalizing our spaces, especially in an open office, helps us better cope with distractions and stress, gives us more control and establishes a positive relationship between our identity and our workplace. In fact, having our personal items on desk motivates us to work harder, because “it lends a sense of identity to a workplace, in which we could otherwise feel like cogs in a machine,” says Craig Knight, a psychologist and founder of a company that uses science to improve business performance.
Besides, warm beverage in your favorite mug and a hilarious picture of your friends will surely brighten your mood even on rainy Monday mornings. You’re working better when you’re in a good mood, it’s as simple as that.
Anyway, it all boils down to what you prefer and what helps you achieve your goals. If you find yourself too often distracted by the bright red poster on the wall or you’re focusing way too much on your puppy memorabilia, then try to declutter your workspace to a minimum. However, if you’re more of a personalized knick-knack type of person, you’re probably want to put this quote by Einstein on your wall: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
4. Isolate from distractions
It’s not so much of your personal things that distract you the most. It’s the sound and presence of other people. Studies show that staying attentive, reading and processing text, and working with numbers is impaired most by the background noise of irregular waves of speech. Especially if you’re working in an open office environment, you can probably relate how an occasional cough or chitter-chatter can put you off big time.
It has even been found that employees who lack privacy may suffer from higher stress and emotional exhaustion. If you can’t choose where you sit, take action to isolate yourself from the distracting background noise. For some, music doesn’t do the trick. Daniel Levitin, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “This Is Your Brain on Music” revealed that music actually hinders your productivity levels unless you’re working on repetitive tasks.
However, if it is your co-workers that are constantly bothering you with discussions and non-work-related chit-chats, create boundaries. Building walls around your desk could help to avoid these distractions for a while, but an easier and just as flashy option is a Luxafor Flag USB LED light . Simply set the color to red or a different color that signals – I’m busy – and politely escape from unnecessary conversations that damage your workflow.
5. Use colors that motivate you
Speaking of color, it’s a well-known fact that color has a psychological impact on our mood and productivity. Most office designs feature neutral and even dull colors, which easily explains why we’re not particularly enthusiastic about working hard in such environment.
According to color psychologists , the primary colors red, blue, green and yellow that make up all the other tones, each have their own effect on our cognitive functions and are better suited to different situations. Use red for a productivity boost if you’re in a physically demanding job, which suits well for professions such as tradespeople, personal trainers, and physical workers.
Calming blue makes communication easier and is brilliant for completing administrative tasks or projects that require maximum focus. Add a splash of contrast color orange if you need extra inspiration. However, optimistic yellow energizes creativity and suits well as a productivity boost for innovators or entrepreneurs. Whereas green is perfectly suited if you perform your best in a calm working environment.
Although you probably don’t have the possibility to choose your desk or chair, let alone paint the walls, you can still bring in a splash of your favorite color to cheer you up. Find a colorful non-slip desk mat, put your potted plants in bright planters or choose a flashy mug that energizes you just the way you need. Incorporate the colors that make you feel good into your decor and make your workspace your happy place.
6. Stay hydrated to avoid fatigue
Coffee in a classy mug can surely lift your spirits up, however, if you don’t want to lose your focus, don’t forget about water! There is a strong link between your water intake and your productivity levels. Even low-level dehydration can make you feel tired and when you’re tired you’re more likely to drink coffee, which, in turn, dehydrates you more, pulling you in a vicious cycle of perpetual fatigue and headaches.
Numerous reports show 75% of working Americans don’t drink the recommended 10 cups of water a day.
Knowing that most offices are well-equipped with water coolers means that it’s simply not as convenient, which begs for a better solution. In order to save you time going back and forth to the water cooler, opt for eco-friendly reusable bottle and put it on your desk as a constant reminder.
7. Think of your desktop as your desk
A messy desktop filled with millions of files and unsorted folders will probably cause just as much stress as piles of paper on your desk. Plus, if you tend to name your documents quite randomly, eventually it’s going to backfire and you’re going to lose minutes, if not hours, of your productive time searching for that one document called asfvhjg1.docx.
Again, develop a system of folders and subfolders and make use of clear and straight-forward labelling. Designate your desktop as only a temporary place for file storing (temporary – meaning, days not months!) and at the end of the week put the unsorted files in their place. You can save yourself tons of time when you know where to find what you’re looking for.
Also, if your office rules allow it, set your desktop image to something inspiring. Create a moodboard of your goals and dreams, find a beautiful image in soothing or energizing colors, put your favorite picture of your loved ones or simply motivate yourself with a powerful quote – you can browse through this mega compilation of 143 motivational quotes for your work success. It is easier to work towards a goal if you have it reminded to you every day.
But even if your desktop background is a photo of a zen garden, staring at the desktop is straining your eyes and can make you even more exhausted. Set a blue light filter to your desktop to avoid that and give your eyes a break.
8. Pick the best spot
When it comes to doing your work properly and feeling good, proper lighting is essential. Different activities require different types of lighting. What works for a person who is editing or color correcting videos will not work as well if you’re dealing with text or tedious sheets of numbers. Find out the right lighting for the job you perform and see how you can light up your space accordingly.
Natural light is also the key, as sunlight can greatly improve the cheeriness of the room. If you can choose where you work, try to pick a place that has a window in it. You can measure the lighting and other conditions crucial for productive work, like, noise, humidity, temperature and CO2, with this sleek office gadget – Luxafor Meteo. It will tell you if your workspace achieves the conditions perfect for better health and higher productivity.
9. Don't underestimate a proper chair
Think about it – you’re probably spending more time in your office chair than on your comfy home sofa. That’s why it is very important to choose a chair that is very comfortable. There is a clear link between uncomfortable chairs and productivity. Even more, a chair that causes discomfort to your back can lead to serious damage to your posture and which surely interferes with your productivity.
Never underestimate a good ergonomic chair, even if it’s not as stylish as you’d like it to be. If your chair is causing you back pains, don’t hesitate going to your office manager and asking for a change.
Also, don’t neglect physical activity. Take time to get up, stretch and go for a walk. There is also a trend called sit-to-stand working which is becoming popular among office workers. It’s a method encouraging to do regular transitions between sitting and standing that helps to lower the risk of long-term health problems, readjust posture and regain energy, that way boosting productivity as well.
The bottom line
In general, the key to making your desk the place where you actually do meaningful stuff lies under making your workspace a bit happier. Although 66% employees of a recent survey admitted that they care about the workplace design, not all employers take measures to design the office so that it becomes a place of motivation, not a place of experiencing existential dread. Most offices are designed for the main purpose of getting work done, without prioritizing employee satisfaction.
And while it takes time to convince the corporate world how strongly our environment affects us and our professional output, you still have your desk that, we hope, you’re allowed to organize just the way you want. Try all that you can to make your office surroundings a more pleasant place, and with that kind of motivation, you’ll be able to achieve anything!