Today, people are under pressure from the size of their workloads to the amount of information they handle, said Beatriz Arantes, senior research Steelcase, turnstone’s parent company. Add to that, the number, variety and location of people worked with and need to be “on” most of the time, and you’ve got a pressure cooker. Employees average nearly 6 hours a day sitting at their desks, according to Work & Health Research Centre, Loughborough University. Workplace stress costs businesses $300 billion per year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs. 

You don’t have to break the bank to improve your work environment.  Having a positive state of mind helps employees do their best work, Arantes said. Small changes can make big differences in productivity and positivity, said Liz Wilkes, Partner, Exubrancy, which provides wellness programs for corporations.  

Here are seven tips:

1.) Let there be light

The importance of catching some rays cannot be overstated, said Wilkes. She cited research report after research report.

  • Natural light significantly increases energy, creativity, and productivity, according to research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Workers exposed to natural lighting stayed on-task for 15% longer than their sun-deprived counterparts.
  • People who aren’t exposed to direct sunlight lose an average of 46 minutes of sleep at night, according to research by Northwestern University in Chicago. You don’t need to be Arianna Huffington to know the importance of a good night’s sleep and the consequences if you don’t get it.

If your desk doesn't have a direct window view, make sure to take a walk during the day. You can also invest in a lamp that imitates natural light, suggest Wilkes. These lamps reduce seasonal depression, reduce fatigue, and improve moods, research finds.

2.) A stitch in time saves nine

An ergonomic setup can reduce physical problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back aches and neck pain, said Wilkes. Some ergonomic best practices from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Center your body in front of your monitor and keyboard. Sit up straight, keeping your thighs horizontal with your knees and at about the same level as your hips. Keep your forearms level or tilted up slightly.
  • Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are about level with your hips. If your chair doesn't offer lumbar support, place a cushion between the curve in your lower back and the back of the chair.
  • If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck. Experiment with various styles until you find the headset that works best for you.
  • Use a wrist rest to minimize stress on your wrists and prevent awkward wrist positions. While typing, hold your hands and wrists above the wrist rest. During typing breaks, rest the heels or palms of your hands — not your wrists — on the wrist rest.
  • Place your monitor directly in front of you, about an arm's length—generally 18 to 28 inches—away. The top of the screen should be slightly below eye level.

more on how to work without neck pain

3.) Use color to set the tone

Color matters. Choose the colors for your office wisely, said Wilkes. She cited highly-regarded color psychologist Angela Wright for these pointers:

  • blue stimulates clear thought
  • yellow boosts creativity and lifts spirits
  • red physiologically affects the body and elevates one's pulse
  • green creates a sense of calming balance
  • saturated, bright colors stimulate
  • softer, muted colors relax and soothe

If you can’t control the color of your office, choose accents (desk accessories, posters, etc.) in colors that create the work environment you want, said Wilkes.

4.) Bring a little nature into your office

Plants aid concentration, increase productivity, and boost staff wellbeing by 47% at work, research by Scientists at the University of Exeter found.

Plants are so effective at removing contaminants that NASA will include them in future space stations. Invest in a potted plant, recommends Wilkes.

15 living green walls for wellbeing and inspiration

5.) Take the chill off

Before you lower the thermostat to save money on your energy bill, know that warmer temperatures can increase productivity. When the temperature increased from 68 to 77 degrees, typing errors fell by 44% and typing output jumped 150%, according to research conducted by Cornell University. “If you don't have any say in the temperature of your office, make sure you have a sweater stashed away for colder days,” advises Wilkes.

6.) Find a quiet zone

Nearly 70% of all offices in the U.S. are open-plan workspaces, according to the International Management Facility Association. Open layouts encourage interaction among team members, but can also be distracting to some. If you fall into this category, find a lounge area, an empty conference room, or another space that has no distractions, recommends Wilkes.

should my office have a private zone?

7.) Use scent to increase performance

Scent is our strongest sense, yet we take it for granted as a method for boosting productivity, said Wilkes. Typists made fewer errors when exposed to various scents, according to research by Takasago Corporation: lemon scent produced 54% fewer mistakes, jasmine 33% and lavender 20%.

Create a quick DIY air freshener by mixing water and a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle and mist around your workspace, suggests Wilkes.

About the author:

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a content marketing and marketing research company that helps companies reach small businesses through branded marketing and social media opportunities that generate visibility, thought leadership and brand loyalty. As a writer (author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One and Forbes contributor), consultant, teacher (Kauffman FastTrac facilitator and former adjunct professor at The New School) and speaker, Geri has helped thousands of entrepreneurs take their vision to reality, develop their business plan, and learn the strategies and tactics they need to grow their businesses. Her guidance has steered many entrepreneurs away from pitfalls that might have prevented or delayed their growth. She was named a 2012 and 2013 Small Business Influencer for her articles on the success factors of women entrepreneurs.


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