You’ve been working from home for quite a while now, right?
Do you think you’ve got your feng shui downpat? Or do you feel as though something is not quite right?
The chances are that your home office is far from optimal. You might like it—maybe because of the wastepaper basketball hoop you’ve installed or the multi-screen setup that let’s you just keep an eye on social media without having to switch tabs—but that doesn’t mean it’s good for your work.
Let’s have a look at how we can improve that.
It’s really no secret that our surroundings have a huge impact on the way we feel. The sight of an enormous, calm lake can make us feel relaxed, while the sight of crashing waves at the beach can transmit feelings of excitement.
This is quite a stark example. But the truth is that even very subtle changes in our environment can make our minds work in entirely different ways.
In an office setting, this is crucial. Whether we feel relaxed, stimulated, bored, sleepy, sad, or positive can radically affect how well we work. Doing things like changing the tone of our ceiling lights or removing posters from the wall can impact how we experience all of these mental states, just as things like air temperature and air quality can impact concentration.
In this article, what we want to do is to unpick the psychology of office decorations to optimise wellbeing and productivity when working from home.
There are lots of different things we can do to improve the psychology of a home office. But we can break these things down into three major categories:
But these categories are a little broad. To properly understand the psychology of office decoration, we need to have a look at some specific examples.
The psychological research on a messy desk or a messy office is divided. On the one hand, we’ve all heard the stories of those great geniuses who kept messy desks and were somehow still able to keep their minds well enough in order to come up with dazzling scientific theorems or stellar novels. In fact, there is some science to back up the idea that geniuses are more likely to have messy desks.
But for us mere mortals, the field of psychology provides some pretty rock-solid data saying that a messy desk (and a messy office) is bad for productivity. The basic idea is that, if we are in a disorganised environment, our brains can start to feel more anxious. When we feel anxious, we start to employ avoidance tactics—we procrastinate, we get distracted easily, etc.
So, by having a clean home office space, we are giving our minds the best possible chance of concentrating.
But this means more than just keeping our home office tidy. It should also factor into our office decorations.
For example, it’s probably not a good idea to fill your office with a whole bunch of stuff. We’re talking gizmos, gadgets, photos, miniature basketball hoops, and non-work-related books. Avoiding mess might also involve keeping posters and picture frames off the wall. All of these things can just clutter up our field of vision, subconsciously distracting us.
Our home offices also need to be kitted out with sufficient storage space. Bookshelves are good, but drawers and filing cabinets are better. As much as possible, you want to be removing anything non-essential from your field of vision.
That means getting rid of the on-desk filing tray, too. Subconsciously, it can act as a big alarm telling us how much we have to do in the future, which can distract us from what we need to be doing now.
It’s important to remember that your office is not a static space. It’s a place where you are moving and your work is moving.
That is something that we often forget when we are setting up our home offices. We get everything into position and it all looks so good that we could take a picture. But then, as soon as we get going with our work, things just don’t stay beautiful.
Now, this might be an inevitable fact of doing a day’s or week’s work. But we can also use our home office design to counteract the clutter and improve the smoothness of our workflow.
It’s called whitespace, or negative space.
Basically, what this means is that we keep empty space in our office—and particularly on our desk—so that we can put things there temporarily. The typical whitespace is a blank area to the side of your keyboard that is large enough for an A4 document. If the blank space is on your dominant side, it also makes it easier to thumb through the document, highlight it, and make notes on it.
But if you can, you should also try and keep plenty of other blank space in your office—maybe the top of a filing cabinet or a pedestal table near your desk.
The critical thing about adding whitespace to your home office is that you can’t let it fill up with stuff. It’s a space that you should only ever be used for short-term intervals. When you’re no longer using a document or device, get it filed away!
Now, the psychology of room colour is not an exact science. One study in a university residence found that blue was the colour that most facilitated brain functionality. The same study found that white ceilings were best and that green and violet were not too far behind blue for productivity. So, you take that with a grain of salt.
A further complicating factor when it comes to room colour is that the brightness or intensity of the colour can have a big impact. It’s been suggested by colour psychologists that high-intensity colours with high saturation will tend to stimulate the mind, while lower-intensity colours can transmit calmness and relaxation. So, in effect, it’s not whether your home office is blue that’s important, but how blue.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword. If you paint your home office a high-intensity colour, you can stimulate your brain to come up with new ideas. But just like a cluttered desk can provide too much stimulation, an overload of brightness may cause latent anxiety.
But this is the home office we are talking about—not the whole house. There’s some psychology to suggest that bright room colours can promote positive emotions, warding off anxiety and depression. But painting your dining room orange to make you feel happy when having breakfast is a bit beside the point when trying to pick out a home office colour for focus and productivity.
Probably the safest bet is to go for a soothing colour and, if you need the stimulation, drink a coffee. Going for a nice neutral navy won’t put you to sleep, but it might help you focus a little better.
Similar to colour, lighting can impact our emotions and our cognitive capacities.
The psychology of lighting suggests that cool, bright lighting is best for productivity. When we say cool and bright, we mean lighting that appears between white and blue. This is because these colours are most associated with daylight—and when it’s daylight, we are biologically geared to be up and about, doing our thing.
You can get access to this kind of colour by keeping your room open to a lot of natural light (although if the sun is beaming into your eyes this might be a distraction). The added benefit of having natural light in your office is that it can significantly improve your health. Not only does it ward off anxiety and low moods, but it can help control your natural body clock to make you energised during the day and tired in the evening.
But rather than knocking down walls and installing floor-to-ceiling pains of glass, you can also recreate this kind of cold light by choosing the right lightbulbs. Check the packaging of standard lightbulbs from a hardware store and it should have an indicator on it telling you how ‘warm’ the bulb’s light will be.
Be careful that you aren’t working long into the night under bright, white halogen lights, though. The other side of the bright-light-productivity coin is that it can stimulate you at the wrong times. In the evening, you should be switching over to warmer colours and getting away from your screen (which gives off white-blue light).
Of all the office trends currently running their course throughout the world, upping the ante on meeting room design is perhaps the most pivotal. Meeting rooms can be the heart and soul of a business because these are the places where ideas are shared, where brainstorming sessions happen, and where we keep all stakeholders in the loop about what’s happening on all fronts.
Unfortunately, meeting rooms are not always used super effectively. Upper managers spend 50% of their day in meetings, on average, while organisations typically use 15% of their collective time in meetings.
The point is not that we need to get rid of meetings, but that we just need to start doing meetings better.
It’s not just that people turn up late, presentations carry on too long, or there are too many voices going on at the same time—all of these are important factors that can be fixed with good policy. But in order to make our meetings run smoothly and effectively, we need to have the right gear in place.
We need the right gear in place to be able to:
To help you run efficient and successful meetings every time, Christie Spaces offers all of its meeting rooms with:
When designing the space in which we work, we should think beyond office decorations and amenities and consider how we actually organise ourselves. Hotdesking furniture solutions are one option we have to turn an ordinary workspace into a productivity machine.
The reason for this is that hotdesks have the power to get us moving—get us away from staring at that cool movie poster above our desk or slotting 3-point shots in the wastepaper basket by the door. They can get us out of a cognitive and emotional rut, stimulating our minds and getting us excited about work.
How does hotdesking achieve this?
In the first place, hotdesking changes up our physical setting. Rather than coming in each day and plonking down in the same chair, instead, we find a new seat with a different perspective of our environment. This kind of dynamic setup helps workers avoid the kind of sedentariness associated with poor health and wellbeing—and by extension, poor productivity.
Hotdesking has another positive impact on employee wellbeing by fostering an environment of social interaction. The whole point of hotdesking is to knock down those office walls and cubicle walls and to get team members engaging with one another personally. Once again, the upshot is greater employee wellbeing and, accordingly, greater productivity.
Lastly, research shows that coworking spaces, and particularly hotdesking spaces, are associated with higher levels of collaboration and entrepreneurship. That means that, in these environments, people are not only sharing more ideas and resources, but they’re also spurring one another on to be individually bold and creative.
Collaboration, wellbeing, and productivity are at the very core of Christie Spaces’ coworking philosophy. Come and check out one of our hotdesking spaces to see it for yourself.