Most Americans spend a lot of time in their workspace. About half of American workers spend more than 40 hours a week at work, and 18 percent of full-time workers spend more than 60 hours a week on the grind. For office workers, the average is around 47 hours per week according to the pollsters at Gallup. All that adds up to a lot of time spent at your desk, which really brings home the importance of making that space somewhere you feel comfortable.
Customizing your cubicle to fit your personality and sense of style is one way to make that time more pleasant, productive and, dare say, enjoyable. Another way to ensure your comfort is to change your physical environment to meet your physiological needs, using ergonomic principles to match your surroundings to what’s best for your body.
How you work affects the way you feel, and the way you feel is central to your overall quality of life. Often people who are in discomfort lose sleep and have difficulty focusing, both of which hurt your ability to get what needs doing done—both in the office and at home. One of the easiest ways to increase productivity is taking small, proactive steps to ensure your comfort and safety while you work.
#1 – Look straight ahead.
Most people don’t consider how the height of their computer screen can affect the way they sit. If your monitor is too close to your desk, you can spend much of the day holding your head at an awkward angle, which can result in neck pain, shoulder stiffness, middle back problems, and more. Many computer monitors are designed to adjust for height, but if you work primarily from a laptop, you may need to buy a stand to get the right height.
#2 – Standing desks.
There’s no reason you need to spend your whole day sitting down.
Standing desks are increasingly popular because they allow you to adjust the height of your desk to accommodate standing, which promotes circulation and can make you feel more alert as the day progresses.
#3 – Get a better chair.
This one can’t be emphasized enough. The way you sit impacts the way you feel, both physically and mentally. When you slouch, you aren’t engaging your core muscles in a positive way, which can result in back and shoulder problems. Body aches can sap your motivation quickly. Sitting hunched over or leaning against your armrest all day can even change the way you see yourself while you’re working in a manner less than inspiring. Switching to a chair designed for your frame that allows you to sit at attention with proper support can make a world of difference overnight.
#4 – Active footrest.
A good amount of the stiffness you feel after a long day in the office comes from inactivity. A variety of different solutions are available today to fight against sedentary sitting, from treadmill desks to the straightforward and affordable active footrest.
Rock your feet back and forth throughout the day to promote circulation and battle back against antsiness.
#5 – Climate control.
No office keeps perfect temperature all the time. Having a blanket on hand to battle back against the unrelenting gale of early-spring air conditioning will be a lifesaver. Alternately, if your office is hot and stuffy during the summer, a small fan tucked beneath your desk can promote airflow and make your cubicle feel like a welcoming oasis.
A sense of order can do a lot for making your working experience better. When everything seems to have a neat and tidy place, it makes your space feel more purposeful (and, of course, makes finding important items easier too!) Just think of how great it is when you do a thorough cleaning and organizing in your home. Even if you aren’t naturally an organized person, getting your things in order—and keeping them that way!—is easier than you’d think.
#6 – Avoid the junk drawer approach.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? Sure, you can’t just leave all your work and supplies stacked all over your desk. But it’s easy to fall into the habit of tucking everything you aren’t using into a drawer or file cabinet, where it will be lost almost instantly. When putting your things out of sight, come up with a game plan. Drawer dividers, like the ones in your silverware drawer, can do wonders for keeping your stored supplies neat and in order.
#7 – Keep what you need on hand.
Knowing where to find the items you use the most—it doesn’t seem like much, but often it makes all the difference when it comes to feeling organized and in control when crunch time arrives. For keeping essential knickknacks like paperclips, staples, chargers, tape, and pens easily on hand, you can’t beat these bento box inspired trays and organizers that will help keep your workflow running smoothly (and they’ll do it with style!)
#8 – Feeling overcrowded?
Often, a desk alone isn’t enough to keep everything you need in your cubicle organized. Remember, having your own space is key to maintaining a clear, focused mind. When you have simply too much stuff, consider requesting an additional shelf to store folders, books, and other essential items you don’t need to access daily. Freestanding bookshelves, like this desk shelf from LD Products, are great for adding more surface space.
An extra square foot or two can be a godsend when cubicle space is limited, after all!
#9 – Give yourself space to move around.
Whenever possible, give yourself a little room to stretch out. The Canadian Centre for Health and Occupational Safety recommends stopping to stretch for five to ten minutes every hour or so to prevent stiffness and promote blood flow. Ideally, they suggest standing up and walking around for this period, though that isn’t always possible with a deadline breathing down your neck. What you can do is be sure to prevent the kind of crowding that will inhibit your ability to take space. Aside from promoting good health practices, ensuring you have space to move will make it easier to create flow between stations in your workspace, and give you clear access to an exit in the case of emergency.
#10 – Folders and File Organization.
Don’t let files stack up on your desk! Keeping folders in a small file cabinet tucked beneath your desk is a tried and true method but you can also use these wall pockets to help you find what you need just as fast and effortlessly and with more style!
There are several methods for organizing your files and finding what works for your role in the company can take some trial and error. Central to a smart rotation is keeping track of short-term documents and consistently moving them into long-term storage when you don’t need them on hand. I’ve had great success with transferring folders into long term storage after two months, well after completion of most projects. Keeping your subject folders organized by month may require more folders, but there are perks—the best of which, perhaps, is being able to cross check project dates against your email and find old projects fast.
And now for the fun part. Simple as it sounds, making your cubicle resemble somewhere you want to hang out will make it feel more like home. Your space is yours to invent and embellish in,
#11 – Hang prints.
Custom prints offer more opportunity to show off your personality in the office than most anything else. Surround yourself with the people and images that inspire you! Adding art to your space makes it feel more like home, too. Lightweight and inexpensive frames can do wonders to adding a formal touch to simple printouts, giving you a world class look on the cheap.
Another way to breathe life to drab dividers is to hang fabric or inexpensive wallpaper on them. Pair the two and experiment with your look!
#12 – Bring a lamp from home.
Overhead florescent lighting is impersonal and sterile, as well as harsh on the eyes over time. Usually, you can’t do much to replace overhead lighting, but you can bring a lamp from home to create your sanctuary, decked out with soft and comfortable light. Lamps can act as a great statement piece in your cubicle without taking over too much territory on your desktop, too.
If your job involves reading a lot of printout documents, a side lamp to better light your work can be a real lifesaver.
#13 – Color, color, color.
Far too many offices rely on the same color palette as an overcast day. Break up that morose, gray day feel and introduce color into your space. Brit and Co. suggest these vibrant paper tassels as one way to break up the humdrum of carpeted gray cubicle walls. I tend to agree! They have several great ideas for putting a splash of brightness and life in your desk area.
#14 – Accent what you have.
A colorful addition to your filing cabinet or little pom-pom pushpins on your bulletin board are the little details that make an office more enjoyable. Have some fun! You’d be amazed what a vintage telephone can do to excite your day.
Sometimes giving a functional desk accessory a little boost can turn it into an inexpensive accent piece, like wrapping this otherwise plain pencil cup with shiny paper wrap or painting it gold.
#15 – Carpet samples.
Use a rug sample as a keyboard pad for a creative way to add color and comfort to your desktop. Samples are usually inexpensive, very often free, and come in hundreds of patterns to match your aesthetic. When choosing a sample, keep in mind that not every kind of carpet is easy on the skin, and selecting one that is coarse or triggers allergies is, um, less than ideal. Larger carpet samples can be placed underneath your chair like a stylish mini area rug.
#16 – Cut flowers.
Making your workspace more joyful is about touching the senses and triggering a pleasing reaction. A wonderfully effective way to do that is with fresh cut flowers, which add both a lovely fragrance and boost of color to any cubicle.
Seasonal arrangements and many wildflower blends will stay vibrant for a week or more, and more crafty folks can dry their bouquets to keep them around for a whole lot longer. However, bear in mind that many people are allergic to some types of flowers, so this solution may not be for everyone.
#17 – Succulents.
Greenthumb or no, low maintenance plants are excellent desktop cubicle mates for anyone. Succulents are especially popular as office plants for their unique look and ruggedness.
Similarly, air plants are super popular today for combining a cool look and easygoing watering and feeding cycle. Pair them with a stylish geometric vase and get a look that’s a whole lot edgier than the typical corporate ficus. Oh, and they are also hypoallergenic in most cases, too.
Getting the most out of your workspace requires experimentation and a dash of creativity, but it makes a world of difference. Even in the most dreary office cubicle, making strides to feel comfortable, both physically and mentally, will increase your productivity as well as boost your confidence—and make you feel more at home in the process!