There are a lot of things you can learn from working in different environments. One key lesson is the importance of a well designed space -- this will be especially clear to those of you who have worked in spaces at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Your work environment, either at the office or home, is a source of inspiration. If you feel empowered and inspired by your surroundings, you will be more productive and won't be as tempted by distractions. If the environment bothers you in some way, you're setting yourself up to be less efficient and less happy when you're there.
There might be limits on how much you can alter your workspace, especially when it comes to the actual office structure. But certain things are always within your control, such as how you organize your desk, which photos you include near your computer screen, etc.
Here are a few things to consider when improving your workspace so that it is pleasing and productive and promotes work/life harmony.
There are no cookie-cutter solutions
The ideal workspace is something that fits your personality and preferences. While there a few things that work universally, such as exposure to natural light, you need to set up your space so that it works most optimally for you. For example, if you're an extrovert and your office gets a lot of foot traffic, you might want your desk facing the doorway rather than the window. Do you want some soft light to offset the harsh glow of the computer screen or do bright lights wake you up and keep your mind sharp? Different things will work for different people. Try things, experiment, and pay attention to what works for you.
Agile design = great design
Building some flexibility into your space is ideal so that it's optimized for the different things you might need to do each day: participate in a video chat, do some focused writing, respond to emails etc. Kay Sargent, director of workplace strategies at the construction and infrastructure company Lend Lease, explains the benefits of agile design, "Rather than going to sit in one desk all day, it could be that I'll start working at a bench, then I'll go to a more quiet space for head-down concentration, then I'll go to the social hub because I want to connect with my co-workers. We've moved beyond traditional offices to agile design."
You can implement these principles in your own space by using an adjustable desk to avoid too much sitting or simply breaking your office up into different stations. For example, you might want to put the phone on the other side of the room rather than next to your computer so that you have to get up and move to take phone calls. "We still need to conquer how to control distractions. You can't control all distractions, but you can get up and move," Sargent says.
Color me happy
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to customize your space and make it pleasing is to bring in elements of your favorite colors. Color psychology is a real thing and certain colors can definitely affect your mood. You might want to surround yourself with pictures and/or inspirational quotes that emphasize your favorite color. Or if you'd like your office to have a calming effect to counteract stress, consider using muted tones. "The most important thing to know about colors, and our emotional response to them, has to do with colors' saturation and brightness," Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist, writes in Psychology Today. "Colors that are less saturated but bright, such as a bright sage green, are relaxing, and those that are more saturated and less bright, such as sapphire blues, are more energizing to look at," she notes. If you're curious about this, here is more information on mood-boosting colors.
It can take some time to figure out what works best for you. But I highly recommend investing the effort into optimizing your workspace. It makes a big difference. Remember, it's important to keep design agile so that you can keep it fresh and up to date each year. That keeps the workplace exciting and new.