Productivity is a commodity of immense value. But harnessing the clarity to power through your workload with utmost efficiency is easier said than done when your environment isn’t optimal.
Though elements of lifestyle and wellbeing outside of the workplace will go a long way in determining your day-to-day productivity, there’s a lot to be said for performance-enhancing tweaks that can be made in your office.
From interior reshuffles to eliminating handheld distractions, below you’ll find eight tried and tested techniques shown to produce results.
Stand Up and Prosper
If you’re reading this hunched, uncomfortable and struggling to concentrate, this statistic is key: your standing desk-adopting peers are experiencing a 46% increase in workplace productivity.
The result comes from an examination of the productivity differences between two groups of call centre employees over six months. Those who undertook their tasks from stand-capable desks were deemed to make more successful calls per hour than those who solely sat, and that’s with an average of just 1.6 hours less seated time per day. The researchers also note that differences became more distinguished in month two, after the standing group became more habituated to their desks.
So next time you scoff at the idea of parting ways with your swivel chair, know that standers aren’t just dropping calories while they work, they’re likely to have got through twice as much of their to-do list as you, too.
Walk the Walk
The saying goes: don’t run before you can walk. In the work productivity stakes, however, walking before you stand could result in a new level of office efficiency, especially if you work in the creative industries.
The likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are among the business leaders who have vouched for meetings on foot for this very reason. To test that it wasn’t simply coincidence, though, Stanford researchers conducted four experiments to understand how walking affects creative thinking, including variations of tests done while sitting, walking, walking outdoors, being rolled around in a wheelchair outdoors, and more.
The overwhelming majority of the participants in these experiments were more creative while walking than sitting, with creative output found to increase by an average of 60%.
Seeds of Success
Green offices aren’t purely decorative; plantlife at work has also been known to sprout an employee productivity upshot of 15%.
The University of Queensland measured perceptions of air quality, concentration and workplace satisfaction when minimalist offices in the UK and the Netherlands were given greenery. The results showed office landscaping to pay off, with workers’ recording a perception that their employer cares more about their welfare.
The same sentiment was voiced in environmental activist Kamal Meattle’s Ted Talk, where he deemed oxygen-rich and mentally stimulating vegetation in the workplace decreased incidences of burnout and sick leave.
Use Your Common Scents
You’d be forgiven for thinking aromatherapy was more to do with mellowing out than getting things done, but smell is one of the strongest senses for influencing brain activity.
And though our research source for the productivity-enhancing effects of scent may come with a vested interest, fragrance production company Takasago found office workers made 20% fewer typing mistakes when the air around them was lavender-scented. The statistic grows to 33% with jasmine and 54% with lemon.
In an Entrepreneur article which drew on the expertise of the West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy’s Beverly Hawkins, rosemary was also identified as a perfect pick-me-up which can improve memory retention, while peppermint could contribute to heightened concentration and clear thinking.
Dogs are Manager’s Best Friend
There are more perks to an office pooch than saving on the walker’s fee. Being around your pet while you work has been shown to have a positive impact on teamwork and job satisfaction, and while many might have considered it a distraction, there’s also science to back up the productivity benefits too.
A Central Michigan University-conducted experiment found groups who had a dog around during a set task displayed more mutual trust, bonding and intimacy than those who worked without. Another – carried out by Virginia Commonwealth University – found employees who left their dogs at home to experience much higher stress levels than those who were allowed to bring theirs.
But if your office is a strictly no-dog zone, you needn’t worry too much. Research from Hiroshima University found that a short session of just looking at pictures of puppies and other cute animals could bear similar results.
Sleep on the Job
Napping might seem like the most counterproductive thing you could do for your mounting workload, but many a successful company acts on the purported productivity boost from an office snooze.
Vice President of real estate and workplace services at Google once told CBS that “No workplace is complete without a nap pod.” Indeed, you’ll find futuristic MetroNaps “EnergyPods” in the search engine’s HQs around the world (complete with cashmere eye masks).
Elsewhere, PricewaterhouseCoopers reportedly invite sleep experts to enlighten its employees to the importance of power napping, while Ben & Jerrys and Nike have also professed to endorse on-site shut-eye.
Become a Digital Minimalist
The usefulness of your smartphone while you work, as with any tool, comes down to how you use it. Surprising, then, that a London Business School study found the majority of us choose to stick with the default settings we’re assigned.
But with the average company exec touching their phone 2,617 times a day, there are clear consequences to productivity that come from excessive phone interaction. According to a study from the University of California, Irvine, distractions such as push notifications on our phones can take us away from our task at hand for about 23 minutes at a time, contributing to a 40% productivity loss from task switching by the end of your working day.
So, managing what you use and what you don’t while in the office all adds up to more time spent focused on your workload. As a first-step solution, you could disable notifications on your smartphone, set it to airplane mode for set periods, or use apps such as Freedom to block applications for specified timeframes.
IA is the New PA
Technology is by no means exclusively conducive to distraction. The advent of intelligent assistants such as Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri is all about streamlining (it’s believed there will be as many IA-enabled devices as there are humans in a matter of years) but a recent article from Harvard Business Review pointed out the slow take-up of the technology in the workplace.
We spend just a few minutes a month engaging with our IAs, while a quick look at your screen time analysis will likely attest to much longer spent scrolling through Instagram as worktime procrastination.
With a list of abilities that are constantly growing – including making changes to your settings, daily planning, finding information, performing tasks such as online shopping and communication, to name just a few – making better use of your handheld intelligent assistant becomes more akin to, well, having a real-life personal assistant. As HBR puts it, you will do less but achieve more.
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