workspaces that work

What helps you be healthy, happy, and productive when you need to be in the zone— whether that’s at your job, in your creative workspace, or somewhere else? Many of us spend a ton of time working at our desks— almost as much overall as we spend in bed, sometimes. And as with sleep, work goes better if we get the environment right.

For me, a big piece is being able to move around. I fidget, shift position, stand, sit, stretch, cross/uncross my legs, squat, sit on the floor, sit in half-lotus on my office chair. . . as I’ve heard Kelly Starrett Say, the best position is the next position. While I’m all about the ergonomics experts who will adjust your mouse and your monitor and whatnot, I think the best solution is generally to avoid spending too much time in one position to begin with. Variations on office furniture that help this? Sitting on something like a ball instead of a chair, a standing/adjustable desk, a treadmill/bike desk, stools/footrests, and my personal favorite— the headset, so you can take calls while moving around.

What else? Aesthetics! This might sound trivial, but it’s not. Don’t underestimate the effect of aesthetics on mental state and energy. Think about color, art, beauty, objects that inspire you. . . these things can really impact your work experience. I personally have a Jean-Luc Picard action figure (competent! intelligent! self-assured! dead sexy!), the name pin my dad gave me when I got my PhD (that was his dad’s), and some beloved books that are unrelated to my job.

Lighting is a huge deal, too. Have you ever gotten one of those fluorescent light headaches after a little too much time inside? Try a full-spectrum bulb, a lamp, and a window if you have the option. I also like the softness from a paper lantern. It’s nice to have multiple light-sources, too. This is really important if you do videoconferencing, like I do— you look like death with nothing but overhead fluorescents. I think a lot of folks underestimate how important it is to look put together when you’re interacting online.

Then there’s the air. A live plant goes a long way. Fresh flowers are nice too. A fan? An essential oil diffuser? What keeps you feeling awake, focused, pleasant?  When you pause to take in a few deep breaths, which you should, make sure you’re breathing in something good. What about sound? If you’re in a shared office, does noise bother you? I swear by my noise-cancelling headphones. I have a Bose over-the-ear pair. They’re pricey, but they really let me focus, both working at home/at the office, and traveling. They serve three functions: the noise cancelling, the music, and the deterrent to talking to me when I’m in the zone. The world doesn’t disapear, but it fades into the background enough that it doesn’t bother me. Game changer, for sure.

What keeps your workspace workable?

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