How to improve your work environment for a better life

As an interior designer, I’m often asked to analyze professional offices to determine how to improve the look of a space. The expectation is that more space is needed, but what I find most often is misuse of existing space. Here’s how to improve your office and improve your life with little to no money.

The Office: What’s really going on here?

  1. Start with WHY, then go to the HOW: a.Purpose-Why you’re here and what do you think you’re doing b.Focus-How do you function best in your space?
  2. Ownership: a.What belongs at the office-The meaning of things b.What doesn’t belong at the office-This is not your home, a museum, or a storage facility
  3. Playing nice: a.Respecting the people-Sharing and hoarding b.Respecting the place- partnering with your cleaning crew
  4. Walking away: a.Reboot- Your body and mind b.Changing perspective-New day, new solutions

Ten Action Steps

1. Get the real picture – Photograph your office workspace and really look at it. We become so used to what is in our surroundings that we no longer really see what is there like others do. Remember to get views of the desktop, walls, and floor.

2.  Move out – Take everything you added to your work area out. Analyze what is left. Ask yourself if those are all necessary things. If they are things that you never use, remove them. If they are things you seldom use, see if you can share with others in a central space.

3. Clear the decks – Take everything off of the surfaces and wipe the area with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Paper leaves behind a lot of tiny dust particles that are not very noticeable, but they get into your nose and eyes, making you feel irritated or sleepy when at your desk. Then, take a few minutes to wipe off your computer screen and keyboard while you’re at it.

4.The Floor is hot lava – The floor of your office is for walking on, or rolling your chair, or supporting your furniture. It is not a legitimate place to have papers, supplies, or anything that is not moved daily.  When you stack things on the floor you set the stage for an unhealthy eco-system to develop. This is where mold and insects thrive.

5. Edit with purpose – While everything is off of the surface, make some decisions about what needs to go back based on a really simple format: ask yourself if something is necessary or inspiring. If so, it’s a contender for returning to the space. If not, it goes in a drawer, file, or trash.

6. Shining the right light – Check the light around you. There should be at least 2 sources: ambient and task. Overhead light is ambient, lighting broad areas of a room. A source closer to your desk is task lighting and should be placed to light your desk surface. Looking at different light sources reduces eyestrain and allows you to function better longer.

7. The sitting/standing debate– The best possible scenario allows you to alternate between the two. If you can’t, consider a kneeling chair or a walk around the office every hour or two.  If that’s not possible, raise and lower your chair to change angles throughout the day. If your chair doesn’t change positions, take a couple of cushions to work to change things on your own.

8. Green for the “W”– A few real plants (not a jungle) improve every office. They remove toxins from the air, provide organic shapes that calm your nervous system, and provide a connection to the natural world. The hardiest varieties can survive with little light and inconsistent watering. A few of the best are peace lilies, pothos, snake plants, and bamboo palms.

9. The Return– Look at your now highly edited collection of desk inhabitants. Bring back what is necessary and useful. Bring back what is inspiring. If those things are tiny, place them on a tray or container so that they are easily cleaned or moved when necessary.

10.Change your filter– Just like your car and furnace, your workspace needs maintenance. Schedule a regular time to edit and clean your space. You can adopt a “one in, one out” policy to help you keep things to a minimum, or a time limit to what stays in your area.

See some of the office designed by the team of Lori Wiles Design:

Office space designed by Lori Wiles Design
Office space designed by Lori Wiles Design
Office space designed by Lori Wiles Design