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19 Jun

Put your own touch on it and become more productive


Datum: 2024-06-19 08:24
A tidy and well-organized desk with art supplies, notebooks, and a potted plant, set against a bright, windowed background.

There are offices of all sorts and the ques­tion is what kind that makes you most productive.

The oppor­tu­ni­ty to be able to influ­ence how your work­place is set up mat­ters a great deal if you are to believe a study from 2010 by Craig Knight and S. Alexan­der Haslam at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter.


For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:


Four kinds of trust

In one exper­i­ment they test­ed the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of peo­ple who were tasked to solve a hand­ful of ordi­nary office chores” dur­ing an hour in four dif­fer­ent offices. The rooms dif­fered from one anoth­er by being fur­nished accord­ing to dif­fer­ent circumstances:

  • The first office, which the researchers called Lean”, lacked dec­o­ra­tion alto­geth­er, and only had the things need­ed for the per­son to solve the task, which was a pen, a paper, and an emp­ty desk.
  • The sec­ond room, referred to as Enriched”, was ful­ly fur­nished with plants and dec­o­ra­tive posters. 
  • In the third office, Empow­ered”, the test-per­son was asked to arrange the fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tion on his own using the same plants and posters as in Enriched”.
  • In the fourth room, Dis­em­pow­ered”, the test-per­son was asked to arrange the dec­o­ra­tion yet again, but after hav­ing done so, the room was rearranged once again and cor­rect­ed” to look exact­ly like the pre-dec­o­rat­ed Enriched”.

Does freer make you more efficient?

What ver­sion do you think result­ed in the high­est pro­duc­tiv­i­ty? It turned out that in the ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed room Enriched”, the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty went up by 15% com­pared to in the clin­i­cal and stripped Lean” room. Even more inter­est­ing (and prob­a­bly expect­ed?) was that the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty went up anoth­er 15%, all the way to 30% above the Lean” room when the test-per­sons were allowed to arrange the dec­o­ra­tion them­selves in the Empow­ered” room. 

And when the par­tic­i­pants got their arrange­ment cor­rect­ed” in the Dis­em­pow­ered” room, the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty dropped to the same lev­el as in the Lean” room, even though the dec­o­ra­tions were arranged in an iden­ti­cal way com­pared to how they were set up in the Enriched” room (which had pre­vi­ous­ly shown an increase in productivity).

So, it seems hav­ing influ­ence over how our work­place is designed can make a big difference.

Do this

If you want to make use of what was shown in the study men­tioned above and increase your abil­i­ty to get more done with less effort, pon­der for a while what changes you could make in your office envi­ron­ment to feel more com­fort­able there.

If you have not got a des­ig­nat­ed office or desk but are work­ing activ­i­ty-based and change place every day, is there some­thing in your dig­i­tal work­space that you can change and put your own touch to? It is, after all, the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment most of spend hours star­ing into.

When you design your envi­ron­ment, be care­ful not to dec­o­rate it with pic­tures and text that dis­tracts or attracts your atten­tion when you do not want it to. When you need to focus it is imprac­ti­cal to get dis­tract­ed every time you lift your head.

Get more done easier

If you put your own touch to the envi­ron­ment you work in you will raise your pro­duc­tiv­i­ty even more, if we are to believe what Knight and Haslam’s study sug­gests. With less effort you will get done what you have to do quick­er, hence enabling you to spend more time and ener­gy on what you would rather do.

What’s your way?

What design, fur­ni­ture, dec­o­ra­tions or oth­er phys­i­cal arrange­ments make you real­ly enjoy your work­place? Describe it in an email to me, please.

(Per­haps you would enjoy work­ing in a qui­et mead­ow at the office?)


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