Your Workspace is Essential To Your Productivity
One of the greatest benefits of being a freelancer is the ability to work around your own schedule. If you want to complete your projects at 2 AM in footie pajamas, nobody is going to dress code you. As long as you’re hitting the deadline, it doesn’t matter when or where you work.
However, a flexible schedule can sometimes work against you. Just because you have the flexibility to work from the comfort of your bedroom or dining room table doesn’t mean you should.
This was my biggest problem when I began freelancing two years ago. Every day, I’d set my laptop up at my kitchen table and begin working— for about twenty minutes. Then I’d get distracted by my phone, other people talking, or one of my cats attempting to snooze in my lap. Two hours would pass and I’d have almost nothing to show for it.
Initially, I tried to eliminate the distractions: I placed my phone at an unreachable distance, locked myself in my bedroom and told everyone not to bother me. But, even in the absence of my biggest distractions, I still couldn’t work. My brain was like a TV with a hundred different channels, and I felt suffocated by the silence, not inspired by it.
That’s when I began going to coffee shops to work. You’d think that the constant chatter and movement would drive me insane, but for some weird reason, my productivity soared. I struggled to focus at home, but with my headphones and a good cup of coffee, I could accomplish anything at the local Starbucks.
My own epiphany has made me think a lot about workspaces and their effect on productivity. Clearly, finding the perfect workspace doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution — we’re all a little different. While some people can knock out huge projects in the middle of the night, others require daylight hours and the structure of an office to get anything done.
The real question is: how can we find what works for us, and manipulate our workspace to maximize productivity?
A productive workspace will brighten your mood
Even if you don’t necessarily enjoy what you’re working on, that doesn’t mean that your workspace or office can’t make you happy. Research from Warwick University found that people are more productive when they’re happy — specifically, 12% more productive.
In some cases, that number may rise even more, according to Professor Andrew Oswald. “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result,” Oswald says, “For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”
In my situation, although I was able to eliminate the distractions by shutting myself in my bedroom, the flat, drab walls didn’t brighten my mood. Yet, working in a cozy Starbucks and sipping a good cup of coffee could.
If you can work somewhere that makes you happy — like the park on a sunny day or a coffee shop — you can significantly boost your productivity. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to abandon your current workspace for a public spot in order to work harder. Maybe all you need to is hang a few posters on the wall or sit next to the window — as long as your workspace is making your mood better, your productivity will be too.
Create space to move around
Unless you’re superhuman or well-medicated, it’s unlikely that you can sit down and just work for hours on end. Even the most productive of us need a mental break every once and awhile.
A study by researchers William Helton and Paul Russell found that occasional rest breaks were extremely beneficial to overall productivity. More than that, Helton and Russell’s findings suggest that your workspace needs to be a place where you can move around.
A cramped office can feel suffocating, but an open space will allow you to step away from the project when you need to and refresh. If you can’t do that, you might find yourself burning out after only a few hours.
Keep it organized
One of the appeals of working in a coffee shop is the organization. I’m a naturally disorganized person, and any desk or table I have in my own home will inevitably end up with some clutter. Yet, the clean, clear table in a coffee shop will leave me nothing to focus on but the task at hand.
There’s science to back up the benefits of an organized workspace too. A survey from the Brothers International Corporation found that disorganized workers spent up to 30 minutes a week looking for misplaced items in their offices, and 87% felt they were “less productive”.
When you’re working in the midst of a mess, there isn’t much to focus on besides the mess. You’ll end up sifting through papers and folders to find what you’re looking for, and waste valuable time.
This isn’t to say your workspace needs to be sparkling clean, but if you find that the clutter is distracting you, it might be time to tidy up.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to a productive workspace. Operating on your most productive level is about more than just stashing your smartphone and eliminating background noise. We all function a little differently, and what makes me work harder might distract someone else. That being said, finding a workspace that makes you happy, allows you to move around and is relatively organized can significantly boost your productivity.