Thriving in the New Normal//

How to Create a Home Workspace That Improves Productivity

Our environment can have a direct effect on our focus and efficiency.

Justin Lewis/ Getty Images
Justin Lewis/ Getty Images

The physical space around us can affect our creativity and productivity, and as many of us continue to work from home, being intentional about our environment is key to making sure we can stay focused. Whether you have a designated home office or you share your “workspace” with your kids’ virtual classroom, optimizing the space around you is critical to make sure you can stay efficient during the day.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small tweaks they’ve used to create a workspace that optimizes their focus and productivity. Which of these will you try?

Bring greenery into the room

“I have added some fresh flowers and greenery to my workspace to help create a sense of calm while I’m working. Whether it’s a supermarket bouquet, a blooming orchid, or a few stems of evergreen branches in a small vase, having greenery or flowers in constant rotation has been a great way to inject some beauty into my office space, and this small gesture gives me something pleasing to look at during my calls and video conferences.”

—Marta Chavent, management and change consultant, France

Create a DIY standing desk

“I converted my standard work desk into a standing desk using a modified coffee table from Ikea. I simply cut the legs to the appropriate height, and it’s been a game-changer in helping me focus better and stretch my legs during the day.”

—Eric Beschinski, organizational consultant and author, Valparaiso, IN 

Replace clutter with your joy triggers

“Working from home has only seemed to amplify the pressures of my job.  Early on, I realized that I needed to minimize distractions that I had control over and that included making changes to my workspace. I started by removing unnecessary clutter. I painted my office a neutral color, and minimized the amount of furniture in the room. I only brought in decor items that made me happy, like a new mirror, hand-painted pictures from my daughter, and an heirloom from my grandmother. I also added a few plants in hand-painted pots to help bring the outside in when I am stuck on back-to-back calls.”

—Suzanne Schnaars, senior manager technology, Basking Ridge, NJ

Move around

“I’ve started alternating the physical locations of my work calls throughout the day. I’ll generally take one call while sitting at the desk in my traditional desk chair. The next call is sitting on the yoga ball. The next call is on my feet using a standing desk riser.  Then, I’m back to the traditional chair.   Some days, I will have completed this rotation two or three times. This routine has increased my productivity by getting blood flowing and changing up the scenery around me.”

—Donna Peters, career coach, podcast host, Atlanta, GA

Hang up a painting you love

“I am a private practice licensed mental health counselor, and I’ve been working from home during COVID. I wanted my clients to receive some of the same organic and uplifting images on video conferencing as in my office. I purchased an original painting by friend Dan DeCastro of a lovely sunny marsh with reflective water, and it gives the impression on infinity and space. My clients see it but I see it in the thumbnail of conferencing, too, so it works both ways to keep me calm and create a therapeutic environment.”

—Mary Joye, LMHC, Winter Haven, FL

Play music that helps you focus

“I’ve set my office with the Feng Shui philosophy and I now listen to focus music or ‘963 Hz’ music. Playing these tracks helps me stay focused and not distracted when on calls with clients. It’s been a small change but has completely optimized my workspace.”

—Mel Austin, clean comedian, Riverside, CA

Try an ergonomic device for your posture

“I bought a device from Amazon that allows me to stand and work on my laptop, or to be in a seated position but elevate my neck to look up and create better posture. This device has not only helped ease my shoulder and upper back pain, but it has also cleared my vision and increased my productivity. I can stand when I need to and still conduct virtual meetings with confidence and comfort.”

—Akilah Darden, President of The Darden Group, Indianapolis, IN

Move your desk to face a window

“To make my space a more pleasant place for focus, I work facing a window so I’m not just looking at my monitor. It’s also a more flattering light for Zoom meetings, especially on days that I am too lazy to wear makeup. I’ve also moved my desk into my art studio. I had some concerns about working in the space where I paint and sculpt, but I’ve found that being around things that I love to make is inspiring.”

—Jana Rumberger, content manager, Portland, OR

Think outside the box (or kitchen)

“I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom calls lately. My usual workspace in my kitchen simply wasn’t cutting it, as the light would come through the window and nobody could see me. I decided to take over my son’s gaming room, and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before. He has a desk, a super comfortable gaming chair, and a window facing the chair, giving me the perfect light. I find the calls much less stressful now that I don’t have to worry about the lighting and other distractions in my kitchen.”

—Jody Woodbridge, writer, England, UK

Make it a phone-free space

“I have implemented a strict no-phone policy in my home office. Instead of placing my phone on my work desk, I deliberately leave it in the kitchen or living room instead. Incorporating this small but mighty change has significantly increased my productivity, as I no longer feel inclined to grab for my phone for some instant gratification or distraction while I work.”

—Ellen Million, empowerment and confidence coach, Zurich, Switzerland

What changes have you made to your own home workspace? Let us know in the comments!

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