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Your Workspace Is Hurting Your Productivity Without You Even Realizing It

By implementing a few key strategies, you can create a healthier, more productive workspace.

You know that feeling: You are sitting at your desk and trying to focus on that project, but it feels like it is impossible to get anything done. That form you need is buried under a mountain of paperwork, your neighboring co-workers are chatting about their weekend, and you are tethered to your desk by countless cords and wires, making it impossible to get away from the distractions.

It is not just you and your short fuse. Today’s workspaces are not designed for productivity, and they are having a negative impact on how we feel about where we spend a massive portion of our lives. The main problems? Clutter, sedentary behavior, limited screen real estate, and open workspaces.

Clutter is a well-known source of anguish for people trying to focus, and our modern working lives are full of it — which is hurting productivity. In fact, according to a team of Princeton neuroscientists, clutter competes for your attention and ends up hurting your overall focus. And it is not just paper that can make a workspace feel cluttered — wires, cords, and peripheral devices like printers and scanners can take up even more space and further reduce productivity.

Sedentary behavior is another factor that could hinder productivity. Sitting too long can affect everything from posture to blood sugar to even brain health, which makes it harder to focus and complete your tasks. That is why more companies are starting to jump on the standing desk bandwagon. In a recent interview, for example, Tim Cook explained that all Apple employees were given standing desks that allow them to sit for a few hours and stand for a few hours to improve their health.

Even if you cut the clutter and adopt a more active workspace with a standing desk, it can still be difficult to focus when you are trying to work on a laptop with a small screen. The struggle, then, is figuring out how to add more screen real estate without adding more clutter with additional wires and cords.

And on top of all that, we are trying to overcome those problems while under the watchful gaze of our colleagues. Open workspaces have become the norm in American offices, with collaboration and transparency being prioritized over personal space. But when people do not have their own base, it is easy to feel distracted — in fact, according to a study of 700 participants from a variety of industries, 58 percent of employees are craving more private space.

All these little grievances add up to a big loss of productivity, which impacts our well-being. It is a nationwide problem — according to research by Gallup and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, Americans’ engagement at work is waning, with less than a third of survey participants saying they are emotionally engaged at work. And when employees are not engaged at work, it can be difficult for them to focus on the tasks at hand, leading to distractions and a drop in productivity.

With all this distraction around, it can be difficult for business leaders to address these problems. But by implementing a few key strategies, you can quickly create a healthier, more productive workspace.

1. Create an active workspace.

Smart companies have implemented an “active workspace” rule. They have installed sit/stand desks so employees are more likely to stretch their legs, move around, and get oxygen flowing to their brains to combat the lull in energy most people face in the afternoon.

This one simple redesign can have a significant impact on workplace health at relatively little cost. According to an Australian study, implementing standing desks can ultimately save 7,492 “health-adjusted life years” by helping to prevent certain health issues and diseases, particularly those related to obesity. Even a simple change like standing for part of the day can lead to a boost in energy, which also results in an increase in focus and productivity.

2. Cut the clutter and go hands-free.

When you cut clutter, your space is simplified so you have fewer distractions and can get more work done. And one simple way to cut clutter is to go hands-free, which allows you to multitask while on the phone and work without being tethered to your desk.

Using the technology you have available to streamline your daily tasks can also help cut digital clutter. For example, if you are feeling bogged down by manually scheduling meetings all day, try using tools like Google Calendar or Calendly to speed up the process.

3. Go paper-free.

It is the 21st century, and paper is no longer a staple in our workplace diet — and all the unnecessary waste is dragging us down.

It is easy to eliminate most of the paper from your workplace by digitizing your processes. Invest in a document scanner that can keep all your important papers filed safely in your computer. The benefits here are twofold: First, you can decrease clutter and free up space on your desk. Second, when you need those documents, they will be easier to find when they are organized on your computer rather than piled haphazardly around your workspace or filed away in a cabinet.

4. Give people the tools they need.

Looking around your office, there are probably tools you could provide that would make life easier and happier for the members of your team. If people are peering into tiny laptop screens and scrolling through more tabs than they can handle, maybe it is time to invest in extra monitors.

Investing in greater screen real estate enables employees to focus better for longer — in fact, using multiple screens can improve productivity by up to 18 percent.

Small problems are draining energy from your workplace, and it is time to implement some simple redesigns to get your employees back on their feet and excited about their projects again.

We spend so much of our precious time in our workspaces — it is time to make them places we love.

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