Let's face it, you'd rather be out having fun than stuck at your desk being "productive" and yet, for most of us, several hours a day are spent sat down, looking at a computer screen, hunched over a rather uninspiring desk.
How's a girl meant to get anything done?
Luckily, there's been a lot of research into what creates a productive working environment and it doesn't really matter whether your desk is in your bedroom, a workspace or a big open-plan office – the findings still apply.
Here's what to do.
Ditch the clutter
Guys. No shaming here. Right now, my desk looks like the aftermath of one of those movie scenes where an angsty character starts ripping things off the walls and upending boxes in a desperate bid to deal with some heavy emotions. It’s a disaster zone.
But did you know that “tidy desk, tidy mind” might actually have some truth to it? According to researchers at Princeton, “Multiple stimuli present in the the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.” In short, mess and clutter – too many things in your eye-line, basically – could compromise your attention.
So rid your desk space of anything you don’t need. Like those used-up notebooks, post-its covered in scrawlings about things you're never going to do, and, while you're at it, those 17 pairs of shoes under your desk, too. Begone.
Take back the thermostat
At home, you’ve probably got that militant housemate who doesn’t let you turn the heating on until at LEAST mid-December. And, quite frankly, you can’t really argue with her. After all, you’re all paying the extortionate heating bills.
At work, though, you've got a leg to stand on. According to a survey from 2014, researchers reckon that almost 2% of working hours could be lost to people being dissatisfied with the temperature.
What is the right temperature to work in, though? Thank your lucky stars you don’t work at Facebook, where Mark Zuckerberg reportedly keeps the thermostat at an icy 15 degrees Celsius. A study from Cornell University, however, found that warmer workers are better workers, after an increase in office temperature from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius cut typos and increased typing output.
So, next time your boss tells you to stop complaining about how cold it is, remind him how much harder you could be working if he shelled out a little more on heating bills.
Get away from the crowd
If you can choose where you work, you’re in luck. Most offices these days tend towards busy, open-plan structures which, sadly, are doing nothing for your productivity. According to a study review from Auckland University of Technology, conversations from others can be a “significant task distraction and source of irritation,” while “sound privacy” is one of the modern worker’s biggest bugbears.
The review refers to studies which recommend visual distractions from fellow workers – bookshelves, or "living plant walls". Obviously don’t build your own bookshelf in your office but if you can separate yourself from your coworkers in some way – either with noise-cancelling headphones or by building some kind of folder fort – power to you.
Palms on palms on palms isn’t just a trend that looks good, it’s a trend that helps you work well, too. According to a paper from Exeter University, employees in minimalist offices were 15% more productive when their environments were populated with a few plants.
Just make sure that, if you do get a bunch of plants for your desk, you get someone to water them. Dead plants aren’t going to make anyone feel good.