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How to Decorate Your Office for Maximum Productivity

A woman writing at her desk with her laptop open.
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

A well-decorated office might seem like a luxury—but what if it makes you more productive? Research suggests that something as simple as a new coat of paint can affect your mood and outlook. This isn’t conclusive, but it makes for some promising possibilities.

In addition to color, many other factors in your office decor can help with productivity. Taste in decor tends to be highly personal, so what works for one person might not for another. It takes some experimentation to find what works for you.

But where should you start? Whether you work at home or not, try out some of these visual upgrades in your office and see if you don’t get a productivity boost.

Change the Colors

As mentioned above, color psychology is a hotly debated field that suggests color might be able to change your mood. However, one reason the research is so inconclusive is that reactions to color are highly personal.

For example, in some cultures, white suggests cleanliness and purity, but in others, white is the color of mourning. Depending on where you’re from, and your personal experience, you might have a very different reaction to a white office.

If you already know which colors lift your mood, go ahead and paint your office. However, if you can’t decide or aren’t allowed to paint, add some “temporary” color. Hang a new set of curtains, or a colorful painting or picture. This way, you can easily try out a few colors until you find what works best.

Add New Lighting

Studies also suggest that natural light is one of the most important things employees can have in a workspace. Natural light seems to help people get more done—and feel better while they do it.

If you have a window in your office, keep the blinds and curtains wide open, and try to finish your workday before it gets dark. If you don’t have natural light in your office, better artificial lighting is the next best thing.

Make sure your office is brightly lit with ambient lighting that doesn’t leave dark shadows in your workspace. Add some focused lighting, like a desk lamp, wherever you work on specific tasks. If you have a few different lighting sources, you can also adjust the brightness of the room to match your mood and the task at hand.

Luckily, it’s easy to upgrade your office lighting with inexpensive lamps and light fixtures. Even in a stodgy corporate office, no one should be opposed to you adding a nice desk lamp to your cubicle.

In addition to adding or changing light fixtures, using different light bulbs can also help you get more done in the office.

Warm lighting tends to promote relaxation, while cool lighting improves productivity. If you switch out warm-toned light bulbs for some in cooler colors, you might get more done.

Want to get fancy with it? You can also buy smart bulbs that let you change the lighting color as needed.

Experiment with Scent

Candles and a scent diffuser on a small table in front of a plant and some framed art.
Ina Ts/Shutterstock

Certain scents can have a meaningful impact on your mood. However, much like with colors, your reaction to scent is very personal. A scent that helps one person focus might spark relaxation in another.

There’s a scientific reason for this effect. In your brain, the olfactory bulb is near the amygdala and hippocampus, both of which are associated with memory and mood. A smell can trigger memories far more effectively than a sound, or even a sight, can. This is because those other senses are processed farther from the brain’s emotion and memory centers.

So, while some scents might have specific effects on your mood, those effects depend on your past experience with that scent. Lavender might relax most people, but if you’ve had a bad experience in a lavender field, it probably won’t work that way on you.

Try candles, diffusers, and other scent sources to find those that help you focus. While it takes some trial and error, experts suggest that lemon, jasmine, peppermint, cinnamon, and rosemary might be good productivity-boosting scents.

Green It Up

According to some studies, the sight of living plants helps some people concentrate. Plants also make your office prettier and more welcoming, which might make you feel better as you start your workday.

If you can’t put plants in your office, try to spend some time outdoors during a work break. Eat lunch outside or hold your brainstorming session at a nearby park to reap the focus-inducing benefits of greenery.

Try Curved Furniture

Some experts think soft edges on furniture can help reduce stress and free up the mind to focus and be more productive.

Hard or pointy edges might subconsciously put you “on edge,” since they can hurt you if you run into them. Softer textures and rounded corners reduce that added stress.

Office furniture is often a bit stark and severe, but if you get the chance to buy a new desk, chair, or cabinet, think about choosing a softer, more rounded design.

These ideas should get you off to a good start. However, our reactions to our surroundings are largely personal, so don’t hesitate to experiment and bend the “rules” to find what works for you. If nothing else, just rearranging your office might do the trick.

If you’d like more suggestions to boost your focus and productivity, we’ve got ’em!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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