Even when we feel quite small, insignificant even, in the grand scheme of things we all have the opportunity to shape the future. The choices you make today craft the life you live tomorrow, whether you choose to act, to engage, to hold back, to make an excuse or to do nothing – you have an impact.
How much does your energy, your enthusiasm (or lack of it), your environment, your level of self-belief, your expectation, affect how you show up? Massively, doesn’t it and on those days where you don’t feel great or can’t be bothered – and we all have them – if you don’t do something to manage yourself and your attitude your day is just a slog, right?
I’m big into neuroscience – the stuff behind the woo woo – although the bare feet, flouncy, flowery attire of my youth might suggest the hippy, woo woo traits predated my formal understanding of neuroscience. Attitude, energy, environment, self-believe, enthusiasm and expectation all affect the prism through which we see the world, the ‘evidence’ we look for, and the reality we create for ourselves.
All of these things matter, but I think environment is often overlooked, whether you work at home, in a corporate, a shop, a hospital, a shared office – what it feels like makes a difference. When we were setting up Brave CoWork I did a fair amount of research around space, productivity and wellbeing and found some stuff I expected and a few surprises.
So, what did I find that I expected – natural light, greenery, space and moderate auditory stimulation all improve perceived wellbeing and productivity. Dingy workspace, poorly laid out desks and chairs, lack of natural daylight, lack of fresh air, and other people’s noise all adversely affected perceived wellbeing and productivity. Clutter clouds thinking and tidying office space, particularly for home workers and the self-employed, is a great source of procrastination.
Things I didn’t expect to find: the lack of control people felt they had over their environment – this applied fairly evenly to people working in an employer’s environment and those working from their own office, workshop, shop or home. Most people didn’t change their space from one year to the next, they put up with little things that annoy them – like broken furniture, poor light, lack of storage and clutter. There’s a whole bank of ‘reasons’ for not sorting stuff – from too expensive to no time, from not allowed to can’t be bothered, these were mostly excuses.
People gained energy from being around others. Not a surprise, but proximity is important – too close and it can be draining, too distant and the connectivity benefit is lost. Around 5 meters seems ideal, although cultural variations exist. The Allen Curve, first tested in 1974, suggests that the right proximity increases collaboration creativity and productivity. Working alone is not good for us.
Finally plants, again not a surprise they are good for us, but some of the benefits were a little more surprising. Plants have been proven to decrease eyestrain, lower feelings of anxiety, reduce negativity, and increase productivity. Eye strain has been tested in a number of studies, showing that both the change in focal distance and colour (compared with using a screen of some description) has a relaxing effect, and reduces symptoms associated with eye strain. They also clean the air, bring a little nature into your environment and larger plants help to dampen sound.
Are you paying attention to your environment, or have you become so used to it that you don’t notice little things that cause frustration every day?
I regularly do an environment audit, both in my home office and at the Brave CoWork. We frequently change things, add things and personalise things. Don’t get me wrong I love my workspaces, but they still need to be loved. It doesn’t have to be big stuff or cost money – swapping around a few crystals, a plant or a picture makes a difference; but the bigger difference usually comes from dealing with an irritant, clearing up your clutter and keeping your space clean.
What can you do to make your working environment work better for you?