Make Your Office Space Work For You

Can the color of your office walls affect your productivity? Does it matter whether your desk is near a window or under a fluorescent light? Does your cluttered desk make your boss think you’re a less efficient employee?

Make Your Office Space Work For You

Can the color of your office walls affect your productivity? Does it matter whether your desk is near a window or under a fluorescent light? Does your cluttered desk make your boss think you’re a less efficient employee?


Your workspace, and the way you decorate and organize it, can affect the way you work and the way your workmates perceive you—whether you like it or not. That may seem spurious or a bit unfair, but research shows that how you personalize your space has a direct effect on your mood as well as your productivity. Employees who have control over their workspace are happier, healthier and, ultimately, more productive, says Meredith Wells-Lepley, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Institute for Workplace Innovation. Here, how to create a space that will boost your creativity and credibility.

Function Over Fashion

“You spend more time working than you do sleeping, and more time at work than you do at home,” says Sayeh Pezeshki, CEO and founder of The Office Stylist. So, you want a workspace that inspires you. To that end, think about how your home is decorated and bring those design elements– mid-century modern, say, or art deco — into your office.


Think less in terms of knick-knacks and more about the overall aesthetic. Choose decorative items that are also functional and professional, says Pezeshki. Love pink? Pick up a pink and gold chevron mouse pad, say, and a matching trash can.

The Color of Creativity

Assuming you have control over the color of your office or cubicle walls, use sky or robin’s egg blue, says Pezeshki, a hue that helps workers stay productive and relaxed throughout the day. One caveat: Those engaged in repetitive tasks may find the color too soothing to stay focused. Though large swaths of red and orange can be over-stimulating day in and day out, they do evoke feelings of energy and creativity. For the best of both worlds, add pops of tangerine, terra cotta or red around your workspace.

Spruce Up Your Workspace

Sometimes, it’s okay to be green on the job. According to Jenny Gauld, interior designer and space planner at Turnstone, flowers and plants increase workplace productivity and creative performance. In fact, men who participated in one Texas A&M study produced 30 percent more ideas when working in environments with plants, she says. Another study by researchers at Texas State University found that workers with plants or a view of nature reported greater job and life satisfaction. If you don’t have a window view of green spaces, decorating your space with photographs of nature, or buying small plants for your desk, can help relieve stress.

Blue Sky Thinking

If there’s one surefire way to sap energy, it’s sitting beneath harsh fluorescent lights all day, says Lydia Littlefield, a lighting and color consultant in The Berkshires, Mass. Bright white lights can be physically exhausting on the eyes. So if you have windows, keep the blinds open — and consider turning fluorescent overhead lights off. Research shows that people who work with natural light are less susceptible to stress and the dreaded mid-afternoon slump, and report higher levels of well-being.


What if you work in a windowless space? TruthPlane CEO Mark Bowden, an expert in maximizing engagement during business presentations, says blue light that simulates the sun can help keep us productive and alert. Install light bulbs designed to produce the blue light for your workspace, and you’ll be happier and more productive, he says.

Consider Your Credibility

Understand your corporate culture and what’s appropriate. “If you work at Martha Stewart, your office is going to look more like your living room than if you work at BP,” says Dr. Lois Frankel, author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office.” Look to the most powerful woman in the company, advises Frankel. In general, that’s how your office should look. Keep family photos, kids’ artwork and other memorabilia to a minimum. “One is fine, but five of them lined up along the windowsill isn’t going to help you establish credibility,” says Frankel.

Keep Your Desktop Clear

Decorations should not be distracting, says Eileen Roth, author of “Organizing For Dummies®.” For that reason, she recommends using only wall space for pictures and certificates. “You do not want them taking up valuable real estate on your desktop,” she says. Likewise, just because it’s an office supply doesn’t mean you need it, says Pezeshki. The only items that should be on your desk are those that you actually use daily. Minimize magnets and bulletin boards, which invite clutter. And file papers immediately, says Roth.

Don’t Forget to Smile

Photo Source: SweetPotatoShop on Etsy

According to research published in Psychological Science, being in a good mood boosts creative thinking, and doing things at work to buoy your spirits can help you perform better. Maybe you can’t install a Wii at your workspace, but you can add a touch of levity with inspirational quotes or funny photos that remind you to not always be so serious, says Pezeshki. One of her favorites: “Today will be awesome!” It’s a reminder that even when you’re having a challenging day, there’s still time to turn the day around.


How have you personalized your space? Send us a photo of your workspace and tell us, in 150 words or less, what you love about it and how it inspires you. We’ll post some of our favorites next week. Send submissions to [email protected] (please include your first name and city).