How to Optimise your home workspace for increased productivity.
How does your working environment maximise your cognitive performance?
The service industry now makes up nearly 80% of the British economy. According to Interserve’s ‘Work Experiences – the Science Series’ it is built on ‘knowledge workers – people who think for a living, whose ideas, knowledge, experience and relationships form the crux of their organisations offering. The performance of these employees comes down to their ability to think and to process information (also known as cognitive performance)’. Does your working environment enhance or hinder your cognitive performance?
In this blog we look at all the elements that can help improve cognitive importance in terms of a working environment and help maximise your productivity when working from home.
Ideally employees working from home should have a dedicated workspace. This can contribute to wellbeing by setting boundaries between work and play. An employee ‘goes to work’ in the office and ‘leaves work’ at the end of the day when they are able to close the door on their workspace. ‘When work and home activities take place in the same physical space, physical, temporal and psychological boundaries between work and home can become blurred,” According the Kelly Basile and T. Alexandra Beauregard in their June 2016 Strategic HR Review paper ‘Strategies for Successful Telework, How Effective Employees Manage Work / Home Boundaries’.
The workers they interviewed use physical, time-based, behavioural and communicative strategies to set boundaries. For example, after their workday was done, full-time teleworkers with dedicated office space at home had an easier time devoting their full attention to non-work responsibilities, compared with those without a home office.
As well as a dedicated workspace the following factors effect cognitive performance:
Lighting is one of the strongest factors in creating an optimal office design. Light induces a whole range of physiological responses. Higher levels of lighting can significantly increase alertness, while different types of lighting can have an impact on mood, memory and speed of task. Natural Lighting is integral to your body’s circadian rhythm, improves mood and boosts Vitamin D. Warm light can be more calming and inviting whereas cool light can reduce fatigue. LED lighting for example has been shown to improve alertness and the ability to process information.
Temperature and Ventilation:
In the workplace it is almost impossible to have the office at the optimum temperature for everyone. There is always someone who is too hot and at the same time you’ll find others wrapped in blankets even on the hottest day!
In terms of what is the ideal temperature for cognitive performance – studies suggest that temperatures exceeding 30 degrees have a negative impact on cognition and that colder temperatures can improve reaction and response times.
When working from home, employees have the ability to work at their own optimum temperature – most people perform at their best when they feel comfortable in the ambient temperature they are in. Having a workspace that allows you to adjust the temperature for your own specific requirements will have a positive impact on your cognitive performance.
Breathing better – i.e. Fresh air from outside can lead to significantly better decision-making performance among employees according to Joseph G Allen in the Harvard Business review. Having access to a window and fresh air is ideal.
Noise levels are one of the most important factors to consider in relation to cognitive performance. Excess Noise can contribute to decreased employee productivity and increased staff absenteeism. The provision of a quiet space in which to work means less distraction and more concentration equalling more a more productive workspace and therefore, more productive employees.
Nature and Plants:
We are naturally inclined to connect to nature. Being able to see or feel connected to nature is a great way to increase creativity and improve mental wellbeing. Plants inside the office reduce stress, clean the air and can even help reduce noise levels. Interactions with natural environments and nature-related stimuli have been found to be beneficial to cognitive performance, in particular on executive cognitive tasks with high demands on directed attention processes. Studies have shown that being connected to nature can lead to reduced stress and better cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Rachel Herz, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University in the USA states that smells can have a dramatic impact on our mood. Mood has been shown to influence creativity because when we’re in a positive frame of mind, we exhibit higher levels of creatively. When people are exposed to a smell they like, creative problem solving is found to be better.
In one particular study, employees who worked in the presence of a pleasant-smelling air freshener reported higher levels of self-belief, set higher goals for themselves and were more likely to employ efficient work strategies compared to participants who worked in conditions where they weren’t exposed to any smells.
Pleasant scents have also been found to enhance vigilance during tedious tasks as well as improve performance on anagram and word completion tests.
A Japanese study found that specific scents can increase alertness which in turn, results in higher productivity rates. When lemon oil was diffused through an office building, performance amongst data entry operators increased by 54%.
Research has shown that scents can be used to improve concentration levels and ward off mid-afternoon brain fog.
To help improve cognitive performance – consider using some of the scents listed below
- Rosemary encourages clear thinking, improves memory and energises the mind.
- Citrus – grapefruit can help to fight mental exhaustion, lemon is uplifting, orange can ease stress and bergamot oil can even be used to help treat depression.
- Lavender reduces stress and anxiety.
- Peppermint is energising and refreshing and can aid concentration and stimulate the mind.
- Cinnamon can help to fight mental fatigue and improve concentration.
For Employees who work from home It has been found they are more likely to eat more healthily. There are many studies connecting nutrition with cognitive performance, not just in terms of what food is consumed but also at what time it is eaten. Having access to a kitchen of food allows employees to eat healthily when it suits them.
Keeping well hydrated is essential to strong cognitive performance. Dehydration has a clear adverse effect on brain function – it can cause physical symptoms as well as interfering with perception, special ability, attention and memory.
Employees who are enabled to work from home are able to spend less time commuting and so therefore, need to get up later in the morning giving more time for sleep. Poor quality or lack of sleep can have a significant impact on many aspects of cognitive performance including memory, decision making and problem solving.
Without the daily commute on a regular basis, employees who work from home are able to find time for leisure activities including exercise. Exercise and increased levels of physical activity have a positive impact on almost all brain functions as well as general physical wellbeing.
Thinking about a Cognitively Optimised Workspace for you or your Employees?
Modulr Spaces Ltd design home offices and garden rooms. Architects and Structural Engineers have designed our spaces to be pleasurable and effective places to work. They are warm, flooded with natural light, sustainable and allow you to be closer to nature with their large glass windows and doors. Our Small Space solution comes fully fitted out in most cases – so all you need to do is sit down and get on with some work in the knowledge that your cognitive performance will be optimised by your work space! Get in touch today. firstname.lastname@example.org