Productivity is a fickle muse. It’s influenced by some things you can control (carb overload at breakfast, lack of sleep) and others you can’t (traffic jam, fight with your SO).
1. Try the blue light special
Blue light, or high-temperature lighting, has been found to improve concentration and productivity by nearly 37 percent.
Here’s the better news: It’s not hard to find. Natural light is a great high-temp light source, so put your office in a room with plenty of windows. If that’s not possible, invest in daylight-simulating bulbs, like this one, which emit the same type of blue light.
But keep those bulbs out of the bedroom. Blue light suppresses melatonin, so exposure before bedtime can disrupt your circadian rhythm and keep you awake long past Colbert.
2. Add a plant or two
Office plants have been proven to boost productivity by as much as 15 percent. In fact, a University of Exeter study found that plants improve concentration and employee engagement with their work, both cognitively and emotionally.
Researchers aren’t sure why exactly, but they believe the reason may be as simple as this: Plants make people happy, and happy people get stuff done.
3. Set the thermostat to 71 degrees
People work best when they’re at a comfortable temperature. What’s comfortable varies by person, but researchers at the Helsinki University of Technology found remarkably consistent data in their studies: Performance increases between 69 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit and decreases between 73 and 75 degrees.
Not sure where to start? Try the proven sweet spot: 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’re more likely to be productive in cold weather than extreme heat. The researchers found that by the time your thermostat hits 86 degrees, productivity tanks by 10 percent. So don’t try to get work done in a sauna, unless you run a sauna.
4. Add flex to your space
Multiple work environments are important for happiness and productivity, according to a new paper that explores optimized offices.
“Workspaces should flex to provide a variety of spaces and destinations for workers to inhabit that promote movement throughout the day,” says Joan Blumenfeld, one of the study authors and a thought leader in the world of office design.
When you’re working from home, you can easily apply this by shifting from your desk to your couch, kitchen table, or even outside every few hours.
5. Experiment with sound
Music’s effect on productivity varies by task. One study found 88 percent of workers were more accurate when listening to music, and that pop music improved productivity for data entry by 58 percent. In a Cornell study, music boosted cooperation among employees.
On the flip side, tasks that require concentration, like writing, are better performed in silence. Small changes like adjusting volume, genre, or shutting your music down completely may help you be more productive when moving from task to task throughout the day.
6. Sniff higher-quality air
Employers have always looked at good air quality as a way to reduce worker sick days, but recent studies suggest that clean air impacts more than just your health. A National Research Council of Canada study found that higher carbon dioxide concentrations and levels of small particle pollution are associated with lower workplace satisfaction.
In fact, bad air quality can reduce productivity by as much as 9 percent — a hefty number, considering the fix is so easy. Improving air can be as simple as opening windows, especially if you can create cross ventilation.
Alternatively, invest in an air purifier to keep your space fresh. Pro tip: Pay extra for a quieter unit. One thing that surely won’t make you more productive: spending half the day kicking your air purifier.