Improve Your Work Environment

If you followed the steps from last month’s clutter-busting article, your desktop is clutter free and you can now find all the files you need on your computer. You have probably archived and put away old client files and have found that you are more efficient on a daily basis. Right? Congratulations!

Now let’s talk about making your office as comfortable as it is efficient.

Buy a decent chair

If you spend as much time in front of your computer as I do, the first thing you need to do is buy a quality desk chair. Consider this an investment and take the time to adjust it to ergonomic perfection.

Many chairs are rated for the hours used per day. The higher the hour number, the higher quality the construction. Skip the bargain aisle at your local super-store. Resist the temptation to buy online. You really need to “test drive” your next chair.

A quick guide to selecting a traditional desk chair

  • Adjustable height (your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet should be flat on the floor when seated)
  • Back support (you need lower and upper back support to resist the slouching in the back of your chair or slumping forward in it)
  • Properly sized seat (it should allow at least 2 inches on each side of your hips and between the end of your chair and your knees to prevent circulation problems)
  • Fabric and wheels (the fabric should breathe and there should be enough wheels to avoid “tipping” when you lean in the chair — four isn’t enough)
  • Arm rests (these should be adjustable to make them the right height for all tasks to help prevent repetitive stress injuries)

You may cut costs by locating office supply liquidation stores, by checking the local second hand stores and watching the sale and discontinued models at your local office supply or office furniture store.

If you want to read more on every aspect of desk chair selection, visit ChairWheel, a blog about all things desk chair related including exercise ball chairs, kneeling chairs and saddle chairs.

Bring your work into the light

The last thing you need to add to your work day is more stress in the form of eye-strain. Selecting the proper lighting for your work area will improve your outlook and decrease those squint-enhanced wrinkles.

Don’t begin work in the dark. Make sure that the room light has adequate high-wattage bulbs.

If you need additional task lighting, survey your desk to see if you have room for a desk lamp. If you don’t have room on the desk surface, consider a clip-on style light to attach to one edge of your workspace or a floor lamp if you have the space beside your desk. If neither of these are an option, consider using an adjustable task light option that will hang on the wall behind your desk or on the side wall.

You may also want to consider they type of light you are using. Full-spectrum lights are a blues-fighting option for the winter months, while compact fluorescents are a great green choice to help you cut the electric bill. Halogen and “Eye Saver” bulbs make close work and reading easier.

Whichever type you select, make sure you can adjust the light level for the activity at hand and that any task lamps have casings that stay cool to the touch for easy, safe adjustment.

Soothe your eyes and clear your mind — naturally

Technology isn’t a substitute for the natural world… not even at your desk. When you are working you need to take the time to refocus your eyes, and your thoughts, away from the monitor several times per hour.

You can do this by looking out a window if you are lucky enough to have a good view of the outside world from your desk. Even without a good view, or any window at all, you can still enjoy nature on a smaller scale at your desk.

Add something natural to your workday by pulling in a plant. If you don’t have the desk space for a table-top plant, purchase a potted tree or larger plant that can sit beside you while you work. (I have a vine on the bookshelf next to my desk that brightens my workspace.) I also have a tall, narrow “tank” on one corner of my desk occupied by “Ink” my male beta fish. His home is about 6 inches in diameter and stands about two foot tall, so it takes up very little space on the desk’s surface.
I highly recommend a beta. They require little attention and very little food. Mine is a bit of a character and will “tap” on the glass if I haven’t fed him before sitting down to begin my day (or if he’s bored). A small fish tank will offer you something soothing to watch while you think through a tough project.

Do whatever works for you, the point is to bring a little nature and a little joy to your workday to help remind you to keep your balance and to make your work environment a bit more enjoyable.