Create a workplace sanctuary in 7 simple steps.

Have you ever walked into a messy room and immediately felt stressed or overwhelmed? It’s amazing how environment can so easily affect your frame of mind. Often, we are so focused on taking care of business we neglect to make ourselves comfortable first.

Here at Ruby, we have the opportunity to personalize our own individual spaces as a way of Fostering Happiness and Creating Community. After speaking with several members of my team, I discovered most feel being able to surround themselves with things that matter to them has a great impact on their morale. If you’re looking to improve your—or your team’s—productivity, we have seven simple steps to help you maximize the full potential of your work space.

First, a note on general guidelines.

Whether you’re the CEO or the receptionist, it’s important to stick to the expectations and standards that have been established by your company. Sometimes, though it may feel that your office or cubicle is your own private bubble, coworkers and clients will be sharing that space with you. One person’s adorable DIY shabby chic pencil holder is another person’s empty pickle jar…you get the idea. Finding the right balance of professionalism and personal touch will make a great impression on anyone that walks into that space.

Step 1: Organize and De-clutter!

This is the foundation for a happy, healthy work space—but where do you start? The answer is piles and files. What are you working on now? Pile it! What have you finished? Pile it! What can wait? Pile it! If you are holding a physical copy of something you can access on your computer, ditch it. Next—file those piles. If you already have a system in place, but find yourself swimming in an unforgiving sea of 8.5” x 11” waves, then it’s time to re-evaluate your method. Figuring out what is not working for you will get you a lot closer to what will. If you don’t have a system in place, start by deciding what should be on your desk and what should be in a designated storage area. Do you really use every single color of highlighter? Store ’em. Are all those sticky notes on your monitor helping you focus, or distracting you? Keep a legal notepad devoted to your to-do list, or set alerts on your phone or desktop.

Step 2: Make it Flow

This part is so easy—get ready. Right handed? Put your writing utensils on the right hand side! Sometimes our intuition overrides common sense and we do silly things like put our most commonly used items in an area that is harder to access. When you arrange your desk strategically, you can save the brainpower you would normally use on searching for the thing that is right in front of you, and work seamlessly in your space.

Step 3: Dress Up the Essentials

Now that your desk is organized and streamlined, it’s time to have fun! Using creative vessels for those items on your desk can make your space feel less utilitarian.
For example, a decorative glass jar to house your writing utensils is a quick and easy way to marry form and function. Woven baskets are perfect for disguising your piles, and vintage coffee and tea containers are great for miscellaneous necessities.

If creativity is not your strong suit, there are always decorative options available at most retailers that carry office supplies and storage. If you are short on surface space, try using an over-the-sink kitchen shelf to create vertical storage. The possibilities are endless!

Step 4: Focus on Your Line of Vision


Even though you may spend a lot of your time staring at a computer screen, your peripheral vision is more important than you think. Consider re-positioning yourself to face a window or, if that’s not possible, adjusting your setup to allow for a wider range of view. Others may find this distracting, and prefer to feel secluded in order to focus. The important thing is to recognize what would feel the best for you, and do what you can to make it happen.

Step 5: Create Atmosphere

While you may be unable to change your overhead lighting source, paint all the walls your favorite color, or blast Enya all day, you can still create a mood that promotes the best work environment for you. Adding a small lamp or a string of lights can soften the lighting around you, which is commonly fluorescent and harsh for the eyes. If you are in a cubicle, you can add color to your work life by using tacks or double-sided tape to cover the inside walls with wallpaper or gift wrap. Plants purify the air and are statistically proven to increase your energy. Try a terrarium, which are easy to make and require minimal watering and upkeep.

 Step 6: Eliminate Distractions


Distractions are an inevitable part of every office, but you can help cut down on the ones that really throw you off your game. It’s in our nature to be alerted to changes in volume, or movement in our periphery, and turn our attention to it. A strategically placed mirror or shiny metal object can allow you to quickly glance up and see what the commotion is about, then go straight back to work. If your office allows for white noise like a desk fan, or a small water fountain—both of which have USB powered options—you can insulate your space sonically and absorb the office noise.

Step 7: Motivate and Inspire!

It’s time to recap:


Now for the final step in your office transformation. Surround yourself with things that make you happy! If a picture of your dream vacation motivates you to work hard, frame it and put it in a space where you will see it often. When you need a pick me up, framed pictures of your family and friends can bring you back down to earth. While observing another receptionist taking calls, he offered some great advice—when you have a frustrated caller on the line, imagine you are speaking with one of your grandparents. This paves the way for heightened empathy and encourages you to be the most respectful and patient version of yourself. Now I have a small porcelain buffalo my grandmother gave me underneath my monitor to keep me in check.

And that’s it! These are just a few suggestions to help you on your way to creating a work space you’ll look forward to working in each day. Now go make it happen, and remember these things:

  • Know your company’s rules about desk décor.
  • Start fresh with an organized, clutter-free zone.
  • Make it easy on yourself by placing your frequently used items in a convenient place.
  • Replace your utilitarian containers and organizers with more unique options.
  • Pay attention to what is in the area of your desk you look at for most of the day.
  • Use a desk fan or fountain to absorb distracting noises, and a mirror to allow you to see what is going on behind you without taking your attention completely away from your work.
  • Add a lamp to soften your lighting, purify your air with plants, and add color where you can.
  • Keep yourself grounded by surrounding yourself with photos and mementos of the people and things you love.

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