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Disruptive Productivity: 10 Surprising New Ways to Maximize Your Office Efficiency

By Jason Ganz on October 17, 2014
Tags: Productivity

When was the last time you took a nap during the work day? Or brought your dog along with you to the office? Odds are, doing this would seem a strange to most people.

You already know that technology is changing the way that we work and do business. But have you realized that the way we run our offices and organizations has the potential to be just as impactful as the tech we use?

It’s no coincidence that the companies like Google and Facebook, who are pioneering the technology that is changing our world are also the ones who are rethinking the ways we work in our offices. Ignore their lessons at your peril.

Here are ten ways you can take your office productivity to the next level.

1. Allow dogs in the office to decrease stress and increase teamwork

Ever feel like work is a little too … ruff? Coworkers always have a bone to pick with you? Feel like you’re leashed to your job?

This guy will cheer you up . Birgit Balzer, cc 3.0

There’s a surefire way to cheer yourself up – bring a dog into the office.

It sounds crazy, but according to a study at Virginia Commonwealth University, allowing employees to bring in their dogs can provide a number of benefits to the office. The first and most obvious is stress reduction – both for the dog owners and their coworkers.

Surprisingly, the dogs also increased collaboration among workers. Playing with the pups served as focal point for people who didn’t normally work together or interact much.

Dogs are so awesome that people bond just by being around them. Dogs in the office don’t just make people happy – they make them work together better too.

2. Midday naps > coffee breaks

We’ve all been there. You get back from lunch and a sudden wave of exhaustion hits.

My coworker Nick calls this “Postprandial somnolence”. Personally, I prefer the term food coma.

If you’re like me, this is when you go grab a coffee or red bull. To us, workplace tiredness seems like a frustrating, but unavoidable part of daily life.

My afternoon coffee looks like this.

Employee fatigue isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s a serious economic hazard, responsible for an estimated $18 billion in lost economic productivity. Drinking caffeine is like putting a Band-Aid over the fatigue problem. You might feel better for a little bit, but the real issue remains the.

The answer is so simple we learned it in preschool – nap time!

Twenty minute naps are the perfect way to your recharge batteries. Napping has been shown to be far superior to caffeine at eliminating afternoon grogginess. Remember, it’s important to keep the nap quick – any longer and you’ll enter deep-wave sleep and be groggy when you wake up. Time it right and you’ll be ready to go!

But this isn’t just about feeling better – you’ll work better too. According to a study out of UC Berkeley, people who take a nap in the afternoon “actually improved in their capacity to learn”.

You won’t only be more creative and productive though – you’ll make less mistakes. NASA discovered that flight pilots increase performance by 34% and alertness by a staggering 100%.

While it definitely feels a little unnatural, taking a quick nap at work can actually be one of the best things you can do to stay productive.

3.Plants are ridiculously beneficial

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day” rants Peter Gibbons in the cult classic movie Office Space.

Whatever your opinions on Office Space’s ultimate critique of workplace life, one thing is for sure – no one likes being stuck in a bland, gray cubicle all day. But the results of boring offices go waaaaay beyond visual preferences.

By sprucing up your office with some plants, you can raise productivity an earthshattering 15%! You won’t just be more productive, either – you’ll feel better. Health benefits range from lowered blood pressure (from the decreased stress) to better skin (due to optimal humidity).

This one blew me away. It makes sense that having a bland office would inhibit work somewhat, but the fact that plants are so insanely helpful in increasing productivity came as a complete surprise. 

4. Crank the tunes and surf into flow state

Sometimes, I’ve just gotta get my Ke$ha on during the day. 

…Just kidding, I’m more of a Lady Gaga guy.

And while I used to feel slightly guilty about rocking out to “Poker Face” at work, it turns out that getting your midday jam session on is a great strategy for some types of work.

There’s a scientific reasons for this – listening to music causes your brain to release dopamine - a powerful neurotransmitter that is released by pleasurable experiences. One of the main benefits of this is that your mind as kept on the task at hand – not wandering aimlessly. And since distraction is nemesis of productivity,

In essence, music allows us an easier way enter to “flow”, a neurological state during which our productivity goes through the roof. 

Music keeps us in the moment, which allows for creativity to skyrocket by silencing the background chatter in our brain that drags us off topic. So next time you get ready for an office jam session, don’t feel guilty – the music you’re listening could help you make that huge creative breakthrough you’re waiting for.

5. Knowledge osmosis - rearrange employee desks to encourage ambient learning

This one takes another page out of the elementary school handbook.

There was nothing more exciting in school than desk rearrangement day and finding out who you would be sitting next to over the next several months. Whether it was an old friend or a new acquaintance, your desk mates were your constant companions.

The office seating arrangement has a huge effect on who you interact with. In fact, a workers closest neighbors account for “40% - 60% of all interactions”, while they only interact with their coworkers 2 rows away 5% of the time (source).

"Proximity builds relationships”, according to Hubspot’s Chief Marketing Officer. In order to maximize the benefits from this fact, Hubspot switches employee desks around every 6-8 months. They find that not only does moving employees increase the dynamic collaboration between people who wouldn’t normally interact, it also boosts employee satisfaction.

Imagine if instead of siloing your different departments into separate parts of the office, you placed them side by side.

By putting sales, marketing and engineering all in the same room, you’ll encourage greater cross-departmental collaboration. Workers will naturally absorb some of the knowledge from their coworkers, leading to an office space where everyone has a greater understanding of the company’s overall strategy. In the long term, this can translate into a smarter company where all truly comprehend the workings of the organization.

6. Walking Meetings – a great change of pace

“Sitting is the new smoking”. This fact is becoming increasingly more well known.

But what do you do about it? Standing desks don’t work with everyone’s work style (they kill my knees).

Recently, the idea of walking meetings has been gaining more credence. Walking meetings have a couple awesome benefits. They get people up and out of the office – which can raise satisfaction by breaking up the day, while the exercise from walking actually helps keep everyone focused and on track.

Also – it helps keep meeting sizes small. It’s impossible to have a walking conversation with more than four or five people (which coincidentally is the optimal number for peak efficiencies meetings).

So save some time, boost your productivity and get some exercise – walking meetings are a great way to break the traditional meeting cycle.

7. Careful color selection can boost creativity

Quick – what color are the walls in your office? Mine are blue – but I just had to check.

Here’s the crazy thing – even though I didn’t consciously know what color the walls are, there’s a strong probability that they were effecting the way I work.

At least, that’s what the fascinating discipline known as color theory would tell us.

Color theory first came to prominence when law enforcement officers realized that there is a certain shade of pink which can dramatically decrease the aggression levels in entry cells in prisions. Something about pink just makes it hard to be aggressive when looking at. Next, this trend spread to sports, where college football teams would paint the locker rooms of their opponents in pink (and dramatically affect their performance).

Jailhouse Pink

And it turns out, using color to optimize for different types of behavior is possible across a variety of colors and behavior ranges. For example, blue has been scientifically proven to improve productivity while red fosters competitiveness.

When designing your office, it’s definitely a good idea to consider the potential psychological implications of your color choice. After all – you don’t want to paint your sales jailhouse pink and wonder why everyone stopped making sales calls!

8. Build open spaces to enable maximum collisionability

Steve Jobs famously wanted to place all of the bathrooms in Pixar in a central atrium in order to maximize the potential for the spontaneous, unplanned interactions which are crucial for dynamic collaborations.

While I’m not going to go quite as far as to suggest rearranging your bathroom locations, it is important to create central spaces where people who don’t normally interact can naturally run into each other.

At GoCanvas – it’s the kitchen. Some of my best ideas come around while I’m hanging out in the kitchen with someone from the sales or marketing team. By creating this “water cooler effect”, you’ll be much more likely to encourage real collaboration and interaction.

9. Coworking

What if you always had another company to bounce ideas off of or an artist to ask about your new logo? That’s the idea behind Refraction, the coworking space we’ve launched out of the GoCanvas offices. The idea is to bring the best tech startups, nonprofits and artists together in an environment that allows them all to be more creative.

The rise of coworking is about more than just shared office spaces. By creating a community in your workspace you can greatly increase the diversity of ideas you are exposed to. It’s the same principal as desk shifting and open spaces for easy communication, just expanded even further to people outside your company.

10. Quiet rooms help offices work for introverts and extroverts 

Open offices are great, but they don’t always fit in with everyone’s workstyle. Sarah Cain, the author of a popular book on introverts thinks that introverts can sometimes be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of open offices.

That’s why she’s made it her mission to ensure that open offices are adapted to work for everyone.

A simple fix for this is to have a quiet area where people can go to get work done.

Adding a quiet room to your open office allows the people who might have been losing productivity due to the noise to find a place to be productive. It’s not only helpful for those that might normally require a little bit more peace and quiet, but also those who have something especially sensitive / complicated they need to work on.

Conclusion

The way we think about business is changing rapidly. From computers changing the way we communicate to globalization forever altering the dynamics of manufacturing, business in the 21st has been forever changed from the way it was done before.

So why should offices remain the same?

If you don’t update your office for the 21st century, you’re making the same mistake Blockbuster made when they were assessing Netflix.

Doing things the way you’ve always done them isn’t an excuse any more. It’s time to start doing what works. 

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