Office environment matters: 8 things that will make your office more productive

When you need to focus and really get stuff done, where do you go? Probably your favorite local coffee shop. You know, the one with the quiet corner, open outlets, and the steady stream of caffeine at your fingertips. No interruptions—just a peaceful, conducive working environment where you can get a change of scenery and plow through your to-do list. Or, maybe you just need to break up the monotony of the office. Either way, the coffee shop seems to be the go-to place.

Creativity flows when there isn’t anything constraining or hindering it. So how can you allow, foster and encourage those creative juices in your office? How can you make your office as productive as that coffee shop? We’ve outlined some of the factors you can adjust to make your workspace more coffee house-esque with stats that prove it’s affect on increasing productivity.

1. Ambient noises

The quiet buzz of a coffee shop’s conversation and clanking dishes can make ambient noise that helps your brain think creatively. It’s proven. One study stated “Results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. A high level of noise (85 dB), on the other hand, hurts creativity.”

So when it gets too loud, those creative juices are affected negatively. Loudness is measured in decibels (dB) and the study found that basically, ambient background noises between 60 and 70 dBs encourage creativity. To put that into perspective, it’s about as loud as regular piano playing.  That nice background humming can be much more productive than a silent office.

Can’t make it out of the office? offers a free coffee shop ambient loop you can play right at your desk.

2. Change of space

Think about it—being in the same environment day after day will eventually become uninspiring. Taking yourself out of your normal element is a good way to make your senses come alive and re-adjust to the new setting, thus sparking creativity.

If you and your team work in offices, create a room or space that’s free to use as a change of scenery when your routine becomes monotonous. It can be as simple as a spot near a window, or as fun as a tee pee. As long as it offers different scenery and open to use, a recharging spot makes for a nice office refuge when the office itself becomes too much.

3. Aesthetic environments

Not all offices are created equally. But there are things you can do to make your space more visually appealing. Adding artwork, updating old features, and adding plants are more than just cosmetic and non-essential facets of an office—they really do affect your productivity and attitude!

A study from the University of Georgia revealed that students “studied the aesthetic effects of the environment on people within different types of environments. They concluded that people housed in “beautiful” rooms had better attitudes and greater achievement than people housed in “average” or “ugly” rooms.”

Not sure where to start?  The Harvard Business Review has a slideshow of office spaces that were revamped—before and after photos included. 

4. Lighting

Ever sat in a crowded meeting in a space without windows and florescent lighting? Want to talk about feeling cramped and confined? When in an open space with windows, it gives the perception of more open spaces which lower blood pressures and encourage calmness (it’s a psychological thing).

“Light directly influences the amount of melatonin a person produces, which indirectly affects alertness,” says Office lighting plays a huge role in mood, productivity, and creativity—so having both good lighting and natural light are important to consider when looking at your office.

Read more on how lighting improves productivity at work.

5. Color

Think about it–if you walk into a marketing or creative agency, do they have a stale corporate office look and feel? Nope. Usually they have colored walls, vibrant artwork and open concept spaces. There’s reason for that!

You’ve probably heard that different colors help people perceive different things. Color psychologist Angela Wright has done extensive research on how color families affect productivity, and has found that different colors communicate and stimulate different messages. Wright Theory can help you choose the color that will be best suited for your workspace.

Read more: Writer Kate Bratskeir proposes one magical color for productivity here.

6. Caffeine

Coffee shops are home to that productivity stimulant we all know and love—caffeine. Whether it’s in the heavy duty espresso form, or the more moderate tea category, this tool is a powerful one for blasting through the day. Have it on hand in your office, and you’ve got an immediate productivity boost.

There are positives associated with the dark drink: boosted cognitive activity, mood, and metabolism…but there are also negatives: anxiety and withdrawals. You can read the full pro/con list. As with anything, it’s important to remember your limits. A while back, I had to quit caffeine completely. Use coffee in moderation…or suffer from the afternoon crash.

7. Limited Interruptions

As the boss, it’s hard to get much done when you have a steady flow of phone calls and employees dropping in your office. Isolate yourself! If it means shutting your door or working in a secluded area of your office—some days you just have to do it. Allow yourself to be un-interrupted.

Productivity enemy #1 = those little daily interruptions. If it’s a co-worker poking a head in the door, the tabs on your browser calling you off task…eliminate those enemies of lucidity.

8. Temperature

In the place where you work, is it too hot or too cold? Temperature not only affects our mood, but it can also interfere with accuracy. According to one study, 44 percent of people made more mistakes when the office was too cold. Coffee shops always seem to have that perfect 74 degree happy medium—and that’s what you need at work, too.

When it’s too hot, people become agitated, get short with each other, and conflict arises. When it’s too cold, people slow down, make errors, and are less productive. Even if it changes your heating and cooling costs, the office temperature is an important part of your work environment.

Your office can be just like the haven of a coffee shop if you’re willing to make some small adjustments. These changes are good for everyone, and don’t have to cost a lot. Little change, big difference.

What do you do when you need a refuge from your office? Or have you made changes to optimize your workspace?


Photo credit: Alex Barth. Hat tip to Kaleigh Moore for her writing awesomeness.

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. Michael Maguire says:

    Darn good article Devan! Well written, sourced, and intuitively appealing.

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