Time-Saving Techniques: Ergonomics and Aesthetics

By Dirk Zeller

Not all time-saving techniques pertaining to your workspace are directly related to organization; elements such as comfort and positive energy also affect your productivity. Two of the most important and often overlooked areas are ergonomics (a fancy term for fitting the job tools to the worker, rather than vice versa) and aesthetics (how you decorate your space to make the place where you spend your time enjoyable and uplifting).

An ergonomic workspace increases your productivity, reduces your work hours, and prevents workplace injuries by placing your body at optimal angles and at distances where productivity increases and fatigue decreases. (Many work-related injuries can be traced to poor posture, poor work practices, and badly designed office chairs, desks, workstations, and computer keyboards.)

Likewise, aesthetics plays an important part in time management because it encourages you to be more productive. By surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, you help yourself keep all things in perspective, particularly the balance between your work and personal life so you can make better decisions and — on those days you feel like you’re drowning — remember why you’re doing what you do.

Setting up a proper workstation

Although today’s desks are more likely to be designed to accommodate PCs, laptops, and tablets, many desks are still manufactured first and foremost for writing, note-taking, phone conversations, and getting organized.

The standard desk is a couple of inches too high for comfortable computer use, so if you spend a considerable amount — say, 50 percent — of your time on the computer, a keyboard at desk height can lead to problems with your back, shoulders, and neck. You probably know someone who’s had carpal tunnel syndrome — numbness, tingling, and pain — in his or her wrists because of repetitive and incorrect computer use. That’s only one ailment resulting from non-ergonomic work stations.

You probably spend the bulk of your office time sitting. To avoid fatigue and injury, invest in a good, ergonomically sound chair. Features to look for include the following:

  • Adjustable height and tilt

  • Adjustable back rests for your lower back

  • A rotating seat

  • At least five wheels

Be sure you align your keyboard and monitor, too, instead of letting pieces jut left or right.

Decorating your space

Productive people create workspaces where they enjoy spending time. You spend many hours working, so make your work environment a place where you can focus and be productive for long stretches. You may have a strictly utilitarian view of your work area (it’s Spartan but functional — what more do you need?). Or it may be important to you to dress up your space a bit.

Whatever your preferences, keep them in mind as you begin planning your work area. Consider the following aspects of your workspace:

  • Walls: Do you work better if your walls are a softer, more comfortable color than the harsh white of most offices? Consider painting or hanging wallpaper or swatches of fabric.

  • Images: Are pictures, art, and photographs important in your surroundings?

  • Floor: Should you buy a rug to add color and form or give your office a warmer feel?

  • Lighting: What’s the lighting like? Most people work beneath the low hum of fluorescent lighting. To give your area a warmer feel, you may try a desk lamp or even a lamp on your credenza behind you to create better ambience.

  • Furniture: Do you need to upgrade your office furniture? If it’s okay with your boss, can you add a couch for afternoon cat naps or creative brainstorming? Do you need a small table for meetings with your team?

Here are a few points to remember as you personalize your space:

  • Limit the items on your desk to the more utilitarian variety. Remember: The top of your desk is not a decoration zone. Use the walls, floor, and credenza to bring the environmental influence in your workspace.

  • Pay attention to placement. If you’re someone who dreams about better times as you toil away, right behind your desk may not be the best place for a large photo of your last trip to Hawaii. Instead, you may consider putting it on your credenza so you can look at it during a moment of relaxation and envision what you’re doing all the hard work for.

  • Be careful not to add anything that’ll add to the responsibilities you have to tend to each day (such as an aquarium). After all, the point is to increase your productivity, not give you more to do.