We work in different places. Many of us do not have the luxury of having our working environment as we would wish - how do you personalise a production line? – but, for those who do have some personal space, this is an area that can readily reduce stress.
Most of us spend an enormous portion of our lives at work, yet give little thought to having things around us that would make our working life easier. As a medical student I was told by an eminent professor, all you need in your consulting room is a picture of your wife and children, even if they are not yours. As a family doctor I know why he said that, but the point is, if you are comfortable in your working environment you stand a greater chance of feeling more relaxed. I have found the following invaluable:
• A massive wastepaper bin. Throw junk mail, unwanted papers and clutter into it regularly and ruthlessly. Aim to touch each piece of paper only once before using the ‘5 Ds’ method – to decide what to do with it.
• Photographs or pictures that mean something to you. Why should you be looking at an office picture inherited from someone else years ago? A small number of personal photographs, mementos or pictures can lift your spirits during a busy day. Change them frequently so you do not start ‘looking but not seeing’.
• A comfortable chair. If you have to buy your own, make sure it is fully adjustable in all directions and position it directly in front of a VDU or keyboard if you use one. Don’t make the mistake of putting keyboards and monitors to one side of you, and always change your sitting position slightly every 15-30 minutes. Remember to arch your back – so you stretch your spine backwards – at the same time.
• A tidy desk. There is nothing more frustrating than having to spend five minutes hunting for files, disks or marker pens in the middle of a busy day.
• At the end of each day, tidy up files, paper and work that still has to be done. This will not reduce the workload for the next day, but your heart will not sink, as it will when you look at a desk overflowing with clutter.
There is much at work that is harder to deal with, such as air and noise pollution. Humidifiers and plants can sometimes improve air quality (I never cease to be amazed at just how many office windows cannot open). If noise is a concern, see if separate rooms are available for important matters.
If you have your own work area, make it your space. Organise it to suit you, be comfortable in it, fill your waste bin and wage war on clutter.