As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting next to my bags all packed for a week long getaway. I’ll be heading to New Hampshire to spend some time lakeside with my friends. While I’m hoping to get in some relaxation and fun, I’ll still be working while I’m there. But, believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to working while I’m away! With remote work transitioning from a temporary solution to a permanent lifestyle, we’re seeing more freedom to work from new locations. While some may worry this would cause distraction and reduced productivity, many studies show it does just the opposite. Creating workday variety boosts creativity, renews inspiration, and can even improve focus. Before we dive in to the benefit of variety, let’s take a second to talk about why we may crave change in the first place.
You know the trope – you drive the same commute to work every day, sit at the same desk in the same cubicle, eat the same lunch, repeat the same smalltalk, and then drive the same commute home. It’s become a bit of a joke, but for some people it truly is the reality of a full time job. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to routine. However, when routine goes beyond structure to become monotonous it can shift from a positive to a negative.
When each day looks the same it can create boredom, and boredom can lead to an increase in errors. Not to mention this Groundhog’s Day style work week can lead to lack of job satisfaction and overall unhappiness. How are you supposed to feel motivated or inspired if you dread even the thought of work? Don’t worry, though – it isn’t all doom and gloom.
Here’s a few tricks to combat monotony, beat boredom, and bring variety to your work day.
There are so many ways to do this, but you can start as simple as taking a short walk on your lunch break. Believe it or not, even that alone has benefits. Professor Kimberly Elsbach, who studies workplace psychology at the University of California has found that even a simple walk around the block can make you more creative. In an interview with NPR, Professor Elsbach said “staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment.” People who spend time walking in nature also experience “quieter brains” and dwelled less on negative thoughts.
In addition to working outside (or just walking outside) bringing the outdoors in can also improve your work day. Greener office spaces have been shown to improve overall wellbeing as well as increase productivity. Making sure you get natural light in your office while you work is also very important! Not only does sunlight improve our mood, but it also regulates circadian rhythms to improve sleep quality. Better sleep ultimately leads to better work performance. Large companies like Google have even begun to create Bioliphic offices for these very reasons. Bioliphic offices integrate nature and naturally occurring light into workspaces for employees to enjoy.
Do you ever feel like you’re a peak business professional when you’re sitting in a coffee shop? You have a beautiful latte in front of you, an acoustic song playing softly in the background, light chatter from the barista and other guests, and you cruise through your to-do list like it’s nothing. This is a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “coffee shop effect”. And, believe it or not, it has nothing to do with the caffeine (although, I’m sure it helps a little).
One element contributing to this improved focus is actually background noise. Yes, believe it or not, background noise can help us to focus better. The technical term for this is called “stochastic resonance”. Background noise stimulates sensory signals in the brain that can enhance mood, make you see, hear, and feel better, and even jumpstart human perception and decision making. The key is to expose yourself to just the right amount of noise. Should the environment become too loud, performance can drastically decrease.
If you usually work alone, a great way to change up your day is simply to work around others. Studies show that productivity is basically contagious. This is known as the “social facilitation” effect. It’s one of the earliest findings in social psychology with studies dating back to the 1920’s. This effects shows that the mere presence of other people engaged in the same task as us can boost our motivation. Social psychologist Floyd Allport showed that a group of people working individually at the same table performed better on a whole range of tasks even though they weren’t cooperating or competing. So try working from a local co-work space, library, or (double win) coffee shop to surround yourself with some other dedicated workers. You may just be surprised how much more you can accomplish!
Getting outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new things can actually improve your brain’s neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to rewire itself by repairing old neural connections or creating new ones. It is essential for our brain to learn new things, remember details, and recover from brain injuries. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone could be something grand, like working nomadically and traveling to new places. However, it can also be as simple as trying a new lunch spot instead of packing your usual sandwich. Small changes can make big differences when it comes to stimulating our brains.
This week, try to do one thing to change up your normal. Whether it’s a small change like waking up earlier and starting your day with a walk, or a bigger change like working from a whole new location. I know I’m really looking forward to setting up my laptop with a view of the lake in the background. As a creative, the change of scenery is so helpful in kickstarting my creativity and inspiring new ideas. And who knows, maybe I’ll start being better about actually taking a full lunch break too. We all deserve to enjoy our work as much as possible!
My name is Mackenzie and I'm the founder of Eunoia Design Co.. I help business capitalize on the power of authentic identity through personalized, strategic, design. Thanks for checking out the blog! Don't hesitate to reach out - my inbox is always open.
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