Will Fan

By Will Fan
Co-founder and CEO @ QLC

How to design your productivity bubble

Remote workers who operate outside the confines of a typical office space would know how this mode of working rocks because of the flexibility it affords. But simply being in a “happy” place isn’t the only factor that can make us better workers. As it turns out, the qualities of the space we work in impacts us in intriguing ways as well. Here are things to consider when finding an optimal working space.


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Remote workers who operate outside the confines of a typical office space would know how this mode of working rocks because of the flexibility it affords.

Space obviously plays a big part in the joys of working remotely too. Want to work at a yoga retreat in Bali? No problem. Want to work from the comforts of your sofa at home? No problem. Want to work in a hip café while people-watching? Go ahead.

But simply being in a “happy” place isn’t the only factor that can make us better workers. As it turns out, the qualities of the space we work in impacts us in intriguing ways as well.

According to a survey conducted by Rocket Fueled People, an outfit that analyses the needs of high-performance employees (HPE), 58 percent of 700 HPEs responded saying they needed more private spaces while 54 percent indicated that their office workspaces were too distracting.

William Belk, the proprietor of Rocket Fueled People, expands on the findings by saying that distractions are, well, bad for business. He cites how a HPE would require up to 25 minutes to regain his focus after getting distracted. This is obviously detrimental for productivity – after all, it’s unlikely that someone only experiences one disruption a day while working.

We all know how annoying it is to be on the cusp of finally connecting all the dots to form that one brilliant idea, only for a distraction to cause you to lose that train of thought.

Being in the right environment minimises the risk of that happening.

Shhhh…I’m trying to think

According to this study by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, a moderate level of noise can actually enhance creative problem-solving. However, performance levels decline as noise levels increase past that level.

"What we found is that there's an inverted-U relationship between noise level and creativity," said Ravi Mehta, a professor of business administration at the university. “It turns out that around 70 decibels is the sweet spot. If you go beyond that, it's too loud, and the noise starts to negatively affect creativity. It's the Goldilocks principle - the middle is just right."

Scientists have also found that the effect of noise on different types of personalities  also varies - introverts are generally more affected by noise disruption than extroverts.

Are you an introvert working who loves working in a noisy café? Or do you have a habit of working with the television on? Perhaps it’s time to switch your working environment to see if you can become more productive in a quieter space. Or maybe just throw on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Is your work space lit?

While it might sound obvious that we need light to work, the question here is “what type of light?”

Natural light? Warm, yellow lighting? Cool, blue lighting?

Well, they all serve different purposes. For example, warm lighting has been found to be comforting, so researchers suggest that it be used in workspaces where employees need to feel relaxed, such as the games area or the pantry.

Meanwhile, cool lighting has been found to boost productivity as it facilitates mental agility and alertness. According to research by University of Greenwich, people who worked under “blue-enriched light bulbs” said they felt happier and experienced less eye strain.

It appears that natural light can also achieve the same effect on productivity. In one case study involving a company in the United States, the addition of more windows to allow more light to enter the workspace resulted in a $500,000 surge in revenue.

Natural light also has health benefits. A study in the US found that those who worked beside a window were found to be better rested and more inclined to exercise.

Don’t sweat it

Some people prefer the hot weather. Others love the snow. But let’s face it, it’s going to be difficult to work in a desert or in an igloo.

When it comes to temperature, there is generally a sweet spot for everyone. According to 2006 study by researchers from institutes in Helsinki and California, the range of 22 to 25 degrees Celsius is how cool our working environments should be if we want to be at our most productive.

Backing this up are the findings of a Cornell University study conducted at the Insurance Office of America’s headquarters in Orlando. Researchers found that workers who felt cold made more errors. In addition, the number of typing mistakes dropped significantly and typing output increased when the temperature was increased from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.

The science of colour

Is that wall you’re facing at work the reason you’ve hit a wall in your creative process?

Research by the University of Texas has found that colours affect how we perform, and workspaces that are clad in a dull shade of grey, white and beige have a tendency to induce sadness and depression.

While some shades of grey might be a chic industrial colour that is used in homes and restaurants, colour experts such as Karen Haller still advise against using it in the workspace, saying that it impedes creativity.

If you’re looking to maximise your productivity, blue is said to be the best colour as it has the ability to stimulate the mind and boost concentration levels. Green isn’t a bad choice either if you have to work for long hours.

Creative professionals could consider adding yellow to their workspace. According to psychologists, this colour is best for stimulating creativity and is widely linked with feelings like optimism and confidence.

Based on all these factors, it seems that the perfect productivity bubble would need to be bathed in natural light, have an element of blue, a temperature between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius, and have modest ambient noise of around 70 decibels or lower.

Does your workspace fit the bill?


Will Fan

Co-founder and CEO @ QLC

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