A Change Of Scenery — Just What the Doctor Ordered to Energize Employees
By Judy Kneiszel
Jane works from home three days a week and goes to the office two days a week. While leery of the idea at first, Jane’s manager has noticed that the change of scenery that comes with working a hybrid schedule has been a boon to Jane’s productivity and creativity.
The coffee shop effect
What Jane is experiencing is sometimes called, “the coffee shop effect.” This happens when a person who mentally hits a brick wall at the office becomes productive after packing up and logging in from somewhere else, such as a coffee shop, library, home, or other location.
Some employers embraced this idea long before the pandemic upended workplaces. They encouraged workers to either move about the building to use alternate workspaces, or to leave the building entirely to work remotely from home or any location with strong, secure Wi-Fi. Others discovered there were benefits to a change in scenery only after employees were forced to suddenly adapt to remote work in 2020.
Rearrange your workspace
Not everyone is free to vary their work location, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to take advantage of the boost a change can bring. For workers experiencing a slump who must stay put, there are solutions. Something as simple as moving a stapler from one side of the desk to the other can help, as can drinking from a different mug.
Research psychologists at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology have found that looking at the same stuff on your walls and desk all day every day can hinder creativity. They suggest that exposure to new items stimulates the mind. The new stimulus can be as simple as using a different water bottle or rearranging the items on your desk.
Some employers have the belief that novelty spurs creativity to extreme levels, and they create “play spaces” at work with things like foosball tables or game areas. The researchers warn, however, that these fun environments can grow stagnant and lose their effect. The bottom line is that employers who add whimsy to a workplace may need to change it up occasionally to maintain the inspirational effects.
Personalize your workspace
Finally, if you don’t have anything in the workplace to change or rearrange, that could be trouble. A study by the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that a highly personalized workspace was associated with lower levels of emotional exhaustion. The authors noted that personal items such as artwork, photos, figurines, and comic strips can act as both markers of territory and expressions of individual identity, helping workers to maintain their energy when faced with work stress and the distractions common in shared areas.
While Jane already experiences the benefits of a hybrid schedule, rearranging items in both workspaces regularly could further increase productivity and creativity.