7 Elements to Improve Your Space and Productivity

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Written by Tami Moser Ph.D., DBH

I’m a professional learner and professor. After spending 15 years in the corporate world, I moved to the crazy world of Higher Education. My learning journey resulted in a Ph.D., DBH, and a MPA. My free time is spent as a coach for working professionals and academics looking to expand their careers through higher education.

September 3, 2020

I’ve explored the basics of productivity with you in past blog posts. In addition, the Journey Coach YouTube Channel has a series of videos on how to setup Notion to really help increase your productivity levels. But I recently read an article from superorganizers on productivity’s Dan Shipper about productivity cycles that spurred new thinking about productivity. Using this as a starting point I wanted to explore how your space directly affects your productivity levels.

This really started me thinking about my own experience with productivity. I just changed my entire office setup and felt reinvigorated in the space and my productivity did increase. How did I measure productivity increase, you might be asking❓❓❓ Let me tell you. I ticked off more to-do items that had greater importance to my yearly objectives. In addition, my writing production increased dramatically. I don’t LOVE💔 writing 😢. So, when I start cranking out content without much friction, then you know that something has changed in my productivity level.

My personal experience supports the research that the environment that we are in does have an effect on our satisfaction in the space and the more satisfied we are in the space, the productivity level tends to increase.

Why does this matter?

Where are you spending your time working on your doctorate? What does your space look like and how comfortable are you in the space?

Let’s take a look at some of the research.

Shipper and partner used Oseland’s work (2004) as a starting point for their literature review exploring why space matters. Haynes (2008) reviewed Oseland’s work and additional research focused on the impact that office comfort has on productivity and detailed some specific elements that affect comfort. His review detailed how these elements have a flow-on effect on worker productivity. The studies he reviewed attributed part of a worker’s satisfaction level with their level of control of specific environmental elements. Oseland and Burton (2012) took this further but conducting a meta-analysis of 75 studies to quantify the effect different elements have on the environment that affects worker experience and productivity.

Oseland and Burton’s meta-analysis (2012) defined seven factors that have an effect on the level of comfort of a worker. I posit that these same factors matter to how comfortable and therefore, productive you may be in your own space while working on your doctorate. Whether you are just starting your doctoral journey or are climbing that final Summit, the dissertation, your space needs to be designed to support your productivity level.

Let’s use these seven factors to evaluate the space you have for working on your doctorate. You may or may not be able to directly change any of these factors, but I would recommend an evaluation and consideration of how you feel about your space based on each of these elements.

Before we get into an evaluation, let’s set some ground rules.
  • First, the solutions to discomfort don’t have to be fancy. In some cases, simple solutions may work best.
  • Second, everyone’s feelings of comfort will vary. You need to find what works for you and make you the most satisfied in the space.
  • Third, you may need to spend a little time really working to identify your feelings associated with each element. Try not to take a holistic approach. Really look at each element separately.

Evaluate Your Work Space

  • Lighting 💡 What type of lighting do you have in your space? Do you have task lighting, ambient lighting, one bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling? (I’m not kidding. This happens) Can you see your work? Do you suffer from eye strain when trying to read in the space? Do you need an extra lamp or some focused task lighting?

  • Noise 💥 What is the noise level in your space? Do you need white noise? Is that music or fans? Do you live in an apartment building with loud distracting noises that make it difficult for you to work? If so, you might benefit from sound-canceling headphones to eliminate that frustration. Kids are a whole other issue 😉.

  • Temperature 🥵 🥶 To be fair, I put both sides of the equation. I tend to run hot and when I’m hot I don’t function well. I’d rather be cold. You may be the opposite. Do you need a fan or a space heater to get your space comfortable? How does the temperature affect your mood and willingness to buckle down and get work done?

  • Ventilation 💨 Do you have good air circulation? Are there strange smells or stagnate air? Poor ventilation can also lead to increased allergy issues, watery itchy eyes, sneezing, etcetera. Evaluate the air quality related to ventilation. Look at the registers and return air grill. Are they dusty, dirty, closed? Sometimes the air registers can be closed and that is why there is no air. Simply open them and things are better.

  • Control 🕹 Do you have control over these factors? What level of control do you have? If you have a partner, they may be in control of the temperature. Might a compromise be necessary?🤨 Is the noise level out of control because the kids are running wild and free 🤾🏻‍♀️? Do you need to set some work times when the kids are out of the house?

  • Furniture 🪑 Are you sitting at the kitchen table in a hardback uncomfortable chair? Are you working at a coffee table in the living room or off your lap on the bed 🛏 ? Furniture matters. The comfort you feel in the space can be impacted by the ergonomics of your furniture setup. This also can impact how official you feel when you are working. The kitchen table does not really provide you with your own space (unless you live alone).
    • There is a need to feel official when you work and have a space that you can just start working in without setup time. Not everyone has infinite options here. If you have space, consider a used desk or a repurposed table. Take a look at Ikea (if you live near one) or they now ship at a really reasonable flat price. If you can afford a sit/stand electrical desk, this is a great addition because of the flexibility. They are not cheap but there are less expensive versions. I just upgraded to a standing desk and I love being able to get the height just right when sitting or standing. Don’t forget the importance of the chair. We spend a great deal of time in a chair at the desk.
  • Space 👽 Do you have some space to call your own? There was a time when space was so tight, I converted a walk-in closet as my office. The setup worked well and allowed me to close out the rest of the world. Don’t just accept that there is no space until you evaluate all of the spaces, current use, and the possibilities. There may not be any legitimate way to make space and I know doctoral learners that rent office share spaces once a week to find some dedicated space to complete work. Try to reimagine some of the spaces in your house and carve out space you can call your own.

Well, we’ve reached the end of the list. I believe that these factors do not only effect satisfaction and productivity within organizations. These are elements that impact satisfaction and productivity in our homes. When you are working on a doctorate, every element needs to be evaluated to maximize your productivity.

Let me know what you find. I’m interested to know what your evaluation spurs you to change and how that impacts your productivity. Until next time, keep moving forward and enjoy the journey you are on for the doctorate is a journey like no other.

Here is what I have used:

Additional Options:


Haynes, B. (2008). The impact of office comfort on productivity. Journal of Facilities Management. 6(1). p.37-51.

Oseland, N., & Burton, A. (2012). Quantifying the impact of environmental conditions on a worker performance for inputting to a business case to justify enhanced workplace design features. Journal of Building Survey, Appraisal & Valuation. 1(2). p. 151-164.

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