What makes a perfect working space? Does being a neat freak really make you more productive? Last month Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich argued the case for office desks free from coffee stains, scribbled notes and all other traces of human presence. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Steven Poole advocated the profitable benefits of messiness. So who is right?

Are you better off stocking up on cleaning products or hoarding used coffee cups? We asked the experts to sort through the clutter and give us their top tips for creating the perfect office environment.


If you’ve ever found yourself falling asleep in the cinema or using a sleepmask to get some shut-eye on a long flight, then you’ll already know the direct link between daylight and your internal alarm clock.

“If you sit an office that has poor lighting or lacks natural light, you will feel fatigued, unable to focus and your productivity will go down,” says Araceli Camargo, a cognitive neuroscientist and founder of co-working hub, The Cube.

“Natural light contains what is called ‘blue light’. It boosts the immune system, increases dopamine levels and lowers cortisol levels. This means that being in a naturally-lit room will make you feel less anxious, happier and more productive.”

Try making the most of the daylight by moving your desk closer to the window. If this isn’t possible, make sure you get a good dose of natural light by stepping outside and getting some fresh air during your lunch break.


Instantly boost productivity by 15% without the offer of a pay rise or longer holidays. All you need is a yucca. Or even a cactus. A study from Cardiff university’s school of psychology found that employees in plant-filled offices reported better levels of concentration and increased workplace satisfaction. They even thought the air was cleaner. There are no reports on the psychological effects of letting your plant die.

Private office or open plan?

Much like “Do you read the Guardian or the Daily Mail?”, whether you prefer open plan or your own office is one of life’s defining questions.

“You need both,” says Hazel Carter, member of the Association for Business Psychology and managing director at Carter Corson. “While working in an office helps you concentrate and allows more private conversations, an open space facilitates collaboration and creates an energising buzz.”

Those who’d rather close the door on their colleagues might be missing out. One of the benefits of a more open plan space is that it often results in new projects and better relationship with your team.

“This matters particularly to women,” Carter adds. “When a professional relationship is tested, you will be glad you took the time.”

The office of the future

According to the experts, our future working spaces will become ever smarter and more flexible. Camargo suggests that soon technology will be able to tell us whether CO2 levels are balanced or whether the lighting is at the optimal level for the task at hand.

For now, though, take a few more steps towards workplace zen by making time for a wander outside, adding a few plants to your desk and making time for a chat with your colleagues. But first, please tidy up those empty coffee cups.

By Marcela Kunova, as published in The Guardian on 3rd February 2015

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