Is your workplace more reminiscent of a swirl of chaos than an ocean of serenity? It might be hard to bring serenity to an open-ended workplace like a contractor’s job, but for office workers, it’s easy! With a little time and patience, plus some decorating savvy, you can have a calm environment that keeps you relaxed, healthy, and motivated every day of the week.

Step 1: Start with yourself
Do you have a good chair? A chair with proper support won’t leave you aching and stiff at the end of the workday, and this will help tone down your stress and elevate your mood. Ask your employer for a better chair if it’s getting to be a problem; a chair is cheaper than paying you for medical leave once all the problems related to poor posture manifest themselves. Also, check your own posture to make sure you’re sitting properly, because a little change in how you sit can make a huge difference.

Stretch frequently (every hour or two at the least) to avoid getting stiff, and look up exercise possibilities. Some exercises can even be done at your desk to stay limber and free of pain.

Step 2: Your immediate surroundings

If your desk state is messy, your mind will also be messy. Your mood and productivity are directly related to your surroundings – the more streamlined, organized and clean your environment is, the better you will be able to work.

This may mean taking a little time away from your work to simply organize, before or after work if necessary. Throw away anything you’ve never used or never will again, archive only the bare minimum, and keep your immediate surroundings useful above all else.
Step 3: Add you to your space

Many people never really get around to customizing their environment. Take the time to find one of your favorite things, something that really represents you, either in your home to take to work or in a store to purchase and leave in your office.

This could be something representing your favorite hobbies, or figurines that represent the inner “you” and your attitude, for instance. Small posters, buttons or badges, and custom coffee mugs are some examples of good things to put in your space.

Step 4: Tickle the senses

Offices are notorious for being so impersonal and not incorporating anything we would ordinarily find in our surroundings. To help alleviate this stress on your body, look for daylight bulbs. If you have your own office, you may be able to change your lights to the daylight type, which are significantly better for you than any other halogen lights usually found.

A running water fountain or soft classical music, assuming either is allowed and neither will disturb your cubicle-mates if you don’t have your own office, can help to bring some serenity to the place without too much of an investment, and they will have a remarkable effect on your day.

Finally, some people use scents to relax, such as vanilla or lavender. Be careful not to violate any anti-scent policies in your office or overpower the others in your area with the smell, however.

Step 5: It’s alive!

A simple houseplant can spruce up the environment while giving off fresh oxygen (a must in such a stale environment), and even helping keep people calm as they take care of it. If others in the area like tending to plants, you can team up to raise a larger plant in a community area, or you can keep a smaller plant on your own desk.

Don’t opt for tropical flowers, as they will not receive adequate sunshine and you won’t get any flowers, but cacti often do well in office environments and will survive long weekends and Christmas vacation with little trouble due to their reduced need for water.

Step 6: Use colors wisely

White reminds many people of clinical, sterilized environments and gets us anxious or depressed. Instead, decorate with colors if it’s at all possible. You may be able to get a colorful scarf to hang on one wall of your cubicle and through which you can pin things to the wall like normal, for example. Another option is a rug, if you’re allowed to have one, or you could even use colored pillows on your chair. Be creative when thinking of ways to use color!

The colors to use vary depending on your needs. If you tend to be sluggish and need motivation to get started in the morning, you could choose warm colors like red and orange to get moving and energized for the day. Yellow makes us all happy, so a little spot of yellow here or there won’t go amiss. On the other side of the spectrum, cool colors generally relax people, so if you get stressed out easily, experiment with deeper green, blue and purple shades to stay calm and grounded.

Every color also has its own properties (some relieve headaches, while others make us more confident), so use color therapy properly and you can reap the benefits of a more colorful workspace.

Step 7: Avoid clutter

While some decorations are great and necessary if you want to avoid the bland office environment, don’t overdo decorations, either. This can get you right back to the beginning, where too much visual clutter just distracts you and makes you unproductive.

You may want to choose a particular color or theme to focus your decoration efforts on, and you can change this theme once every couple of months when you get bored with it. This will stop your environment from being “blah” again and prevent clutter from accumulating.

Strategically use organizers such as pencil organizers or trays, boxes, or file folders to incorporate color while staying organized, and don’t have too many non-functional ornaments around at any one particular time.

Just a little effort, a small amount of money spent, and some thought put into your environment can make it a whole lot more pleasant environment to be in. Whether your job is high-stress or low-stress, you can more easily stay calm and have a happy work day!