behavior · brain · environment · happiness

Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company

English: Temperatures in the USA, mesoscale an...
You temperature impacts your perceptions and job performance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rain, wind, and falling leaves make it feel like fall is officially upon us in most of the United States (although some regions are still experiencing an Indian Summer). This makes many of us think of warm beverages and sweaters, unless you work in an office that turns the heat up WAY too high all winter long. In fact, working in a space that is either too hot or too cold can effect productivity:

One of the painful ironies of office life is that we can never quite get the temperature right. We spend our summers shivering in meat lockers and our winters sweating in saunas.

Central air hasn’t made us comfortable, so much as made us uncomfortable in a different way.

The experience isn’t simply unpleasant. It comes with a real financial cost… [according to one study], when temperatures were low 68 degrees, employees committed 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when temperatures were warm a cozy 77 degrees.

Cold employees weren’t just uncomfortable, they were distracted. The drop in performance was costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee. Which makes sense. When our body’s temperature drops, we expend energy keeping ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration, inspiration, and insight.

via Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company.

This importance of creating comfortable work environments is interesting to me. I know a lot of freelance workers that have a favorite coffee shop to camp out in, often one of the criteria being it’s warm and cozy in the fall and winter.

I also vaguely recall a couple of studies that found play did not occur for animals outside of certain temperature ranges. (If anyone can find one of the studies please let me know).

As humans, we are adaptable to almost all climates from the Arctic to the Serengeti. So I think it is surprising to people to discover just how fragile we are.

Speaking of fragile, the article also mentions the connection between feeling cold and feeling lonely:

In a fascinating study reported in the prestigious journal Science, psychologists uncovered a link between physical and interpersonal warmth. When people feel cold physically, they’re also more likely to perceive others as less generous and caring.

When we’re warm, on the other hand, we let our guard down and view ourselves as more similar to those around us. A forthcoming paper from researchers at UCLA even shows that brief exposure to warmer temperatures leads people to report higher job satisfaction.

The unconscious desire for physical warmth is thought to be the reason lonely people bathe longer, more frequently, and use higher temperatures.

We often describe people as “cold” or “warm,” so it makes sense our perceptions would match our physical sensations. I wonder if this has anything to do with the reported “Seattle Freeze” phenomenon and in contrast the southern United States’ reputation for being open and hospitable.

While the article in Fast Company focused on job productivity, I think this is an interesting observation into overall well-being and improving environments in general.

Do you find you perform better at certain temperatures? Is one temp better for working over playing? For example, I like it to be warm but not hot while doing non-creative work, but if I’m doing an art or construction project or something creative I actually like it a little bit warmer. Leave your complaints or comments below.

behavior · culture · environment

Toys in the workplace

I’m a huge fan of toys in the workplace. They help me think, they can trigger creative ideas, and they make me smile. But some people consider thema distraction.
What’s your opinion of toys in your cubicle? Do they delight or distract you? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Monkey finger puppet


brain · creativity · mental health

8 Counter-Intuitive Ways to Improve Your Well-Being and Creativity

I’m having quite the brain block at work today, but I did find this article helpful; in fact, I went right out and bought myself an early lunch (or late brunch) after reading this.

To help you break the busy-ness cycle and work happier, we’ve rounded up a handful of counter-intuitive ways to tweak your habits and your mindset. They range from obvious-but-oft-ignored tips to the slightly more eccentric.
1. Eat breakfast.
According to New York magazine, “between 1965 and 1991, the number of adults who regularly skip breakfast increased from 14 to 25%.” We all know that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” but few of us act on it. The truth is there are few better one-stop options for improving general well-being. Numerous studies have linked eating breakfast with better general health, increased productivity, and a lower body mass index. If you want to feel better, look better, or just work better, there’s one simple solution: eat breakfast — preferably foods with a low glycemic index.

2. Sit less.
Most of us spend the greater part of our day sitting in front of a computer. In fact, the average person sits 9.3 hours a day — more than they sleep. All of this sedentary work is leading to increased cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and lots of other unhealthy side effects. Like death…

more at 8 Counter-Intuitive Ways to Improve Your Well-Being & Creativity

I wouldn’t call them counter-intuitive, per say, but definitely not the usual ideas, like getting an office pet (#4) or distancing yourself from a problem (#7). And many of them really do focus on overall well-being, not just creativity and collaboration in the workplace.

What other “odd” ways do you use to improve your well-being? Leave it in the comments.

behavior · brain · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · play · Social

Playing is good for work productivity

Editor’s Note: Hi! I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that this post is VERY similar to a  post this week on the blog of digital agency Plexipixel. That’s because they were BOTH written by me, but I didn’t want to plagiarize my own work. For the original version of this post, check out their site.

The title of this blog post sums up the entire concept. There’s no other way to say it: you need to play to be a productive member of society.

However, this idea doesn’t seem to be sticking. 

The perception in America is that the harder and longer you work, the more productive you’ll be. Especially now when jobs are scarce and companies are holding on by the skin of their teeth, people sacrifice play, exercise, and good old legitimate downtime, not to mention sleep (September 30th was National Coffee Day!), to get more work done.

But it turns out we weren’t built to work that way. We need breaks, we need downtime, and we most certainly need to cut loose and be a little silly every once in awhile. As biology professor Robert Sapolsky pointed out in his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” occasional stress is good – it makes sure we get that report in on time and we are aware of our surroundings in a new city. But constant stress just wears us down.

Several studies have found that play increases new ideas and overall productivity at work. Germans, and other European countries, have more vacation time than Americans, and yet have overall higher productivity, according to data presented in an article in Open Forum. The O.E.C.D. put Americans at 1,804 work hours a year on average and the Germans at 1,436 hours in 2006.Author Thomas Geoghegan believes that Americans weren’t always this overworked. In an interview, Geoghegan explains that in the 1960’s, Americans spent more vacation time than they do now, and many people in their 50s or 60s will tell you that they take less vacation time than their parents did. In the same New York Times article, another commenter noted that Americans view time as a currency in the workplace, as opposed to output, whereas Germans view results as the biggest indicator of results.

And it’s not just time away from work that’s rejuvenating. Repeated research has found that play increases new ideas and overall productivity at work. Psychology Today reports that telling stories and jokes makes us better writers. It also reports that even a little bit of physical play or just boring old exercise – a brisk walk around the block three times a week – fights depression. 

New business, products, and companies stem from play. The t-shirt company Threadless, for example, started off 10 years ago as a hobby. The company has since grown to employ 80 workers, but Jake Nickell, founder and chief strategy officer, “has made sure playtime remains a part of company culture. Shooting a potato gun at plastic parachute guys is a way to relieve stress.”

 Pamela Meyer, author of “From Workspace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing through Dynamic Engagement,” agrees that taking time out for fun is a good workplace practice.

“This idea of play space is very much a key part of business success” because it fosters dynamic employee engagement, said Meyer in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “Companies that engage their workers by giving them space to create, try new roles or test new ideas benefit from higher employee retention, greater productivity and better financial returns.”

So, to re-re-emphasize my point: Go play, it’s good for your work.