What Does Your Workstation Say About You and How Can It Affect Your Health?

If you’ve ever worked in an office (or even simply set foot into an office building) you know that the state of someone’s desk can really say a lot about that person. Have you ever considered though that the state of your workstation may do more than simply painting a negative portrait of your ability to stay organized? It’s true; the state of your work area is just one of the many complex paradigms that you must consider when working in an office setting. Failing to do so can have a negative impact on your future within the company and perhaps, even your long-term health.

So What Does Your Workstation Say About You to Others?

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Organization

First and foremost, a disorganized desk consumed by clutter gives the impression that you cannot be trusted with important assignments. This is something that I experienced firsthand several times early on in my career. I kept my desk fastidiously organized, presented files quickly when people would ask for them, and put my pens, highlighters, and other accessories away at the end of the day. By comparison, my cube mate relied heavily on a system of Post-it notes to keep track of projects, kept a pile of paper under their desk (in plain view) and didn’t bother to push in their chair at the end of the day. They also had a habit of leaving banana peels on their desk throughout the day rather than walking to the compost bin in the break room, which I’m sure most people who would walk by would find at the very least, slightly off-putting.

And yet, when it came to the big projects, it was I that was called upon more often than not. It wasn’t because I had more experience (in fact, I had less than my co-worker) – it was because my workstation gave my supervisors the subconscious impression that I was more worthy of their trust when it came to high stake projects.

If cleanliness is an issue for you, consider allocating ten minutes at the end of your day to filing away any paperwork – even the project you’re currently working on. On my desk, I kept a color-coded tray system so that I could organize my various projects by their level of progression. I also refused to rely on Post-It notes – instead, I used an online project-updating tool called Trello to record any notes I had.

Most importantly, if you struggle with organization designate an area of your workspace for particular things. For example, books can only be stored on a shelf, files only in a file cabinet. If your filing cabinet becomes full, junk it if it’s no longer required or better yet, create a digital archive for it.

Decorations

Decorations can make you seem more inviting to your co-workers, but an over abundance of decorations may incorrectly give off the impression that you’re more interested in hanging garland than you are completing projects on time. Don’t get me wrong – decorating your office or cubicle is okay, just be mindful of what impression it may be giving to others working in your office.

Distractables

If you’re the type of person that thinks best holding a prop or absently playing with a toy, do your best to keep these to a minimum. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a Rubik’s cube on your desk, too many toys in your work area might be a clear indication that you spend too much time playing, and not enough time working.

How Your Workstation Can Affect Your Health

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We spend a third of our lives working so it’s important that the area in which we work is equipped with the type of furniture and accessories that will limit the strain on our bodies – and while an ergonomic office chair is a good place to start, there are a few other things you can do to keep your body healthy and productive.

Protect Your Eyes

Many workstations now come equipped with dual monitors. While this does help to minimize the amount of clicking between websites or documents, it’s important to make sure that the resolution for both monitors is the same. Several people in my office complained about eyestrain after installing a second monitor until they set the monitors to the same resolution.

Adjustable Height

Studies have shown that sitting all day can lead adverse health conditions like blood clots. If you work from home, consider investing in an adjustable height workstation so that you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, or, appeal to your company’s human resources department to make the switch.

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Stretch Your Hands and Fingers Throughout the Day

Stretching is an important exercise to help ward off things like carpal tunnel. Set a notification on your computer to stop what you’re doing for five minutes every hour and stretch the ligaments in your wrist and fingers. Doing so each day can help to prevent this career altering condition.

Lastly, Request an Ergonomic Assessment of Your Workstation

I learned the hard way that incorrectly using an adjustable keyboard tray can be a painful experience. I incorrectly assumed that the tray was set to the correct height and after a few weeks, I began to develop soreness in my hands and wrists. Thankfully I quickly identified that the keyboard tray was the likely culprit and request an assessment of my workstation. As it so happens, the tray was set a couple inches too low – setting it at the correct height eliminated the pain I was feeling.

Whether it’s your career or your health, your workstation and the overall environment in the office can have a significant impact on your well-being. Giving consideration to how your workstation is kept and how it is set up may be one of the most important things you ever do at work.

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