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Spring Cleaning the Office
Tips from psychotherapist Berne Weiss.

That restless feeling that seems to pop up along with the Spring flowers is creeping up again. Even coffee doesn't help. You need some air and you want to get as far away from your cramped, cluttered office as soon as possible. Yes, Spring has arrived and it 's not surprising that the parks and outdoor cafés are more appealing than computer screens and conference rooms. But according to Budapest based psychotherapist Berne Weiss, there are simple things you can do to make your office a more comfortable, more aesthetically pleasing place, one more conducive to work and less conducive to escape plots. There are no steadfast rules for creating a pleasing work environment, says Weiss from her own newly renovated home office with freshly painted teal blue walls. “It all depends on the things that you respond to. Different things satisfy different people,” she says, noting the importance of colors. “I could say that you should never paint your workplace black, but some people could work with that.” The bottom line is that your office should be a place that makes you comfortable. Explains Weiss, whose own clutter-free office is decorated with colorful art and comfortable fabrics, you should choose decorations which make you feel good, take your mind off of work, or grab your attention.

It's also important to move things around once in a while to change the atmosphere slightly, she says. And Spring is the perfect time to do that. People are now spending more time than ever at their offices. “Most people accumulate large quantities of paper, so go through your files, either paper or on your computer, and just get rid of stuff,” suggests Weiss. When the seasons change “you should also get rid of the dust and introduce new scents. Different kinds of scents affect your mood. I always think of lavender for the Summer, spicy scents for the Fall, and floral and grass scents for the Spring.” There are also small things you can do to drastically increase your productivity, she says. Open windows to keep fresh air circulating and have plants, for example.

Having the right lighting too is an important factor in creating an effective work space. Most commercial office buildings use fluorescent lighting, which lacks the full spectrum of light that natural sunlight provides. Studies show that fluorescent light can cause health problems like mood swings, depression, fatigue, eye strain, and can sometimes even cause damage to the central nervous system. Naturally, any of this can decrease productivity. “Light affects your mood and energy level,” explains Weiss. “When the light gets dim, rooms have a completely different feel.” Some people also work well with music playing, while others find music distracting. “So if you play music in an office, the question becomes what kind of music to play,” says Weiss, cautioning that this becomes an important consideration especially with the open plan office.

Most people have little say in how such an office is decorated. “For a space that has to accommodate a large number of people, you have less of an individual stamp because any one person's individual stamp is not necessarily going to match with someone else's,” says Weiss. And if you're dealing with clients, whether from a private office, or a more open one, the key is to strike a balance between what satisfies you and what satisfies people who will be visiting you. “If your workplace is entirely private you can do whatever you want, but if you're working with people then you have to be mindful about what will make them uncomfortable or agitated. You have to think about what will make someone trust you. There has to be a compatibility with the people you deal with, which is absolutely necessary for lawyers, doctors, and psychologists, for example.” If you work from a home office you have the freedom to design it according to your own tastes, but working at home also has its downside, particularly as the weather gets warmer and your thoughts drift away from work more frequently.

“When you work at home you really have to be able to separate work from the rest of your life. It's easy to get distracted and start washing the dishes,” notes Weiss. “It depends on what type of work you do, but many people who work at home do the type of work that is always on their minds anyway. So, how do you prevent your work from getting stale?” Take breaks throughout the day and make a sharp distinction between work and the rest, she continues. Weiss herself used to keep a postcard of a favorite hotel she stayed at in Rome on her desk, and she would turn it over to relax her mind. “I would put myself in that square and imagine that I would be going there again,” she recalls. “So that way I could take little 30 or 60 second holidays.” Just imagine ...you too can take a vacation for the price of a postcard.

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