4 Tried and True Methods to Keep a Small Office Productive and Fun

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1. Energizers: Caffeine and Beyond

Some days coffee isn’t enough. You drink a few cups, but you still can’t seem to find your zone. And after lunch your energy dips down to nothing as you struggle just to keep your head up.

If you’re like me, then you couldn’t live without coffee — but you might be getting too much of a good thing. The caffeine you rely on to get going in the morning might be knocking you flat on your back each afternoon.

We are hard-wired for problem solving, so a tidy office can be helpful.

Here’s the bitter truth: Caffeine can make you work faster, but if you need to brainstorm, troubleshoot, or make a pitch, then caffeine can actually work against you. The general consensus among researchers is that caffeine can enhance your output, but only if you’re focusing on tasks that you can do by rote, or work that doesn’t involve abstract thinking.

Think speed, not quality or power. And as every coffee drinker knows, caffeine can cause you to crash. The effects of caffeine peak about 90 minutes after consumption. Within three or four hours your body has more or less returned to normal. Or has it?

Caffeine causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol. These help you focus (and in fact they can improve your memory for certain kinds of facts and figures), but they also wear your body down. Think of it this way, every time you take a sip of coffee, you are artificially inducing stress!

Am I suggesting you switch from a nice dark Kona roast to herbal tea? No way! But there are other ways to energize your day. Keep healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, whole grain pretzels, and vegetables around the office. Everybody snacks at work, but if you eat processed, fatty foods and candy, you will crash long before the day is done.

Additionally, you should stock up on vitamins and Emergen-C packets, which are full of natural, energy-boosting B-vitamins.

2. Watch the Thermostat

Whether you’re shivering, or sweating through your jacket, extreme temperatures take the wind out of your sails. Research has shown that productivity drops 10-25% when the mercury jumps above 77 or falls below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ideally, you should keep your office between 71 and 75 degrees, or a bit above room temp. Slightly warmer temperatures increase blood flow to the brain, and people tend to have more creative breakthrough and “Aha!” moments when the thermostat is to the middle-70s.

3. Don’t Wait Till Spring—Tidy-Up Today

Mother always said, “Show me a cluttered desk and I’ll show you a cluttered mind.” If your desk is covered with junk—yes, those doodles and old newspapers are junk!—then you have two problems: 1) chances are, you’re losing precious seconds every time you need to find a document, and in a single year those seconds can add up to minutes, hours, even days; 2) you are sending your brain mixed signals.

We are hard-wired for problem solving, and since our brains tend to see clutter as a problem to be solved, we have a harder time focusing on work-related tasks when our desks are a mess.

Have an office cleaning day! Encourage paperless practices and repeat after me: The shredder is my friend, the shredder is my friend…

4. The Team That Breaks Together, Makes (Money) Together

Typically, employees and co-workers regard mandatory after-hours team building activities as a burden. It’s like having homework. Instead, try to work in regular weekly periods of “play” or relaxation. If you have a little extra space, then create an area for games. Playing games will help you clear your head and reduce stress, and it will create a sense of togetherness, even if it invites a little friendly competition.


Do you have a special tip for keeping a small office productive and fun? Let us know in the comments section below.