How Healthy Is Your Workspace?

It's not just about keyboard crawlies and reading lights.

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Your work area should cue up creativity, productivity, and calm. Follow these decor rules, and slay your to-do list with a smile.

1. Does your desk chair do its job?

Think function first. Your chair should be tall enough in back to support your shoulders and have a seat with an edge that curves downward, says Carol Green, a physical and orthopedic manual therapist in Charlotte, NC. If the edge is too sharp, it can stifle circulation in your legs, she says. (Try meeting a deadline with that weird sleepy-leg feeling!) The chair's back should slope inward at the bottom to support your spine's natural curve. Also important for preventing back pain: The top of your monitor should be about 1 inch below eye level, ideally. "Our eyes drop when we read, so this prevents you from leaning forward and straining your back, neck, and shoulders," says Green. If you regularly sit for more than 30 minutes at a time, invest in a comfy chair (Modway Jive High-Back Executive Office Chair, $219, wayfair.com).

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2. Are you color-coding?

We can react psychologically to different shades, so the walls and decor touches around your space should bring in hues that jibe with your personality and work goals. Research shows that blue, for instance, may help spur innovative problem-solving and creative thinking (a good mind-set for redesigning that client logo or drafting a tough pitch). If a paint job is too much of a commitment, try tacking up wallpaper in your work area or cover a bulletin board in a fun fabric. Other colors to consider playing with? Pumpkin orange, which can have energizing effects, and green, which may help power imagination, says environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, PhD.

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3. Got plant power?

Make room for a touch of nature. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found that a workspace with greenery boosted feelings of well-being, helped people feel more invested in their work, and upped productivity by 15 percent compared with sparse offices. Score three for plants!

4. Is space streamlined?

Less is more when it comes to desktop tchotchkes, so tame the novelty mugs, ancient birthday cards, and other stuff that wandered in and just stayed. "Personal touches can lighten up the area, but keep them to two or three items," says Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas Interior Design. More than that and your work zone may start to feel like a living space, which could send you away from that tricky email and into the arms of Facebook. And clutter can kill productivity, especially for those who need zero distractions to focus. But don't over-obsess about the piles on your desk. Research shows that seeing a few stacks of paper and other minor chaos can actually boost creativity, since we associate it with breaking rules or expectations.

5. Are you keeping it bright?

Choose a spot for your desk with natural light, within 20 feet of a window if you can, says Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine's sleep disorders center. Zee's research found that people whose workspaces had more daylight were more physically active, slept better, and felt more overall happiness compared with those who worked in other areas. If you can't put your desk near a window, Zee recommends using a bulb that's broad-spectrum, white, or blue-green-light-enriched (check the package for those labels), since they most closely mimic morning sun. Just avoid sleep-disrupting blue light at night.

Your Office Dos and Don'ts

Do Doodle: Scrawling a few googly-eyed creatures in your notepad could help you remember what that conference speaker said. A study in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers recalled 29 percent more on a memory test than nondoodlers. (Take that, middle school history teacher.)

Don't Clean Like Crazy: The bacteria on your keyboard aren't bad for you, says Susan Whittier, PhD, director of clinical microbiology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Just wash your hands, avoid pawing your face, and every week or so disinfect the spots you touch the most.

Do Step Away from Your Desk: Research has found that if you often sit for long stretches, even exercise may not reverse the negative effects (including a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes). Fit in bursts of movement during your day: stand while opening mail, and walk while talking on your cell.

This story originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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