So you finally persuaded HR to buy you that standing desk. Congrats! (Also: Welcome to 2017.) Maybe you’ve invested in a stress ball, tomato timer, foam roller, and standard-issue sound-canceling headphones, too. This is all great stuff to improve your daily grind, and we wholeheartedly approve. But if you think you’ve done everything you can to pimp your workspace for the sake of your productivity, you’ve still got a ways to go.
With the smart buys that follow, you can turn any drab cubicle into an oasis of good energy and intense focus where great work gets done. Oh, and if you’re one of those holdouts who hasn’t yet got a standing desk? We recommend the adjustable Elements desk from sit-stand pioneer Updesk ($699, myupdesk.com). It’s big and durable, and the vertical motor is seriously fast. Because when you’re at the office, you should work smarter and faster, not harder. Now, let’s go shopping.
1. Get a more charitable foundation
Sure, that standing helps break the office monotony, but it also shifts all that body weight from your ass to your knees and feet. Solution? A standing mat. You can probably get by with a thick slice of rubber, but I’d go one better and suggest the Level by Fluidstance (from $289, fluidstance.com). The ergonomic love child of a skateboard and a Bosu ball, the Level has the slightest hint of instability—stand on it, and you’ll subconsciously flex your core and stand more upright. The firm’s own tests claim it increases heart rates by 15%, but I’m sold as much on its styling as the science. Beautifully designed and made from sustainable materials like maple and bamboo, it’s nice enough that you’ll actually want to display it in its own holster ($49) when you’re working in a chair and giving your rippling six-pack a hard-earned break.
2. Sit up straight
If you can’t opt for a sit-stand setup, you can at least invest in a gizmo that will improve your seated posture. A bunch of upstarts are battling to design the best one, but my favorite so far is the Upright Pose ($130, uprightpose.com). It’s a wearable placed on your lower back, which then wirelessly connects to a smartphone app. It comes ready-charged and provides real-time feedback while you wear it; slouch forward, and it’ll gently buzz to remind you to sit up straight. Eventually, thanks to the app’s built-in goals and rewards over its two-week training period, I found myself craving its subtle input. After a few days of practice, I actually looked forward to the next morning’s challenge—and my posture improved accordingly.
3. Tune out the chatter
Light sleepers aren’t the only ones who need to tune out noise—cubicle drones also suffer from the hubbub of open-plan offices. Sound bounces off all those filing cabinets, making it hard for Zen-craving workers to hunker down. “The biggest complaint people have in their work environment is noise,” explains NCIDQ-certified interior designer and workplace consultant Lisa Whited. Her suggestion? Pick up a “white noise” generator. Unlike the swooshing sound fron an HVAC.
4. Start seeing green
Potted plants aren’t just for show. Back in the ’80s, NASA figured out that astronauts didn’t have to breathe in as much recycled crap when they kept a few plants around. “The right plants purify a host of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, commonly found in offices,” explains Karen Kingston, a clutter- and space-clearing expert. Better yet, the most voracious VOC eaters are also among the hardiest, so even brown-thumbed Dilberts in artificially lit caves who always forget about watering plants can keep them alive. I opted for a Lechuza Classico self-watering planter (around $25, lechuza.us), which both looks slick and makes keeping that plant alive a no-brainer.
5. Clean up your desktop
Too much stuff is stressful—one Princeton study found that physical clutter will subconsciously compete for your attention, with negative consequences. Conquer your paper mountain with the brightly colored accessories from Poppin (poppin.com), like its mod-style three-drawer file cabinets ($229); its modular system of desktop doodads, from trays to pen pots, jigsaws together tidily so you can custom-build the best setup for you.
6. Digitize and declutter
Stashing those papers is only half the battle—go beyond filing with a scanner to turn folios into digital files. Organization guru Kingston recommends the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 (around $400, fujitsu.com), which creates searchable Mac- and PC-compatible PDFs at a scanning speed of up to 25 double-sided pages a minute. “It’s really hard to stop any paper landing on your desk, but a scanner of this quality means it can be processed and gone in minutes,” she says. If you don’t want (or can’t) go paperless, embrace it: Whited recommends trashing your trash can so that whenever you need to junk something, you’ll have to get up and walk a few paces to the main recycling bin. It’ll improve your blood flow and alertness, even during that midafternoon slump.
Mark Ellwood is the author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.