I’ve had two post-college jobs so far: one I didn’t love and one I do. The differences between these two jobs is striking. The culture and atmosphere at each job couldn’t be less alike. However, the one thing that did not change when I left my first job for my second is that I’m still sitting at a desk in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day.
I don’t think I’m the first to say that I love my job but hate being bound to my desk all day. It can be depressing to realize I spent one half of my waking hours sitting in the same position staring at the same thing. And while trendy, open floor plan offices are becoming the new norm, the majority of us desk-job workers likely work in a classic cubicle or outdated office building – not the most mentally stimulating environment.
But working at a desk all day doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your work environment. Whether you love your current position or it’s just a stepping stone onto something bigger and better, you don’t have to work in an environment that drains you. There are loads of little things you can do to enjoy your desk job. Here are a few of the ways I get through the day being tied to a desk and a monitor:
1. Bring Your Favorite Things to Work
I am a collector of knick knacks. Some are useful (ex: coffee mugs) and some are not (ex: cat-shaped iPhone holders). When I moved to my desk in my office, I realized there was a lot of counter space that I would never fill up with work-related things alone. If you have lots of space at your desk, take advantage of it by bringing in some things you love from home. You’ll enjoy coffee from the shared Keurig machine that much more when you’re drinking it from your favorite mug.
I also have ample wall space around my desk that I’ve filled with posters from my favorite concerts and cities and a calendar with hedgehogs on it. When you decorate your workspace as you would decorate your favorite room in your house, it starts to feel really cozy.
2. Create Ambiance
While most corporate workplaces have policies against candles, check with yours to see if you’re able to burn a scented candle at your desk. Scent is a super powerful sense, and surrounding your work area with a scent that is calming or stimulating can do a lot for your mental health. Even if you can’t burn candles, there are tons of other options. Diffuser reeds work surprisingly well, as do plug-in scented oils and scented room sprays. One of my coworkers has an essential oil diffuser at his desk, which is a great way to switch up scents every day without investing in a ton of different, expensive products.
Pro Tip: If you do go for a room spray, I’ve found that splurging for a luxury brand is best. The scent is often less harsh than aerosol room sprays and smells more like a fancy candle.
Another way to create a mellow ambiance is to switch out lighting if you’re able. As in most office buildings, my office is lit by fluorescent light. But the cubicles in my office each have their own light switch. Many of my coworkers work with the overhead lights off but have several lamps in their cube instead. Where the fluorescent lights are harsh, desk and floor lamps tend to be a bit more mellow. Just make sure you don’t use lamps that are too dim, otherwise your productivity level might start to go down.
3. Take Walks
One of the biggest problems about having a desk job is sitting at a desk. The negative health effects of sitting all day are well-documented. There are plenty of articles on the web that offer solutions to desk workers who want to be healthier, like compact, under-the-desk elliptical machines or adjustable standing desks. Unfortunately, at least for me, most of the options I’ve found to combat my sedentary work position are cost-prohibitive, wouldn’t fit into my office’s physical design, or would be too distracting to really use while I work. One thing I can do for free, though, is walk.
Every hour, I have a goal of getting up and taking a quick stroll around my building in the parking lot. The walk takes no more than three minutes, and I can usually time it with a bathroom or water break. It’s a great way to stretch my legs and ensure I’m getting a little more motion every day. On top of the physical health benefits it brings, I also find it’s a great way to clear my thoughts and remember that there’s more going on in the world than just my to-do list on my desk.
While it sounds a little superfluous, I downloaded an app on my phone recently that’s sole purpose is to remind me to get up and walk every hour. If you’re interested in getting out of your chair and on your feet more often, it could be super useful for you, too. It’s called Stand Up! and you can check it out here.
Pro Tip: If you’re competitive or like keeping records, try downloading an app that counts your steps and carrying your phone with you as you walk. On days when I’d really rather stay settled in my chair listening to Spotify, I’m motivated by the fact that I want to get more steps in than I did yesterday.
4. Stockpile Food
At my office, I have two small filing cabinets that came with my desk. Because I have a lot of desk space and very few papers to file, the cabinets are of little professional use to me. But in terms of culinary benefits, they are a lifesaver. If you were to walk into my office and open the bottom left drawer of my cabinet, you would find a treasure trove of tasty goodies.
Nothing kills my productivity like realizing I’m hungry. I could be in the middle of an important, tedious task, but if hunger strikes, I will push the pause button on anything to get some food. My food drawer came into existence initially just to solve this problem. It is, after all, much more convenient to just reach into my drawer of goodies for some crackers rather than stopping a whole process to go buy a snack down the street.
But since it’s inception, my goodie drawer has morphed into a storage compartment for more than mere snacks. I’ve stowed away several cans of protein-rich soup and a box of crackers for days when I didn’t pack a lunch and am too busy to leave the office for a meal. I also have a bottle of balsamic vinegar and a few jars of spices to help make plain canned soup into something really tasty. Having the ability to create a half-decent meal all within 30 feet of my cubicle makes my whole office feel a bit more comfortable and homey.
On top of food, I also keep a box or two of herbal tea in my food drawer for days when I’m feeling sick, or cold, or just want something warm to drink after I’ve had enough caffeine for the day.
5. Treat Yo’Self
I thoroughly maintain that the little things in life can often bring about the most joy. That’s why you will find on my desk a golden stapler and a set of rainbow felt pens. Each time I get to use one of these supplies, I feel a little happier knowing I’m using something that is really special to me. No, a gold stapler won’t work any better than any other stapler. And yes, it is a bit silly for a grown woman to use a bright pink pen at work. But these things bring me such distinct joy and have the ability to brighten my day even after hour 4 of staring at the same spreadsheet of numbers.
Maybe what brings you joy at your desk is a little plant you can watch grow slowly over time. Or perhaps it’s one of those silly cartoon-a-day calendars you can use every day. Whatever it may be, don’t forget to treat yourself a little with things that make you happy, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
What kind of things to you do to spice up the work day? Is there anything special you keep at your desk to make it feel more like home? Did you just scroll down this far to ask me where I bought my aforementioned hedgehog calendar? Please let us know in the comments below!