Listening to Your Senses for Optimal Work

A clean bright desk in front of a window

Want to be more productive at work? Then create an office space that engages the five senses.

We’ve all worked in offices that either overstimulated our senses or dulled them completely. From harsh office lighting to the noxious smell of a coworker’s lunch to uncomfortable desk chairs and sad cafeteria food—it’s no wonder that so many of us feel uninspired and exhausted at work.  

And it’s not just office employees who need to reconsider their work setup. People who work from home can also experience the same sensorial struggles, whether it’s poor lighting or a cluttered desk or noisy neighbors. 

An ideal office environment, however, is one that holistically considers sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Incorporating these five senses can yield positive influences on your mood, creativity, and productivity. 

Here’s how you can transform your workspace and integrate your five senses to optimize your work.

What are your senses trying to tell you? 

First, it helps to take an inventory of how your senses are currently being engaged in your workspace. 

  • Sight. How is the lighting in your office? Harsh? Too dark? Is visual clutter distracting you from your work? Or do you find the space to be cold and empty? 
  • Sound. Are you getting distracted by a coworker’s loud conversation or a neighbor playing their music too loudly? Is there construction going on outside? Or do you have the opposite problem and find the silence to be unnerving? 
  • Smell. Any irritating or cloying smells in your workplace? Are there any smells that you’re particularly sensitive to?
  • Touch. Take note of the textures of your office furniture and decor. Are they soft and welcoming or itchy and irritating? 
  • Taste. What is the food situation in your office space? Do you have access to nourishing meals? If you work from home, is your fridge stocked with nutritious snacks and beverages? 


Here’s how to make your workspace look more put together and inviting. 

  • Keep visual clutter at bay. Office clutter has been shown to increase stress and negatively impact productivity. It makes sense. If there are piles of paperwork scattered around, the last thing you want to do is work. Combat clutter by creating a daily decluttering routine. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to file documents, organize your drawers, and put office supplies back in their place. 
  • Change your lighting. The harsh glare from office lights can lead to eye strain and headaches. See if you can swap the ceiling light for a desk lamp or natural sunlight. And if your desk lamp is too bright, add a lamp shade to reduce glare.  
  • Include color. Your office colors can affect your mood and energy levels. If you work in a dreary office, consider adding pops of color to brighten your space. Think colorful pens or notebooks. If minimalism is more your style, swap busy designs for natural tones in white, taupe, and beige. 


Say goodbye to annoying work conversations and distracting noises with these tips and tricks. 

  • Drown out noise with headphones. Noise pollution is real and can affect our focus, concentration, and productivity. Make things easier on your ears by investing in noise cancelling headphones. So the next time your neighbor plays their music too loudly, you can sit back and work with ease. 
  • Or add ambient noise. For some people, too much silence can be a bad thing. If the lack of noise in your workspace is driving you crazy, use a white noise app to help you work. Or try working out of a cafe or coffee shop for the added background noise. 
  • Create a productivity playlist. Classical music or sounds of nature have been known to improve concentration. Play some music in the background to help you feel inspired and ready for work. 


Smell is such a powerful sense. Smell is deeply connected to memory, which is why certain smells can evoke strong memories or feelings of nostalgia. Smell is also connected to our emotions, which probably explains why certain smells can be extremely irritating. 

Here’s how to alter your space to accommodate your sense of smell. 

  • Do a seasonal deep clean. It’s always a good idea to give your space a thorough cleaning every season. Dust and dirt accumulate and make your space feel and smell “off.”  A deep cleaning will give your space a refresh and make you feel more productive as a result. Plus, nothing beats the smell of a freshly cleaned room. 
  • Room diffuser. Certain smells like rosemary and peppermint are said to help with focus and productivity. Add a room diffuser (or a candle if you work from home) to make your space smell better—and improve your work.  
  • Air purifier. If your neighbor’s cooking or cigarette smoke is wafting through the vents, an air purifier can help combat the odors. 


Taste might not be the first sense that comes to mind when you think about your office space, but what you eat and drink can certainly affect the way you work. Here’s how to optimize your sense of taste in your workspace.

  • Have healthy snacks available. It’s 11 A.M. and you’re experiencing late morning hunger pangs. Instead of reaching for a candybar or a bag of chips, choose fruit, veggies, or protein instead. Veggies with hummus or apple slices with cheddar cheese will keep you feeling full until lunch. 
  • Stay hydrated. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your work and forget to drink water throughout the day. So keep a water bottle by your desk so that you remember to stay hydrated. And swap the late afternoon coffee run for a cup of tea—you’ll stay energized and you won’t disrupt your sleep routine later on.
  • Take time for lunch. It’s important to actually take a break for lunch and eat a nourishing meal. So step away from your desk and leave the office for lunch. If you work from home, eat in a room away from your devices or eat outside. 


Here’s how to incorporate your sense of touch to make your workspace that much more pleasurable. 

  • Soft cozy slippers. The great thing about working from home is that you can pad around the house in the coziest slippers. Treat yourself to a comfortable pair. Your feet will definitely thank you during the cold winter months.
  • Pens with a nice grip. Texture is also important when it comes to your office tools. A pen with a nice grip will feel nice in your hand and make your writing experience that much more comfortable.

Written by JiJi Lee

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