When people think of designing their home offices, they think about it in a mundane way. Some people just use a spare room with a desk, chair, computer, telephone, and printer. Others make the effort to find the right furniture, lighting, and ventilation.

Yet few people think about creating the right ambiance. 

Imagine what a difference it would make to your home office to have a wall mural design with a beach scene. Imagine what a difference it would make to have a display case showcasing all your awards. Imagine what a difference it would make to have framed photographs of your greatest accomplishments.

Think beyond practical concerns. Think beyond décor. And start thinking about mood. What kind of home office will stimulate your brain to be more creative and productive?

Your Brain Is A Parallel Processing Machine

On the surface, it may seem that you think one thought after another. But the experience of a singular line of thinking is illusory.

In actuality, your brain is doing many things at the same time.

  1. It is focusing on the work in front of you.
  2. It is responding to subtle stimuli like colors and scents.
  3. It is generating images about the past and the imagined future.

In effect, your brain is a parallel processing machine. Instead of fighting this natural tendency, you can use it to your advantage. This is an excellent way of coming up with creative thoughts and new ideas on how to do things.

Design Your Office Around Neuroscience 

Brain scans have shown that when you are focusing on a task many parts of your brain light up. You are not just working with one linear process, but with many specialized networks.

In essence, you are working with three specific types of networks.

The first network is the attention flexibility network. This helps you track what is going on in the room. Is the room quiet or is it noisy? Is the room hot or is it cold? Is someone walking towards the room or away from it? Is someone watching television or talking on the phone in another room?

The second network is the imagination network. This helps you scan the past for data. It also projects the past into the future to help you create predictions. This cascade of images allows you to orchestrate what to add or edit out of your work.

The third network is the attention network. This helps you to concentrate on the work that you are doing.

How To Optimize Your Office.

The ideal office will help you enhance all three networks.

  1. Make your office a safe haven to enhance your attention-flexibility network.

The reptilian part of your brain is monitoring your habitat. You can’t turn it off. For centuries, human beings needed to pay attention to the environment and the weather.  Danger lurked in the savannas and grasslands.  They had to be aware of their surroundings to survive.

Here are some ways to make your office a safe place.

  • * Tell others in the house when you’re working.
  • * Use an ergonomic chair and an ergonomic keyboard.
  • * Get reliable technology, ranging from your hardware to your software.
  • * Set the right temperature.
  • * Add lamps if there is insufficient lighting. Or add curtains if there is too much sunlight streaming into the room. When possible, prefer natural light to fluorescent lighting.

Make your office a stimulating place to enhance your imagination network.

Here are some ways to make your office a stimulating place.

  • * Use furniture that appeals to your sensibility. If you lean towards nostalgia, then choose antique furniture. If you’re more of the Star Trek type, then choose contemporary, minimalist furniture.
  • * Surround yourself with images. These can range from wall murals to paintings and photographs.
  • * Listen to music. Research has shown that Baroque music activates memory and accelerates your rate of learning. This is because it has a 60 beat rhythm. Baroque improves communication between your conscious and unconscious mind. Over time, you experience enhanced concentration while feeling relaxed. Baroque music also lowers blood pressure and relieves stress and fatigue. In addition, it synchronizes the left and right brain and harmonizes body rhythms.
  1. Make your office a distraction-free place to enhance your attention network.

“Distractions signal that something has changed,” says David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work. “A distraction is an alert that says, ‘Orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.'” The brain’s reaction is automatic and virtually unstoppable.”

Here are some ways to make your office a good place to enhance your attention:

  • * Avoid having anything in your office that requires you to multitask. Keep things neat and tidy. Avoid having a cluttered desk or a magazine rack.
  • * Don’t have things that distract you like, Rubik cubes, indoor plants, pets or a fish tank.
  • * Control your digital environment to reduce distraction. Only have only one window or task-bar open at a time. Don’t click on tempting links when you’re researching on the Internet. And don’t visit Facebook or Twitter when you’re working.

It’s wonderful to furnish your home office in the style and decor you love. Now that you understand more about neuroscience, why not also optimize how you think and feel while working.


By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.