7 Cozy Touches to Soften Up a Stuffy Workspace

Does your ideal working environment involve you curled up on the couch with a laptop, a purring cat and a cup of hot tea? Maybe that’s possible for a very lucky few, but most of us don’t have the option of earning a paycheck while wearing pajamas. However, there are less dramatic ways to create a cozier workspace, even if you have to report to a cubicle or an office while adhering to a business-casual dress code.

Christian Eilers, a career expert with Zety, says cozy workspaces can make people feel comfortable, relaxed and happy—which could help them enjoy their work rather than think of it as the daily grind. "When employees are comfortable, they'll be more inspired and less afraid to speak up, pitch great ideas and feel like part of a team," he says.

While you may not be at liberty to add couches, hammocks and beanbags, these simpler elements can help soften your surroundings and may even increase your productivity.

Create a Cozy Cubicle

Display some prized photos. Depending on how much space you have available, you may be able to add some framed snapshots of family members, friends, pets or photography that soothe, comfort or inspire you. During a stressful day or tedious task, taking a quick visual break to soak in treasured faces and places can help you feel more relaxed and centered.

Cut the clutter. Research has shown that a cluttered environment can cause stress and anxiety while reducing productivity and leading to procrastination. To promote a less stressful, more serene workspace, use a filing cabinet to keep papers organized and off your desk until you need them.

Warm up your space (literally). If your office tends to be on the cooler side and you find yourself shivering through your shift, ask your supervisor if it might be possible to keep a small space heater near your area. If that’s not an option, consider adding some reusable hand warmers to your desk drawer to warm up your digits during breaks, or keep a blanket nearby.

Incorporate some plants. Adding some greenery or flowers will help to warm up your workspace with a natural element. Not only are they beautiful, but having plants at your desk can also increase concentration and make you more productive overall.

Personalize your space with cozy accents. Without dropping a big chunk of hard-earned money on office décor, adding a few small stylistic touches can instantly boost the comfort factor of your workspace. Some inexpensive (or even free-from-home) ideas include coasters for your desk, a couple of soft throw pillows, non-flame candles or a small accent rug.

Incorporate lamp lighting. The overhead fluorescent lighting in most offices isn’t exactly conducive to relaxation. Try adding a lamp as a softer source of light.

Add a seating area. If you have the available space, consider adding a small seating area with a couple of comfortable chairs and a table near your desk to create an inviting environment and encourage conversation. "It’s easier to talk and let your guard down in a cozy, casual environment," says Ellen Mullarkey, the vice president of business development for Messina Staffing. "It’s hard to create a sense of unity and common purpose when there are literal walls between you and your teammates."

Striking a Balance Between Cozy and Professional

Although a more comfortable workspace can promote higher productivity, it’s also important that it is efficient and functional.

When choosing decorative accents, for example, don’t go overboard, as too many items can create clutter and serve as a distraction. Limit your choices to a few items that motivate and inspire you, such as a family photo or motivational image.

And if you work in a more formal setting where you meet with clients or customers, some of these approaches might need to be dialed back a little. For instance, you might not want to be wrapped in a blanket when your 1:00 appointment arrives.

Eilers believes the ideal workspace should offer a blend of cozy and traditional—perhaps a semi-formal area for the majority of work and a cozy area for comfort. "A nice balance is just that: a nice balance," he says. "Just knowing that a cozy space is available makes each day more pleasant, even if I don't even take advantage of it."