Most of us like to be comfortable. That’s the whole point of comfort. But does being comfortable actually make you more productive when you’re trying to work? Or does it end up doing more harm than good?
The Intuitive Arguments
Let’s start with the intuitive arguments.
There’s a case to be made that comfort does make you more productive. If you’re uncomfortable in any way, you’re probably going to focus on the source of that discomfort rather than the task at hand. For example, if you’re trying to solve crossword puzzles but you’re sitting in an awkward wooden chair, you’re probably going to spend so much time adjusting that you can’t think about the clues.
Certainly, no one would argue that total discomfort leads to productivity; at a certain level of discomfort, it becomes practically impossible to think about anything clearly.
However, you could make the argument that a bit of discomfort is actually a good thing. If you’re exceptionally comfortable, lying down in your bed and tucked beneath a warm blanket, you’ll run the risk of falling asleep instead of completing your objective.
Instead of painting with a broad brush, it’s better to examine productivity and comfort as they relate to different areas of work.
Furniture and Posture
Let’s start with furniture and posture. As you might imagine, the furniture you choose and the posture you adopt have a significant impact on your productivity. Ideally, you want furniture that forces you to sit or stand upright; if you’re lying down or are in a position that’s “too relaxed,” you won’t be able to do your best work. Additionally, high-quality furniture that encourages good posture can reduce your risk of developing physical health issues and chronic pain later in life.
That said, your furniture should actually be comfortable to use. If your chair is too high, too short, too firm, or awkwardly shaped, it’s going to have a detrimental impact on your ability to work. Instead, you should get some of the best-quality furniture you can afford from a well-reviewed furniture store; with better furniture supporting you, you’ll be able to work in comfort while still maintaining your focus on what matters most.
Temperature and Environment
We can also examine comfort as it relates to your environment. In other words, are your physical surroundings comfortable, or do they have some kind of detrimental impact on your personal level of comfort?
Here, we have mixed evidence. For example, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that temperature has an effect on productivity. If the room is too hot, let’s say 90 degrees Fahrenheit, nobody will be able to work effectively. The same is true if the room is too cold, at something like 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
So does that mean that there’s an “optimal” temperature for productivity? A setting on the thermostat where everyone in the office can do their best work? It’s possible to average out the preferred temperatures of everyone in the office to come to a reasonable compromise, but the big picture here is that everyone prefers something different. One person may love working in a chilly environment, at 63 degrees, while another works better in a warm environment, at 76 degrees.
What seems to matter most here is that an individual is comfortable; the exact temperature doesn’t matter nearly as much as an individual’s personal preferences for that temperature. This suggests that comfort does play a direct role in productivity.
We see this echoed in other aspects of the environment as well. For example, there’s some evidence to suggest that music can increase productivity, but this isn’t true for everyone. Some people work better in total silence. Some people work best in an environment with moderate volume music. And everyone works better if the music being played is in line with their personal tastes.
Culture and Social Comfort
We can also consider the role of “comfort” as it exists in a social setting. In other words, do you feel like you belong in a given social environment? If there’s a mismatch between the company’s culture and your individual personality, it could result in a clash that compromises your personal productivity. On the other hand, if you feel like you can be yourself and still fit in with the rest of the office, you’re more likely to do your best work.
The bottom line here is that, to an extent, comfort does make you more productive. There’s a line where excessive comfort can be its own distraction, sapping your attention and drawing you away from your own work. But for the most part, we all work a bit more efficiently when we’re in an environment we’re truly comfortable with – in every sense of the word.