All About You Podcasts

All About You: Refresh your work environment

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Nature or nurture? Which one has the most influence on our behavior, mental and physical health, and life span has been a centuries-old debate among social scientists and philosophers. Both camps have plenty of evidence to support their opinions, but both sides agree that genetics and environment play major roles in who we are, how we feel and how we act.

Because there’s nothing you can do to change your ancestry, on a practical level, focusing on your environment is a wise way to improve your life. That includes what you see, hear and feel, as well as your relationships.

One area that I’ve been delving into lately that has had a positive effect on my moods has been including more of the natural world into my activities and surroundings.

For example, at least once a week I take a long walk in the woods at a state park. From the first time I walked among the trees for an hour or so, I found it a more refreshing experience than exercising inside.

Here are some easy ways you can refresh your working environment.

Get a few plants for your office

No matter how much light your office has (mine has a moderate amount), you can still include all kinds of plants in your workspace décor. My favorite office plant (which thankfully is death-resistant because I have a brown thumb) is a bamboo plant in a ceramic pot. I also have a couple of cacti and a rubber plant.

Plants in an office boost people’s moods, clean the air and provide other benefits. One study from Harvard showed that offices with plants (green-certified) significantly improved employees’ well-being and productivity. Another study conducted by a researcher at Texas A&M University found that plants and flowers noticeably increased both men’s and women’s creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Include uplifting items and pictures

During my travels, I’ve collected a wide variety of playful and unique artifacts. A shelf above my computer is filled with all kinds of fun and unusual items, such as a small statue of Mad magazine icon Alfred E. Neuman holding a “What, Me Worry?” sign. Every now and again I look over my collection, and it always makes me smile.

You may be more limited than I am on how you can decorate your office, but it’s important to remember that whatever you include will affect your thoughts and mood.

I’ve visited hundreds of offices. Some have been delightful, and I would enjoy working in them, but too many were bland and even depressing. After you read this, why not look over your office – if you have one – and evaluate how uplifting the atmosphere is?

To let you know that I’m pursuing my own advice about including more nature, I’m looking into getting a small aquarium or perhaps a bird for my office. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Change your environment

Like anything in life, when you see something regularly, its impact – whether positive or negative – will diminish. You’ll stop noticing it. That’s why changing up your work environment, even if it’s only a few simple changes, can make a difference.

I just got a gift from a client at a conference, a beautiful clock. It will sit perfectly next to Alfred. I know that when I walk into my office, I’ll notice the clock and it will boost my mood even if I’m already happy.

We’re often so busy with our responsibilities as safety and health professionals that we ignore our environment. It’s important to realize that what you feel, hear, touch, taste and, especially, what you see has a strong impact on your mind. So, spending time thinking about how you can make your workspace more appealing, inspiring and, yes, my favorite aspect – fun – is well worth the effort.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Mindfully Safe” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit

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