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9 simple yet clever ways to stay awake when the afternoon slump kicks in


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Admit it, we all have been guilty of slowing down in the afternoon while trying to battle the massive wave of fatigue that kicks in just after 2pm.

All of that energy you have during the morning suddenly vanishes and you’re forcing yourself to stay awake and focused as the afternoon slump kicks in.

Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at office landscaping firm Ambius, offers some helpful tips on how to beat the the 2.30 pm brain fog.

1. Get a plant

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Believe it or not, plants actually have a soothing effect on us.

“They can transform your workspace into a more peaceful and engaging place,” says Freeman.

“A series of experiments was undertaken by three universities – University of Exeter, Queensland Australia and Groningen Netherlands – looking at the short and long-term effects of plants in offices. Collectively, they found that plants can increase employee productivity by as much as 15% and improve workplace satisfaction by up to 40%.”

2. Get some aroma therapy

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“Did you know that 75% of our emotions can be influenced by scent?” says Freeman. “Smell memory is actually the most powerful part of memory, with each of us on average able to recognise 10,000 different smells.”

Freeman says there are some scents that are well recognised for their uplifting qualities.

“Scientific studies have shown that pleasing aromas can raise productivity, morale, and even reduce stress amongst employees,” he adds. ”Fresh and crisp citrus scents such as ‘mandarin zest’ or ‘pink grapefruit’ elicit energetic feelings, doing much to lift our moods right when the afternoon slump is about to hit.”

3. Bring some natural light into your office

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For this Freeman refers to the ‘biophilia theory’ – which suggests that humans have an innate affiliation with the natural world.

“Our offices often leave little to the imagination and have embraced a ‘lean’ aesthetic – with little or no greenery in them,” he says. “It’s important that we all try our best to bring the outside world in and make the most use out of natural light.”

Enclosed environments can make us feel tired so Freeman suggests sitting next to a window, if possible.

“It’s best to sit near a window, and even better if you’re able to see a park or lake outside,” he says. “Of course, we’re not always so lucky… so try to structure the office so that natural light is able to reach as many desks and corners as possible – mirrors are an excellent way of bringing light (and even views of the outside) deeper into the office.”

4. Take a break… and head outdoors

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Staying cooped up in your workspace all day can be energy sapping.

“It’s important that you enjoy a brief walk or stretch at lunch, as it doesn’t do us any good hunching over our desks at our computer screens,” says Freeman.

“Taking a break from the office will get some fresh air into your lungs, and will help you come back after lunch feeling energetic and invigorated, bypassing the slump at 2.30pm.

“However, we know that not all of us can escape the office. In that case, opt for large green installations – which has grown in popularity over the last few years.”

5. Get rid of indoor pollution

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Think all the pollution is outside? Think again.

Freeman says indoor air can be as polluted, and in some case even more polluted, than outdoor air.

“The primary source of indoor CO2 is humans,” he says. “Typical outdoor concentrations are around 380ppm (parts per million) but this can increase to several thousand indoors within a day. Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants as well as replenish the levels of oxygen (O2) in the air through photosynthesis.”

In fact, research conducted in Sydney by Margaret Burchett backs up this theory. It shows that, in air conditioned and non-air conditioned offices with plants, CO2 levels were reduced by 10% and by 25% respectively, compared to equivalent offices without plants.

6. Create an inspiring workspace

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There’s nothing like a fresh dose of inspiration to boost your morale, especially when your body starts to slow down in the afternoon.

“After a morning full of meetings and a bite to eat for lunch, tiredness can quickly kick in,” says Freeman. “We not only become less productive, but we get less creative.

“In order to keep our imaginations ticking over we need to make sure that we are surrounding ourselves with a stimulating environment.”

Liven your desk with bright coloured stationery and photos to help the creative juices to flow.

7. Find the perfect temperature

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The temperature of the office can have a huge impact on productivity.

“A working environment that is too hot can result in drowsiness and too cold can make employees feel uncomfortable,” says Freeman.

Make sure the office air conditioner is set to an optimum temperature. But of course everyone is different and will have their own preferences which is why Freeman suggests using plants to help keep the workplace cool.

“Plants help to regulate the air around them through the process of evapotranspiration,” he says. “This refers to the movement of water from the soil, through the plant and into the atmosphere. Plants help keep work places cool, with the correct humidity.”

8. Add the right splash of colour

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Colours directly impact our mood.

Recent research from Epson examined the impact of the winter months on office workers and found that they believed simple steps – such as better lighting, a more colourful workspace and more creative visuals and presentations could improve their moods.

“Specific colours have been shown to influence particular emotions,” Freeman says.

“Blue for example, stimulates clear thought and efficiency, whilst yellow is seen as psychologically the strongest colour and lifts spirits and moods,” says Freeman.

“However if you want a boost of productive energy, red would be a good option as it provokes energy and drives enthusiasm.”

9. Get some art

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“Art has the potential to inspire and unlock creative potential,” says Freeman. “It is no longer seen as a mere painting on the wall, but a tool to encourage creativity and boost productivity.

“It can affect the atmosphere of the room as well as improve customer experience.

“Installations such as ‘live pictures’ (natural artwork made out of plants) and ‘green walls’ combines the visual and health benefits of greenery and art.

“It creates an eye-catching focus for any office environment but also provides all the benefits that interior planting can bring – improving air quality, reducing noise and enhancing employee wellbeing.”

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