Behind You: Could a mirror make you more productive

We all know the feeling of being snuck up on at work. Where it be that creepy sense that someone is behind you, or even worse, being startled by some kind of office ninja slinking in for a chat. But what you probably don’t know is how this can significantly affect productivity.

Both the ancient art of feng shui and modern evolutionary psychology showing that sitting with our back to a wall, looking out produces the most relaxed, and more importantly focused, individual. But most modern open plan office and cubicle designs haven’t taken this into account. We have unwittingly created an environment that is putting millions of workers on edge.

Often sitting with their backs to open spaces, walkways, and other people, modern office workers are spending much of their day in a stressed, anxious state, subconsciously alert to the possibility of someone sneaking up and looking over their shoulder. Whilst the initial reaction from a manager might be “good, if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to worry about”.

In fact, this mirrors a Victorian prison design called the panopticon, the design allowed a single guard to view of all prisoners at once. The prisoners don’t necessarily knowing if they are being watched or not and will thus produce better behavior. But human

But human psychology is a funny thing, and the feel of a watchful eye has been proven to increase anxiety and as a result reduce focus and efficiency, especially in a knowledge based economy.

So what can a conscientious manager do to help their workers focus in the modern office?

Ideally, the office should be designed in a way that takes these principles into account and has desks with their backs to walls or partitions, or cubicles with the desk facing towards the entrance.

But what if a full office redesign is not possible? One simple fix might be the humble mirror.

There is a range of different desk, partition and monitor mounted mirrors available specifically to alleviate the anxiety of people sneaking up behind you. By being able to see who is coming in our peripheral vision, without needing to turn around, we can get the same, comforting effect that we have when facing our back to a wall.

“Love it!” Says one Amazon reviewer of the iVIEW Computer Monitor Rear View Mirror “I sit in the far corner of a “Bullpen” setup at my office. I regularly have my headphones in, while listening to Podcasts, and my co-workers will startle me in an effort to get my attention. This mirror solves that for me! I no longer live in fear of a heart attack by co-worker! :-D”

There are lots of different options and even a stylish small desktop mirror with a stand will do the job, for those that don’t want to trick out their computer monitor like with moped like rear view mirror.

The important thing here is to give workers the ability to focus and concentrate on the problems within your business, not on who might be sneaking up behind them.