Detoxing Your Work Environment

Living a healthier lifestyle is all the rage these days.  Special diets and foods, exercise regimes, cleanses — many of us have tried one thing or another to detoxify our bodies and increase our health and wellbeing.  When we “detox” our bodies, we purge them of unhealthy inputs, and provide our systems with healthy foods and nutrients to repair any damage.

The same principles can be applied to other areas of our lives, such as our households and even our work environments. The theory is the same: remove or reduce the unhealthy aspects and increase the things that sustain us.  Let’s explore how that might look in our workplace…


Look around you at what you see every day while you’re working.  What drains your energy or irritates you?  What are you putting up with?  Perhaps your desk is uncomfortable, the lighting is not conducive to work, the color on the wall makes you want to puke, the pipes ping annoyingly, or your desk is completely disorganized. These are the things that need to be purged, or minimized. 

Take five minutes and write down everything that doesn’t feel like it feeds your motivation and energy.  Pick three things that you can do something about, and commit to addressing them in the next three days.  For example, hang a poster or painting to cover up that wall (or paint it, if your workplace allows), get a desk lamp on your way home from work, get noise cancelling headphones to drown out the pinging pipes, rearrange your desk so it works for you, or schedule a couple of hours to clear the clutter. 

Now that you’ve removed some of the “toxins” it is time to refortify your surroundings.  Thinking broadly, in what environments do you feel most creative?  Most organized? Most “in the flow?” What do you know helps you boost your energy and concentration, or help you keep stress at bay?  Perhaps music does it for you, or silence.  Maybe the sound of water, a soft shade of green, or having plants nearby.

Take another five minutes and write down at least five ideas for things you could add to your surroundings that would increase your productivity and enjoyment of your environment.  Commit to yourself to put in place at least three of these ideas in the next week.


The people we interact with every day can also have a major impact on our enjoyment of work, our ability to stay healthy and positive, and our effectiveness. So now it is time to assess the strength and nature of our professional relationships and communications. We need to understand which relationships are healthy and strong, which need strengthening, and which are detrimental to our well-being.

Write down the name of everyone you come into contact with on a regular basis. Create four columns next to the names: 

  • In the first, assess the strength of your relationship with that person on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is terrible and 10 is fantastic.
  • In the second column, rate how you feel (or feel about yourself) when you’re with that person.
  • In the third, notice how positive or negative that person is in their communications, where 1 is extremely negative, pessimistic, talks badly about people or the company, etc., and 10 is extremely positive, optimistic, and supportive.
  • Finally, rate how important that relationship is to your success and happiness.

Here’s your detoxification challenge: 

  • Select one relationship that’s important to your success, but needs improvement. List five things you can do to repair or better your connection to that person. 
  • Choose one relationship that is not healthy for you, and not critically important, and commit to spending as little time and energy as possible on that person.
  • Select two relationships that sustain you, give you positive energy, and make you feel good. List five things you can do to spend more time with those people, deepen your relationships with them, or find more people like them in your office.


Let’s now explore how you do things.  Are there areas of your work where you continually spin your wheels or reinvent the wheel?  For example, when you’re putting together the monthly report, do you think to yourself every time “why does this take so much of my time?” Is there a process that makes you want to bang your head against the wall? What impact does that have on how you feel about that task or responsibility?

Find one thing that could be done better, more efficiently, faster, or with less stress.  Ask yourself what you’d need to do or have in order to make it work.  Then put it in place or ask for what you need.  Streamlining your work flow will be another way to increase your energy and motivation, and make you more productive. 

Of course, it’s also important to recognize that there are things we have control over, and those that we don’t.  Change what you can, minimize the negative effects of those you can’t, and focus on providing yourself with as healthy a workplace as possible.  Don’t assume nothing can be done; ask for it, or get creative about how it can be changed for the better. We can make that commitment to ourselves, just as we would if our own body was desperately ill.  The good news is that we can leave a dangerously toxic work environment, even if we can’t leave a body that has too many toxins.  And if a place is just too toxic, sometimes we owe it to ourselves to get out of such environments before they begin to have a negative health impact.

You’re well on your way to detoxing your work environment! Do you feel better yet?

If you’d like help deciding what needs to go, what can be tweaked to work, and can stay to have a healthy work environment, contact me. These are issues I deal with every day with my clients.