In terms of raw work performance, one's abilities are not all that matters. People (including me) often fall into the trap of thinking that they should always try to improve their so-called abilities. It may include things like being more proficient at given technology or learning new things. What they often miss, is that the amount of work that they can do in a given time depends also on their work environment.
This article's purpose is to show that everybody can take small steps to achieve measurable results. The one problem with this approach is that the work environment is a very broad subject. Here, I will focus on our current season (summer at the time of writing) and also on my practical observations. Let's start off with something obvious.
The room temperature
The topic is now especially important since a lot of people are working from home and most of them don't have HVAC systems to cool their spaces. According to the research, an average room temperature in summer (about 29-30 degrees Celsius) lowers the work performance of an employee, roughly by about 10% (which we can, unfortunately, experience ourselves).
This is a painful thing, but as always, these are things that we can change. The no-brainer solution would be to work in the office whenever we can during the summer period (assuming that the office has an appropriate HVAC system). At home, we can cool ourselves, for example, with fans. My favourite way of lowering room temperature would be to open my window in the morning hours.
According to the research, hydration is one of the most important things in summer. Sometimes when we are in the "flow state" when working on some problem, we tend to forget about basic things. Most of the articles about dehydration measure the effects on our physical condition - they are severe. I was able to find one research that measures the effects on mental health. Here's a quick excerpt from scientific research about the mental effects.
No matter how mild, dehydration is not a desirable condition because there is an imbalance in the homeostatic function of the internal environment. This can adversely affect cognitive performance, not only in groups more vulnerable to dehydration, such as children and the elderly, but also in young adults.Adan A. Cognitive performance and dehydration
Probably the most important thing we can do to improve our health and work performance is the ergonomics of our workplace. We sit over 8 hours every day, that's the reason why we may encounter muscle pain. But that said, in comparison to two previous things, we can fully control this factor. For example, we may invest in ergonomics, desk & chair, adjust our monitor and learn about proper position. There are many online resources that cover this specific topic, so if you're interested in it, I strongly recommend that you read further.
Studies show that exercising is good for our physical health, but as it turns out, it's also great for our brain. Regular exercise provides better focus & sharpens our minds. The best thing about this is that we don't need to run marathons; a 10-minute walk before work, may have an astonishing impact on our performance. It is probably the easiest thing to apply, since there is no cost.
This is the thing that I can experience nearly every day. I've talked with my co-workers about this subject. Basically, the issue is that we often find ourselves in a situation when there are 3 meetings piled up, one after another, and we sit for even 2 hours in front of the screen without taking any break. The obvious side effect is that we "turn off" after 30-40 minutes. The worst thing is that on top of that, we are often multitasking during video calls.
When we are not particularly interested in the meeting, we tend to start looking at our e-mail, replying to messages on Slack, or just doing our usual work. It shouldn't be a surprise when after 2 hours without breaks, we can't focus on anything till the rest of the day. Unfortunately, we will often have to adjust to our client's schedule, but at least for our internal meetings, we can keep this thing in mind.
I shared my thoughts not only to show all things we can do to make our work experience more pleasurable and easier. I feel like these things are common knowledge, but they are not common practice. Meaning that almost everybody knows that it's good to keep these factors in mind, but at the same time they rarely try to change anything in practice. I hope that I have managed to convince you with some numbers, that it's beneficial to try to change something. My general advice would be to take it easy - start with one thing that we want ourselves to improve and check if it works.