Florescent lights, a buzzing computer screen, the smell of stale coffee and a stiff, uncomfortable chair–sound pleasant?  Would you like to spend your life in an environment like that?  Too many of us do.  The office is a terribly uncomfortable place, but it doesn’t have to be.  The physical environment around you influences how you think and feel.  Changes to your physical environment can improve your productivity, mood, and stress levels.

Set the Mood

I had a co-worker whose office was a dimly lit mess of book stacks and loose papers.  People complained that they felt uncomfortable in that office.  They didn’t look forward to meetings or counseling sessions there and described it as “the cave.”  Not cool.  How do you want people to feel when they walk in your office?  Think through what you can do to the space to make others feel welcome, comfortable and safe.  If you are setting up a classroom think through what you could do to make it conducive for listening, discussion, alertness and creativity.  If the youth room is a place for high school age youth to hang out, what can you do to set that tone?  Obviously, you can minister to youth anywhere and God isn’t limited by space, but the mood you set in your office and youth room can remove roadblocks and set an open environment.

Your Office

Where is your favorite spot to unwind?  Do you have a certain corner in the local coffee shop that you like to read in?  What environment makes you feel the most peaceful?  What kind of location makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy?  Take a moment to dissect the feelings you have when you are in those places. What environmental influences make you feel that way?  Once you have a grasp of what factors influence your mood, you can change your office space to set the mood you would like to create.

Since I like going to small, uncluttered, artsy shops with beautiful artwork and coordinated decor, I decided to make my office into one.  I picked a color scheme and only decorated with colors that fit that scheme.  I made frames for my favorite pictures and painted matching boxes to store the clutter.  The peaceful, aesthetically beautiful atmosphere created an environment that others called safe and comfortable and that made spending all day there seem not-so bad.

You spend the majority of your waking hours at work.  What can you do to make the environment a pleasant one?  Is there a spot in your office where your eyes wander when you are thinking?  Put something pleasant there!  I put a calligraphy print of a Bible verse in one of those spots, and a reminder of my Baptism in another.  All day long I am reminded of that verse and my Baptism–not a bad mind set to have!


My husband detests florescent lights.  As a photographer, he is much attuned to lighting and its impact.  It didn’t take more than a few weeks of youth events before he had bought cheap 100 watt lamps for the entire youth room so that the florescent ceiling lights would never be used again.  At first I thought it was a little crazy, but I noticed that our youth events had a completely different feel with those lights on.  The mood seemed more peaceful and relaxed.  The youth made comments about the room looking really great but they weren’t sure why.  The lighting really did make a difference.  What can you do to improve the lighting in your office?  Would a few lamps brighten up the place?  Natural light is by far the best, but when that’s not possible, you’d be surprised how much difference turning off the florescent lights will make.  What about the youth room?  Could you put up inexpensive Christmas lights for the next youth event?  Consider stocking up on rummage sale lamps to give the room a more relaxed feel.


Imagine the smell when you first walk in to a movie theater.  I give in to that buttery popcorn smell every time!  What does your youth room smell like?  For that matter what does your office smell like?  One of the first impressions others will have when they walk in the room is the smell.  What can you do to make it a good one?  It doesn’t cost much to open a window or buy an air freshener.  There is a reason that many home sellers bake cookies right before an open house–smell makes a difference!


Youth workers are stereotyped for having messy offices filled with disorganized piles and stale pizza boxes.  What would happen if you took an entire afternoon to better organize your office? Knowing where everything is will save you time, energy and embarrassment.  A word of advice from my first boss has stuck with me and proved invaluable.  I was having trouble organizing piles of papers.  He told me that every sheet of paper is either important enough to file in a drawer or it should be thrown in the recycling bin.  It works!  No piles, no stacks, no lost checks.  Either file it or toss it.  Try it!


Be quiet and listen.  What do you hear?  The sounds in your office that you are tuning out may be affecting you without you even noticing it.  The buzz of a monitor, the ringing of phones down the hall or sound pollution from the street can give you a headache and distract your attention.  For two years my office was next to the grade school gym.  Every day from 10-11 am and 1:30-3:00 pm (and all day if recess was rained out) the sound of basket balls, jump ropes and shouting made it impossible to get my work done.  I started planning my day so that things that required less concentration were saved for those times.  Noise can help or hinder your environment.  What difference would it make at your next youth event if upbeat music was playing when the youth arrived?  Try allowing youth to choose the CD that plays in the background of your game night (not only will they appreciate the mood you are setting, it’s also a good chance to expose them to new Christian music).


Which way do you face when you sit at your desk?  A desk position that faces the door allows you to see people come in.  You are able to make immediate eye contact with visitors, which make them feel more welcomed and comfortable, and it allows you to relax while you are working without the subconscious fear that someone may sneak up behind you.  How are the couches arranged in your youth room?  If they are spread too far apart they may not be conducive for conversation.  If they are too close they may cause distractions during your Bible study.  Give your office and youth room a contemplative eye.  Sit in every spot in the room to see what the space feels like.  If that is not your forte, ask someone in the congregation to give you their opinion.  Space matters!


A large factor in the attitude and feelings that others have in your space is you!  The way you react when you are “interrupted” in your office can determine if youth will be comfortable opening up to you.  The welcome you give a new person who walks into the youth room may determine if they will come back.  The attention you pay to concerned parents when they catch you in the hallway can open doors of trust and support.  The best decoration a room can have is a genuine smile!