Imagine: if you had never been in an office before, what would you want it to look like? When you work from home, there is no reason not to create a space that lets your imagination run wild.
Some people love working from home and cannot imagine anything better than spending a day with their laptop in their pajama pants. Others prefer structure and informal chats with colleagues in the hallways of their offices. Either way, more and more of us are having to work from home, at least part of the time.
While we often think of the problem as over-stimulation, offices are actually just as likely to be under-stimulated. Workspaces have traditionally been designed with the idea that to maximize productivity, distractions must be minimized, leading to bland, featureless spaces. Yet, research shows that when people working in these “lean” workspaces are compared to people working in “enriched” spaces with art, plants, and more sensory stimulation, the people working in the enriched spaces are 15% more productive. And if workers have control over the placement of objects in their workspace? They are 32% more productive!
The beauty of working from home is that you can create your own workspace and create a sensory landscape that works for you. This can mean eliminating unpleasant sensations, getting noise-canceling headphones to eliminate annoying noises, or turning up the heat to a comfortable temperature. But also look for ways to add pleasant sensations to your workspace. Hang artwork that gives your eyes something to rest on when you look away from your screen. Play nature sounds. Choose a brightly colored mug for your morning coffee. (article on the influence of the color of our coffee cups here).
The senses of touch and smell are especially under-stimulated during the hours when we are tapping away at a keyboard, so look for ways to engage them.
GREEN YOUR WORKSPACE
Since we are talking about workspaces, one simple thing you can do to make yours more cheerful is to add some greenery. One of the quickest and easiest ways to bring color into the workspace is to use colorful plants.
Just adding a few has been shown to reduce stress, restore your ability to focus, increase productivity and improve creativity.
PACK AND TIDY
Perhaps the worst aspect of working from home? It’s hard to know when the workday is over. And it’s even harder if you don’t have a dedicated home office space. When your laptop is sitting on the dining room table or the coffee table is covered with stacks of files, it’s hard to feel completely disconnected.
That is one of the reasons I personally decided to create a place to put everything at night so I could close the door and not get distracted by things I didn’t do. You don’t need a guest room to do this. You just need a nice basket or closet to store your laptop and papers in at night. Creating a physical boundary will help you get your mind back in order and reclaim your home life.
BRING IN THE COLOR
When you work from home, you have all the freedom to use the colors you need to help you work. Which is wonderful. So it’s all about experimenting and seeing what colors support you and help you work effectively. Ask yourself how you would like to feel and behave when you work at home – and look for colors that will provide you with positive feelings and behaviors. By considering the color of your chair or screensaver, the curtains or cushions, the cup you drink from, and the clothes you wear, you can begin to build a color system that works for you. When you start behaving the way you want to, you’ll know you’ve chosen the right colors. (Article on colors and our work spaces here)
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
When working from home, it’s easy to forget about your body’s basic needs. While at the office you probably have an ergonomic desk chair or adjustable workstation, unless you work from home regularly, your workspace may be nothing more than a kitchen table and a simple wooden chair.
This doesn’t mean that you need to invest in a full home office setup, but rather that you need to pay attention to how your body feels when you work from home. One of the advantages of working from home, as opposed to an office, is that you can change positions frequently. Try many different postures, whether it’s sitting in a chair, standing at the kitchen counter, relaxing on the couch, or sitting on a yoga block on the floor with the coffee table as your desk. Testing different positions can help you find physical ease more quickly.
Another thing to pay attention to is movement. It’s likely that you’ll have to walk a bit during an office workday – to get there from the train or parking lot, between meetings, to get another cup of coffee – and those trips easily disappear when everything you need is within walking distance.
The flexibility of working from home, however, means you can move around whenever you want. Try setting a timer to do yoga or a workout to break up a long email session.
While I was creating Spark by Jo, I took some breaks to walk around my neighborhood for an hour which helped me clear my head, be more inspired but would have been hard to do in an office.
ENJOY THE SUNSHINE
A poorly designed aspect of many traditional offices is the limited exposure to daylight in the workspaces. For most workers in cubicles, call centers, or factories, the only light available during the day comes from the dull fluorescents above their heads. Yet research shows that workers who are exposed to more daylight sleep better (up to 46 minutes more per night!), are less stressed, and are more active during the day. Light regulates key hormones and neurotransmitters, influencing everything from our alertness to our stress levels, from our immune system to our mood.
At home, you have more control over where you choose to work, so if possible, choose a space near a window. What if you don’t have much natural light in your space? Use lamps to increase the brightness. Just as too much blue light from our screens can keep us awake, a healthy dose of bright artificial light during the day can help synchronize our internal 24-hour clock.
Plus, when you commute to the office, you probably get some sunlight during your commute, which you lose if you go straight to work. Light has the greatest impact on our circadian rhythms in the morning, so get outside, even for a short walk, before sitting at your desk.