How can a dedicated workspace reap the benefits?
Written by Debbie Kleiner, Head of workplace happiness at PES
Since March 2020, some of us have been toying with the best way of working from home. Partly so that we are more productive but also to establish that line between home and work. Workplace wellbeing has always been about a range of factors and not just health promotion strategies such as worksite yoga and Friday fruit. The more forward thinking businesses have previously put a lot of thought into the work environment as part of their wellbeing strategy. In 2020, I was lucky to work for some inspirational businesses who had invested in the work place environment such as OVO Energy and Forrest Brown in Bristol. However, not many people now have access to the wonderful slide at OVO Energy’s offices or the gorgeous open plan spaces at Forrest Brown!
So, if you are thinking of how to improve your home work space, firstly give yourself a dedicated area to work in. It helps bring a sense of structure and boost productivity. And if you are an HR person or line manager, perhaps you can give your employees some advice about how to improve their home environment to support their wellbeing.
The main benefit of a dedicated workspace is that it assists in setting boundaries so that you know you are entering a “work zone” and helps us both physically and mentally. Working from your bed or sofa can be associated with leisure time and it can be tricky to switch in and out of work mode. Having a separate office or room to work from is ideal but if you don’t have that you could set up a desk in your lounge (even better if by a window). The laptop can be replaced with a vase of flowers at the end of your working day when it isn’t being used as an office.
Invest in a good desk and chair which doesn’t have to be expensive and maybe you can even arrange to borrow one from the office. If you don’t have a desk, consider what tables you have around that can be re-purposed such as a dressing table. If you are using a laptop, ensure you have your desk and screen at the right height. This will help maintain good posture. It needs to be somewhere that you will enjoy spending time in. The beauty of working from home is that you actually have much more control over the design of your workspace. By adding plants or painting the room you can add some vibrancy. But you can also do something maybe you couldn’t at work and invest in your other senses. Scented candles and oil diffusers can create a calming environment and relaxing music might help concentration. Perhaps a classical music playlist on Spotify.
Things to avoid
It isn’t just the physical environment, you have to think about potential distractions too. Housemates, the dog, the cat! So set yourself specific work hours and period of focus away from these interruptions. Schedule in some regular micro-breaks to give yourself the chance to give in to those distractions, checking your phone, playing with the dog. In Robert Poynton’s book ‘Pause/do’ he suggests 90 minute sessions of activity before a break. He maintains that this helps intense focus and productivity. You could consider noise cancelling headphones to limit distractions if you live with others.
Whilst for some working from home could be better for stress levels, for many it is more intense and can lead to burnout. Having a clear structure can really help this which can help avoid working much longer into the evening than you might if you were in the office. Setting a strict clock off time can help set boundaries. However, it is also key to avoid loneliness so whilst work socials are great, people are reluctant to join yet another zoom call. So it is key to work out when it is not likely to rain and plan your break at the start of the day. The break helps you connect with people, stop for brief, covid safe chats and support your wellbeing. You come back to work for the afternoon, rested, socialised and exercised at the same time.