The workplace is transforming as we know it, even more so that we are in the middle of the pandemic where work from home has become the new normal. The bustling workspace is now replaced by a solitary table, the group huddle is now only a zoom call away, and the space we have long associated with work has been replaced by the space in our home.
While this change has it’s advantages, studies have also shown that the lack of boundaries between work and home responsibilities, growing uncertainty, and lack of opportunities are causing more stress for most.
Whether we like it or not, work from home is the new normal and by creating a better work environment at home, we are able to create a safer space that can be conducive for work and our mental wellbeing. We can make these small changes that can truly benefit us by utilizing environmental psychology.
Environmental Psychology argues that physical environments play a key role in promoting mental and physical health. Studies within the field of environmental psychology also espouse that certain design aspects of the spaces we occupy can provoke a particular response and promote a type of behavior. A space that is more organized can effectively reduce our stress levels while a cluttered work area can do the opposite.
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That said, designing a sustainable way to work can be done when we create a space that can help us slow down and disconnect from an overstimulated system. Here’s how you can do that by making simple adjustments to your work-from-home space:
First thing’s first, declutter your work area to reduce external stressors that take up most of your pace. This can reduce the overstimulation that can typically negatively impact your focus and ability to process information.
Research has found that physical clutter in your surroundings can compete for your already limited attention. By keeping your workspace clean, simple, and organized, you can be able to create a more productive space that can do wonders for your focus and peace of mind.
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2. Add plants into your workspace
Having plants in your workspace can help to restore a sense of vitality and a sense of peace. In fact, workspaces with plants can help reduce stress and blood pressure, and boost creativity and problem solving.
More and more people are becoming ‘plantitos and plantitas’ during their longer stay at home as they not only provide aesthetic value but also foster a new found hobby in houseplants and urban gardening. Try it for yourself and use more plants to bring some greenery in to create a healthier and calmer workspace.
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3. Bring the natural inside
Studies surrounding biophilia, or the ways that humans seek out connections with nature, have found that integrating greenery or the natural into our homes and workplaces can have positive effects on our mental and physical health.
Using organic materials like wooden flooring and furniture also helps to create a feeling of being grounded in your environment. It makes you feel more in tune with nature and more comfortable in your space.
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4. Find a good view
Position your work station with exposure to natural light and views. May it be the view of the street outside or the view of the trees, having a view can be stimulating and calming. It can give you a sense of time, weather, and other living things — something that we’ve learned to lose track of when we stay indoors for too long. Doing so can improve our mental engagement/attentiveness and improve our overall well-being.
5. Let the light in
Research has shown that daylight exposure can reduce stress, reduce drowsiness, and increase productivity. As Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist, explains that more exposure to natural light increases our serotonin levels which is linked with more positive moods, better concentration, better sleep quality, and a calmer outlook.
Regular exposure to daylight also helps maintain our circadian rhythms, which can help us get better and longer sleep. Pull up your blinds and work beside your window to enjoy all the positive effects and get your daily dose of vitamin D.
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6. Proper air ventilation
Having a well-ventilated room means that there is air circulation to let ‘clean’ (normal outdoor) air into your space and stale air out of your space.
Not only does this reduce a build-up of pollutants and unpleasant odors, it also has positive impacts on your health and well-being. It can reduce problems like allergies, asthma, and head aches that can escalate when you’re stuck all day in a stuffy room.
7. Let your furniture do the work
Ergonomics is concerned with designing workspaces, products, and systems so that they fit the people who are using them. In this case, ergonomics in your workspace can come in the form of having the right tools to help you maintain a proper posture.
An example of which is to have a comfortable chair or sticking a small pillow behind your waist to provide lumbar support and prevent strains on your joints and muscles. Having a comfortable seat can put your body in a position of ease that can be prolonged for a period of time – giving you the biochemical advantages to help you do your work.
8. Keep your color scheme soothing
Colors have an effect on your emotions. To create a calming and serene room, choose cool colors like light green and blue. Calming colors like pastels (dusk pink, baby blue, lilac, and mint) and neutrals like white, beige, and grey can also make you feel calm and grounded.
Creating a uniformed color scheme with some of these colors can also induce relaxation and help you destress.
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9. Try aromatherapy
Essential oils have therapeutic properties that can help set the mood for a more soothing work environment. It can help create that spa-like sanctuary that gives you calming and restorative effects.
For example, lavender can be used to relax or elevate your mood, peppermint can be used to reduce fatigue and enhance memory, and citrus can help lift our mood and give us a boost of energy. Using these scents can transform your workplace depending on what you need.
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10. Tune into lo-fi music
Lo-fi Music’s endless loops of soft and ambient sounds can actually help you relax and focus. It’s slow tempo and ‘chill’ sound creates an ‘aural cocoon’ where listeners can feel safe and calm.
It’s become more popular these days as more people find that it helps them regulate their mood and stay productive.
While the impact of a space may ultimately depend on each person’s preferences, it is still worth considering how these different interior aspects can affect how we feel. Open spaces can give the feeling of freedom to some, while others might find it distracting.
At the end of the day, be attentive to how you feel and design your space with intention. By adding these small changes into your work from home set up, you will be able to find that easier to not only focus, but also you will also find yourself in a calmer, better mood.
By improving our space using the concepts supported by Environmental Psychology, you can be able to create spaces that can serve you now and continue to serve you moving forward.