September 18, 2020

Finding (and Creating) Your Ideal Work Environment At Home

Working from home means getting to decide what to do with your workspace. How do you make the most out of what you have around you? Let’s figure it out together.
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Finding (and Creating) Your Ideal Work Environment At Home</span>

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, working from home has become the new normal for many workplaces today. If that includes yours, what this means is that you get to be your own boss when it comes to how you interact with your working space at home — but how do you figure out what works best for you?

Every one of us responds differently to different environments. There is no one-size-fits-all work environment. Some like to work in cubicles, others like an open space; some like having people around to chat with during work, and others prefer their own privacy and time alone to focus. The list of dichotomies goes on.

If you’re working from home, and your work environment isn’t fixed at the office anymore, consider making the most out of the situation by changing things up at home the best you can. Believe it or not, the little things can help boost your productivity and performance in the long run.

Not sure how to find your preferences? Here are some starters: 

Music and Background Noise 

Do you work well with a lot of background noise? A little? Or none at all? 

Can you read, write, or do calculations better with music playing in the background? Do you respond the same way with numberless and wordless tasks like designing or sketching?

What you can do to find out:
Try writing a short paragraph, solve a few math questions, or simply continue with your regular work, with music or sounds playing in the background. After you’re done, ask yourself how easy or hard it was for you to focus. 

Try this with different types of work, and play with different variables of sounds e.g. genres, volume, pace, lyrical or instrumental, heavy or soft. You can even try white noise or rain sounds.

Once you pin down the best kind of sound that works for you (unless you like none at all), make yourself a playlist for productivity, or simply browse through Spotify’s ready-made playlists. Trust me, they have everything.

If you’re into working with mundane background noises like an oscillating fan or even a quiet airplane, try out Tmsoft’s White Noise Sleep Sounds.

Space, Lighting, and Colors

Do you prefer your working space to be compact and enclosed, or spacious and open? 

Some find that tight spaces make them feel safe and comfortable, while others may feel trapped and claustrophobic. Does facing a wall make you feel stuck? What about facing out the window — does it free your mind, or does it distract you?

What you can do to find out:
Have you ever noticed how those who like space usually prefer bright colors and lighting, and those who prefer a compact space would also prefer dim colors and lighting? That may not necessarily be true for everyone, but space, color and lighting are undeniably correlated. Lighting and colors have a big effect on how spacious a room looks.

If your desk faces a wall, and you’re the kind to prefer a lot of space, try putting a large mirror in front of you to create an illusion of space. Leave your windows and doors open for ventilation, keep objects around you light colored and plain, and declutter any way you can. Opt for white light in areas that are open and unobstructed.

If you like to feel cozy in a small space while at work, try using opaque curtains for your windows. Keep your door closed, lights dim, and furniture dark. Try yellow or orange light for a dimmer effect, and keep empty walls and spaces filled with decorative objects. These can help visually narrow down a space.

Temperature

Do you like working with the air conditioner on? With the fan on? Or just with the windows open?

Whether it’s mentally or physically, we’re all built differently. Working in temperatures that aren’t suited for your mind and body will take a toll on your productivity. This is why it’s helpful to experiment working in cool, neutral and warm environments, and take note of how your body responds at work.

If air conditioning makes you sleepy, work with only the fan on. If it’s the other way around and you get drowsy in heat, keep yourself cool! You don’t want to be dozing off at work (especially if you work in your bedroom, you know why).

Smells

Do you like your space smelling powdery, flowery, fruity, or woody?

Smells may seem like a minor factor when it comes to work environments, but actually, studies have found that scents have an effect on work performance. This is because the olfactory sensory system has an “intimate link with the neural areas of emotion and associative learning”. 

Simply put, people respond emotionally to smells that they like and don’t like, and these mood responses have an effect on creativity, productivity, performance, and even the tendency to help others.

So if you want to be at your best at work, make sure you surround yourself with scents that make you feel good. Brew a cuppa coffee, burn up a lavender scented candle, or put your favorite potato bread next to your desk. You do you.

Your Most Productive Hours 

Are you a morning person or a night person? Do you rise with the moon, or do you rise with the sun?

Even though this isn’t really inherent and can be adjusted by adaptation, all of us probably lean closer to one side. Starting work at 8am isn’t for everyone, and neither is working at midnight.

Unless you have scheduled meetings and tasks to attend to by a certain time, working from home gives you the autonomy to decide, not just where, but when you want to do your work. This is when you must ask yourself: At which time of day is your mind most active and creative?

What you can do to find out:
Are there any patterns in the way you feel when the sky starts to turn dark? Do you feel charged up to do things when the morning sunlight enters your window? Or does the heat of the day make you feel lackadaisical and idle?

Take note of when you feel that sudden burst of energy and inspiration, and dedicate that time to whatever meaningful work you need to complete.

Your Ideal Attire

What articles of clothing do you feel creative in?

Dressing up for work doesn’t seem to make much sense when you’re working from home. I get it. Why spend extra time on how you look when neither your boss nor your colleagues are going to see you in person anyway? Despite that, cognitive psychology says you should, and here’s why.

Have you heard of enclothed cognition? It’s a term coined by cognitive psychologists to describe the phenomenon whereby clothing can enhance the wearer’s psychological state and improve their performance on tasks. Clothes have varying symbolic meaning to all of us, and how we can draw value from this is by evaluating our preferences.

What you can do to find out: 
Look at different articles of clothing — what personal characteristics do they remind you of? Do you associate oxfords with creative executives or firm lawyers? Do plaid button-up shirts make you think of a tech junkie or a book author? 

Ask yourself what you want to feel like each day, and manifest it. If you’re a software developer and wearing a clean plain grey tee makes you feel like Steve Jobs, do it. If wearing a crisp tailored suit and a top hat makes you feel like you could climb any mountain in the world, go ahead! No one’s watching you anyway.

What else?

Of course, these aren’t the only factors that can make working from home better. Pay attention to how you live and work — what makes you feel good, and what doesn't? The answers are all around.



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