If you’d told us six months ago that by the summer of 2020, almost half of the UK workforce would be working from home, we probably wouldn’t have believed you. But since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the enforced nationwide lockdown that followed in March, that’s exactly where 49% of British workers find themselves - a huge increase from the rough 5% that typically work in this way.
For some, this has been a nightmare - those who thrive on regular interaction with colleagues or have been juggling childcare have found it particularly difficult. For others, the opportunity to work remotely is a breath of fresh air, eliminating the dreaded commute, offering more time with family and increasing productivity.
Whatever your feelings about the situation, working from home looks as though it’s here to stay - at least for the foreseeable future - so ensuring your working environment is one you actually want to spend time in is really important. There are a few key elements you want to have in place that’ll optimise the experience for you, helping to get you in the right headspace to be productive.
Get rid of distractions
According to a University of California Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after getting distracted, meaning your productivity will take a nosedive if you don’t nip those interruptions in the bud early on. Working from the same place that you sleep, eat and relax can be a huge distraction in itself - especially if you live quite a confined space, so ensuring you have a set place to work is a great start - sadly this means avoiding working from bed or the sofa if you possibly can. Perhaps not the ‘working from anywhere’ dream you had envisioned but setting these kind of work/play boundaries is much more conducive to concentration. To get in the zone, start by putting your personal phone away - somewhere out of sight and not within reach - to ensure you don’t have your attention pulled every time an alert pings through and if you don’t have a home office or separate room you can work in, consider using a partition or screen to section off your workspace area. This will give your mind the trigger it needs to switch between ‘work’ and ‘home’ mode.
Ensure you have the right technology
Finding working from a laptop too restrictive? Internet a bit slow to upload? If ignored, these are issues that will become huge problems - problems like swearing on zoom and throwing your laptop across the room because you’re so frustrated. If fixed promptly, they can make a significant difference to your efficiency and enjoyment levels. Ensuring your technology - whether that be investing in high speed internet or purchasing a wireless mouse and keyboard - is working at its best will make your working life much easier. If you’re employed, this is something you can ask your company to help out with, too.
Check your posture
Poor posture whilst working can have a knock-on effect with your health in the long run. Spine and neck pain are the most common problems associated but according to Harvard University, it can also slow down digestion, trigger heartburn and acid reflux. Feel like you’re constantly stooping? Invest in a laptop platform that will set its top at eye level as well as a chair that feels comfortable and gives your back the support it needs - adjustable height, armrests and a swivel base are all things to look out for, as is well-padded upholstery.
How’s the atmosphere?
Whether or not you buy into the concept of Feng Shui, a workspace that feels good to sit or stand in is going to be much more fun to work in. A study conducted by YouGov found that 40% of office workers believe their health, concentration and energy levels have been adversely affected by poor ventilation. Ensure you’ve got some fresh air moving through the space and that you’re neither too hot nor too cold. Indoor plants have also been found to boost focus, as has natural light, so setting up your workspace with these natural elements will help get you through the day.
Clean your workspace
Nothing will make you feel more dejected when facing a full work day than a messy desk. Though some will argue there’s method in their madness, the old adage, ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’ has proven to be true. You’ll feel more efficient and less stressed when sitting down to an organised space. It’s also shown to boost morale - unsurprising as there’s nothing like mess to make you feel out of control and question your capability as an adult. Make a point of filing, clearing clutter and empty mugs at the end of each day and you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Brighten things up
Our brains are amazing things. According to some scientific research, there are certain colours that will trigger us to feel more focused, upbeat and energetic, so surrounding your desk space with these should set you up for a good day. Colours that are considered ‘low wavelength’ such as a serene green or calming light blue are said to boost focus whilst a bright yellow is considered exciting and can inspire creativity. If painting your workspace seems a bit drastic, consider surrounding it with posters, mood boards or decorations that evoke the feeling you’re looking to recreate in your work.
For some people, the sound of silence is bliss when they’re working. For others, it feels as loud as a bulldozer crashing through their front window. If you’re someone who thrives on a bit of office buzz, you probably work better with a bit of background noise. Whether through YouTube, Spotify or any other music streaming service, there are thousands (if not millions) of weird and wonderful soundscapes you can play in the background to create that ambience you’ve been missing. Love the sound of a coffee shop? There’s a playlist for that. Always wished you could live that digital nomad lifestyle? Pop on a playlist of waves and you’re basically in the Bahamas. Well… not quite, but that’s the best you can probably do in these utterly baffling times.
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