How to create a calm home work space
I love working from home. Being halfway between having an introverted and extroverted preference, I love having the quiet of my home space to think, reflect and plan and choose when I get to engage with the outside world online or on the phone rather than the constant interruptions I face when I am in the office. Not to mention the flexibility around blending all of the pressures of being a mum and running a home with having a job and the chance to avoid all of that wasted time commuting.
Lockdown has turned up the volume considerably on this opportunity and it’s not gone unnoticed by anyone who used to work predominantly in an office space and has now had to get used to a much more permanent presence at home. I’ve spoken to a few people who are climbing the walls at being tucked away at home for the whole working week and so I do appreciate that it does come down to where you like to get your energy from and how much you need and rely on the hubbub of being surrounded by other colleagues to be most effective.
However whatever your preference, now more than ever, it’s become more of a priority to think about how to create an optimal home work space and for me that’s creating a calm environment first and foremost within which I can operate effectively. I think this is a great use of a small space by Simply Scandinavian.
It’s probably important to note that these reflections have come about following the return of my little girl to preschool. Juggling work and small children at the same time was one of the most challenging times I have ever experienced and relentlessly exhausting – another blog post for another time!
My dream home office space would be looking out over the sea. I find being near water so calming. Although in terms of styling the space and furniture selection, I’d be going for something more like this, choosing colours and décor that put me at ease along with soft textures and fabrics. There is no right or wrong – I think it’s about understanding what makes you feel calm and happy in your space.
When I started out working full time at home and not having a dedicated office room in my house, I ended up for the most part on my bed. A large part of this was to allow my little girl to be able to play and watch TV downstairs whilst I popped down to check on her regularly. It felt comfortable and comforting on my bed but I knew instinctively this was not good for my head – or my body – and would have to change.
Having suffered with my back for many years, I knew that this was not sustainable and my body was not going to thank me in any way for working away at the laptop for hours sitting on my bed. After a period of time, I also started to feel the house coming in on me; all my home/work boundaries were starting to get lost and I wasn’t seeing my bedroom as a peaceful sanctuary for rest in the same way. All quite dangerous signs that I knew if I didn’t address would negatively impact my physical and mental health.
I took to Pinterest and Instagram to research how to carve out some homeworking zones in small spaces given that I don’t have a room I can turn into an office and there are some great ideas.
I knew that I had to move around the house regularly to keep resetting my posture, stretching and getting some daylight. I set a pattern where I would do all phone calls walking around the garden which meant I moved at regular intervals throughout the day.
I’ve now got some work zones and some principles established to create a calmer way of working at home for me. The following things have helped me create my new way of working.
- Starting the day with some daylight and having a coffee outside has been one of the highlights particularly with the beautiful weather we have had. When I also get up early enough, I do a short yoga practice and meditation. I don’t manage this everyday but when I do, it has been one of the best aspects of lockdown homeworking for me.
- I knew it would still help me to keep moving from one part of the house to another at regular intervals in a way that complemented my new daily routine. I move my laptop regularly between different parts of the house combining standing and sitting. This also helps remind me to reset my eye line as well as moving my body preventing eye and neck strain which I can suffer with.
- Sitting on the floor was something I took note of from Jasmine Hemsley – it supports a better posture and gives you a different perspective for part of the day which promotes creativity and a more positive mindset for me.
And here's my version using my little girl's table!
- Placing something I find calming in my workstations around the house has also been really helpful. I have some fresh flowers where I sit at a desk and in the kitchen I have some of my gorgeous scented soaps from the calm boxes next to my laptop. Ultimately find whatever brings calm for you and makes you feel happy. I love this home workspace from Melanie Jade Design - soft colours and lots of plants.
- I make sure I leave the house at least once a day to go for a walk. I’m lucky because I live in the countryside so I can immediately find a beautiful view and some nature which brings me peace and helps me download everything that’s rushing through my head. Otherwise, if I lived in a city, I think I would ensure I brought some nature into my home in some form even if it was just some pictures or photos or some plants.
- Trying to remain present in relation to the task in hand has also been key to maintaining focus and productivity which is not always easy now all aspects of life have been blended together. I have tried something called the Pomodoro Technique which has worked really well for me. You focus on the task at hand and only that task, nothing else, for twenty minutes. I find knowing that it’s only for twenty minutes turbo charges my focus and I manage to maintain it much more effectively. Then you take a break for ten minutes before starting again with the same task or moving on to something else.
- During breaks, following rituals such as preparing tea mindfully has also helped me to stop darting from one thought to another and to keep going over my to do list in my head. I’m also trying to ensure I drink water, either cold, or hot with lemon to stop me snacking constantly.
- I need to develop a ritual for the end of the day when I move from work into home as at the minute, I switch off my laptop and immediately start cooking dinner leading up to bath and bedtime routines. I’m going to try and walk around the garden even if just for five minutes to help signal to my mind and my body that I have now finished work and am ‘arriving’ home.
By the time I’ve cracked it I’m sure I’ll be back in the office but like many, I’m hoping to hang on to what I’ve learned and to keep some flexibility to keep making the most of calm working at home.