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Work From Home Productivity:
The Psychology of Spaces and Routines

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Working from home? Nothing new. Working from home to stop the spread of Coronavirus? That’s something we’re all adapting to at rapid speed. While some of us may thrive, it may cause others some stress initially. In 2015, Stanford Economist, Nicholas Bloom published a paper he co-authored praising the benefits of working from home. The research tested 1000 employees of a Chinese travel company (the irony) and found working from home during a 9-month period increased performance by 13% and resulted in a 50% drop in employee quit rates. It proved so successful that the company rolled out the work from home program for the whole firm. But what’s happening today is completely different for four reasons: children, space, privacy and most importantly, psychologically speaking, choice. Unfortunately, we can’t help with the choice aspect, so much, and those children – that’s going to be a steep, teacher learning curve, but we can certainly help you create productive workspaces and routines. These routines may help with managing your child/children’s learning schedule too.

Work Spaces 101

The spaces we occupy shape how we behave. There’s a reason so much thought goes into planning office, educational spaces and even our homes. It can seriously affect both our psychological well-being and work performance. And while you could easily fall for a dreamy look in a magazine, you’ll be better off if you let neuroscience guide the way to designing an optimum workspace.

Tip 1: Create your work zone

Firstly, separate workspaces from relaxation zones. It’s all too easy to curl up in bed with your laptop (I might even be doing it right now). But to improve your efficiency, you should create a separate home office desk/or even just a secluded corner purely for work. This sets your brain up for enhanced productivity – your brain gets spatially wired to think the home office is the place where work happens. If you move to different spots each day, your brain has to retrain itself every day to get work done in that spot. Conversely, your work brain won’t seep into other home spaces – where you should be sleeping or spending time with your family.

Tip 2: Taking ownership of your workspaces

It may seem like such a small thing, but having the power to make your own decisions on how to organise your workspace can empower you and improve your productivity. A study by Craig Knight, the Director of the Identity Realization Consultancy found workers (in an office environment) given the opportunity to arrange their space were 32% more productive. You’re the boss of your home office, you do you!

Tip 3: Choose rounded furniture and arrange it wisely.

Round, circular furnishings create an environment linked with positive emotions, which is beneficial for productivity and creativity. Rounded environments are also rated as more aesthetically pleasing, triggering parts of the brain that are associated with reward and appreciation of beauty.

Tip 4: Consider colour, light and space.

The right colour and lighting scheme for your office is the simplest way to improve performance. Different colours and light levels have different effects. If you’re keen to really create your ultimate workspace, opt for blues and greens. These colours have been proven to enhance performance and help with generating new ideas. Interestingly, you can change the hue and brightness with lighting, so consider how you can make simple changes without painting. Many studies have proven dimmer light is better for creativity and a brighter light is better for analytical and evaluative thinking.

Tip 5: Make use of plants and window

Invest in a green plant or two to lower your stress levels. If you can position your workspace near a window, preferably with a natural landscape, this will help recharge your mind.

Let’s talk routines

Here are my top 6 tips that’ll set you up for a productive day.

    1. If you can, rise before the sun, most successful people do. It’s quiet time that you can set your intent for the day. Morning light exposure has also been proven to enhance happiness.
    2. Create a non-work-related ritual – take the dog for a walk, do yoga, read a book. Do something good for your brain and heart. Try your best to stay away from the news straight up, even if it’s just for a little while.
    3. Get dressed for work. It’ll help you get in work mode. You don’t have to go full corporate, wear comfortable clothes – just get out of your PJs!
    4. Dedicate your mornings to high-value work – try not to waste time planning when your brain is at its most active. A good trick is to write your to-do list the night before. Of course, if you’re a night owl, your most productive time may be different – you don’t have to fight your own body clock, just plan your time for when your brain is at its best.
    5. Structure your day as you normally would – use your calendar, set tasks, take breaks – make sure you take some breaks outside too.
    6. Keep socialising – this is critical for your mental health. We have the technology now to make it even easier – Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, text or just call someone. Social contact is important to keep your brain buzzing.

It sure is a new way of working, but once this is all over, we’ll be better equipped for flexible working. Haven’t we always wanted that? Good things will come.

Hope this has been helpful for your work from home experience.

Stay safe and healthy folks.

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