This is a guest post from Ruth Fearnley, a research student in educational theory at the University of Waikato New Zealand, that touches on a topic dear to my heart – the best working environment for you.
Recently I spent two and a half years in an open plan office. Lighting and temperature were effectively out of my control. Noise was a constant battle.
There were rules about eating at one’s desk and there were a total of about 6 plants spread amongst 90 people. Now I work from home and my work space is totally under my control and I’m still learning what to do with it.
A few years ago I came across a book by Karen Boyes called Creating an Effective Learning Environment.
While targeted at educators I have found the ideas very easy to switch from a classroom to an office, particularly, in my case, a home office.
Here are the best ways to make your home office environment much more enjoyable:
Firstly, consider that each sense plays a part in creating the perfect space. Often learning or working style resources discuss visual, auditory and kinaesthetic aspects but tend to overlook olfactory (smell – possibly the most powerful of all) and gustatory (taste) influences.
Look around your work space; do you actually like it? This is your chance to make your work environment totally work for you.
1. Colour your world
Colour is highly recommended and you may even find you respond to different colours for different tasks (pens, paper, font or background colour).
Maybe you can paint the walls or less drastic, put up some artwork. For something a little different pop a hand painted light bulb in a dimmer controlled lamp.
2. Light up your life
How much light do you want – can you move your desk closer or further away from the window? Should you close the curtain or turn on a light? Would a desk lamp be better than a ceiling one?
3. Make it natural
How about adding a plant or ioniser? Plants are great for providing more oxygen and generally making you feel more at ease.
Do you prefer a desk or couch or perhaps both so you can shift from one to another depending on your mood.
4. Give yourself space
Are you sharing the space with something else or does the space just feel too big? Consider partitions but know that they don’t have to be pin boards straight out of the open plan office – hang a quilt or put up a stylish room divider.
5. Tune into music
Would music help? Background music that is not karaoke. Baroque is often recommended as its tempo is similar to optimum resting heart rate. Or your favourite lounge jazz or artist that lifts your spirits.
However I like it quiet so the gentle noise of the fan (in summer) is plenty for me.
6. Get comfortable
Speaking of fans, get the temperature right early – if you don’t have central heating or air–con, plan ahead before you suddenly realise you are too hot or too cold.
7. Stimulate your senses
From music to the ears to scent for the nose. I have an oil burner as it lets me use different oils or oil combinations depending on what I’m doing (reading, writing, long, planned conference calls).
You may prefer one special smell like citrus to refresh you or lavender to calm you. If you don’t like the idea of an oil burner, consider perfume – yes, even if no-one else is going to smell you all day.
8. Use texture thoughtfully
Are you taking care of your hands? I bet they’re very active on the keyboard but how about something soft?
I have my graduation bear beside me – that gives me two different soft textures, fur and gown, and just a quick pat can revive a flagging thought.
9. Nourish your energy levels
And finally, plan for the munchies. Often this is less about hunger and more about the mouth. What does it want; salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy?
Identify the right craving and you probably won’t gobble as much before it’s satisfied. The beauty of working from home is you can snack on healthy meals every two hours and keep your energy levels high.
10. Hydrate your soul
Finally always, always have your trusty water bottle. Sipping away on water regularly gives you that extra clarity and boost you need to finish a project. Plus it’s good for you!
Note from Natalie: Share your tips for creating a winning working environment below.