In the last few weeks our world seems to have tilted on its axis and we have had to adjust abruptly to a “new normal”. Realistically we know this situation won’t last forever but many of us have had to throw together home-schooling and home-working environments at short notice. As the restrictions slowly lift it is increasingly important for your well-being to make your home working environment a sanctuary or place of safety.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (18-22 May 2020) https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week. At JOA we have been taking stock and looking at how we can apply some of our specialist understanding of residential design and workplace to improve your current environment.
Now is not the time for sweeping changes, but working with what you have to hand you may be able to make a few small tweaks that improve your productivity levels and enhance your mental wellbeing.
BIOPHILIA – bringing the outside in:
Contact with nature has proven health benefits. The WHO states that “access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being and aid in the treatment of mental illness”.
Where possible sit near a source of natural light:
Ideally, position your workspace so that you can see out of a window. If this isn’t possible even having a picture of a landscape or greenery can help to improve wellbeing.
If you have no access to natural light, then look to improve the light levels and quality of your artificial light. Think about colour temperature of lights more aligned with daylight. Natural lighting changes throughout the day (position and colour and level) so try to think about this in the positioning and provision of light. If you have lots of Zoom meeting aim to illuminate your face – ideally not from below. If there is little you can do to introduce more light fittings, then use mirrors to bounce light around the room.
Bring plants or flowers into the home:
Best plants for removing indoor air toxins and contaminants – bamboo palm, rubber plant, English ivy, Boston fern, dwarf date palm, weeping fig, aloe vera.
For fun and family bonding – grow cress or other fast growing seeds with the children
Vases of scented flowers – sprigs or rosemary and eucalyptus for scent pick some from the garden or hedgerow
Improve your views out:
Plant window boxes – garden centres are delivering and many of the planned garden shows are selling off stock.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden – plant uplifting and scented flowers near your views out–
Along with the garden show sales, many keen gardeners have a surplus of seedlings – contact your green-fingered friends to see if they have any excess stock – encourage seedling swap (obviously, make sure you follow government guidelines on cleaning any potential areas of contamination)
Take care of the birds:
It is nesting season now, so it would be an ideal time to put a nesting box near your window. In the last 50 years there has been a 50% decrease in the number of UK songbirds. Create a home for feathered friends and improve your chances of waking up to birdsong. By having views out you will exercise your eyes so they aren’t just focused on short term views of screens and the indoors.
Try to work on furniture and equipment made from natural materials. Eg timber furniture, linen curtains, wool throws. Tactile and natural materials can lift your mood.
Improve air quality
Open the window and let the fresh air in – we are currently in a unique position with so few cars on the roads and planes in the sky that even in the most urban and usually noisy areas we are able to do this.
An often overlooked element of design – scent can often lift mood and evoke memories and can even help clarity and soothe anxieties. What have you got to lose? We frequently light scented candles and place sprigs of fresh rosemary in vases around the home and work place.
Make sure you have the right sized chair and it is set in the correct position for working.
With everyone working from home we recognise this might be hard to achieve. So if you are working on a dining chair do sure you take frequent breaks and walk around and change your work setting for example, soft seating, dining table, work outside if you can.
If you are spending long hours in front of a laptop –try to invest in a large screen monitor – companies are still delivering these. Looking down at a small screen with strain your eye neck and back.
The NHS has a useful set of instructions on how to sit at a desk correctly https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/
Whether you have set up a desk in your bedroom, or you are juggling home-school and office work around the kitchen table it is important to separate your work life from home life. Have clearly defined work and leisure time. At the end of the working day, pack away the computer, if possible, and put away the spelling tests so that you can enjoy downtime.
When you go for exercise ensure you get some contact with the outdoors and nature. Spring is here so even the weeds are lovely!
Move around. Sitting too much is bad for our health. Take regular breaks, go into the garden or move around the house. If you find yourself going stir crazy staring at the same four walls, think about moving some of your pictures around or hanging some new ones. Go through old holiday photos that have been hiding away on your hard drive and use an online company to get some printed out. Your children could make a collage of happy memories or you could frame some for the walls.
You may find you have actually gained some time in your day now that you don’t have the school run and your regular commute to contend with. Use it for exercise as recommended by the government, but also treat yourself to a little me-time doing something you enjoy: have a bath rather than a rushed shower, read a book, listen to music or try some crafts. A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way.
When or if you return to office working, try to remember what elements of the above have worked for you and see if they can be introduced into you every day working environment such as green walls, new natural furniture, re-plan of space to access views and light
– and of course, feel free to contact us for help.