As summer drifts away and cooler fall washes in, there is perhaps a more optimistic consolation: we’re closer to the end of the year that turned the world upside down than we are to the beginning of it. In 2020 we’ve had to grow and transform in unprecedented ways, all in a few short months and mostly from the confines of our homes. While dealing with an invisible virus, we've subsequently been dealing with another outbreak experts are calling the “mental health pandemic”.
From wearing masks to social distancing, and refraining from hugging anyone outside of your #Quaranteam, we’ve quickly adapted to a new reality, with one of the biggest shifts is working from home. With Google declaring employees can work remotely until 2021, and Facebook following suit, this “new normal” is now anything but new. It is simply here to stay.
Working from home has given us an enhanced awareness about the way we inhabit our space, the privilege of having it in the first place, and the importance of shaping it to accommodate our changing lifestyle. Now that our work and personal lives co-exist in the framework of our homes, we’ve become more sensitive to the way these environments affect us emotionally and professionally.
But the notion that architecture and interior design affect our well being is nothing new - it has long been a part of the structures that have shaped the world as we know (or knew) it. Spas are designed to bring about tranquility, and gyms to create a very specific type of movement and energy. A dark space can make us feel gloomy, a messy room can make us feel lethargic. In contrast, a well-organized space can make us feel motivated and more productive.
When our home is no longer solely a place to kick back and relax after a hard day, but where we spend the entirety of it, we find ourselves needing to fulfill many necessities within four walls. Our home has simultaneously become a gym, restaurant, hotel, vacation spot, and office. So how do we keep from feeling trapped in the place once that served as a refuge?
Images curtesy bobbyberk.com
Out of the lexicon that is used in relation to the pandemic there is one word that often stands out: resilience. But how do we build resilience while being confined? And how do we make the most of our space while supporting our mental health (with every budget in mind)? Below are the basic principles for designing your day to make the most out of working from home.
Get Moving: Get Outside.
If local regulations allow it, start your day with a walk in your neighbo- rhood, park, or wherever your outdoor terrain may be. Getting outside provides a refreshing change of scenery that gets the creative juices flowing. With our increased screen time, this is an opportunity to disconnect from our overstimulated eyes and 2D devices and reconnect with the physical, 3D world. Walking or any other form of movement could also be a time of self-reflection, planning for the day, podcast listening and learning, whilst getting an essential (and protected) amount of Vitamin D! After all, an internet meme suggests we are merely houseplants that need to be watered and get enough sunlight, albeit with more complicated emotions. Maybe the walk will even inspire an ‘aha!’ moment! Whether you take morning, mid-day, or afternoon walks, you’ll be coming back to your workstation ready to cross things off your to-do list with vigor.
Create Habits: Plan Ahead. Stay Organized.
At the heart of it, we are creatures of habit. That’s why it’s been easy for us to adhere (in a past life) to 9-5 workdays and weekends. Creating familiar habits and routines helps us deal with uncertainty. It is also why creating daily habits is imperative in the era of WFH. That isn’t to say one must exclusively work between 9-5; the luxury of the new work model is that you can work the hours that work best for you. Night owl? Clock in those hours at midnight. Early riser? Finish up your emails by 10 am. Creating habits of repetition are not only relaxing (there’s a reason why yoga is based on repetitive motions), but help us feel a sense of stability.
Plan your days to include a specific amount of work hours, even if this isn’t a continuous block of time. Write it down in your daily planner or set up notifications on your digital calendar. You may choose to work two hours in the morning, take two hours to work on your garden, work out, make your lunch or homemade sourdough bread, and get straight back to work afterward. Perhaps your work hours are evenly split with a siesta.
Don’t forget to block out time for breaks, stepping away from your keyboard (see point #2), calling your loved ones, completing house chores, and even getting in your favorite show. Having a clean, organized space will keep your motivation high with fewer distractions in the form of attention-seeking unfolded laundry.
In a pre-COVID, calendar-filled life perhaps one of the most sought-after yet elusive habits was a regular sleep cycle. Take the newfound time to create a night-time routine that ensures you get restful sleep, so you can come back to your work energized. Maybe your nighttime rituals include an aromatic bath or skincare routine. Perhaps it’s getting enthralled in a special edition hardcover book. Learn what works for you, and then stick with it. Your circadian rhythm, efficiency, and happiness will thank you.
If there’s a key takeaway from the year 2020, it is that nothing is certain or to be taken for granted. Along with the deep introspective work this pandemic may have brought, there is also a spatial challenge to existing and working in a single place, without getting cabin fever. With the road still long until we reunite with our office pals IRL, it is up to the boundaries we set, moves we make, and habits we create to stay consistent, and more importantly - resilient.