While certain sectors of society are keen to get workers back into their offices, others are looking at a longer-term future of working from home. What that future actually looks like is anybody’s guess. But I think we’ve adjusted to the idea that we’ll continue to spend a certain amount of time kitchen table-bound – at least for the short-to-medium term.
Or maybe things have progressed beyond the kitchen table?
As a long-term work-from-homer, I’ve always had a desk in my own office space, although ironically, pre-Covid my ‘working from home‘ routine involved being at home as little as possible. I much preferred working from a local café with all the ambient noise that offered. But now I’m at home a lot more, I’ve become more mindful of my rituals and productivity processes. Here are the hacks that work for me (with a little input from my friends).
MARK YOUR TERRITORY. If working from home is going to become part of your new normal, get a proper desk or corner that you can call your own. It’s so much easier to focus and switch off with physical boundaries. I use a secondhand three-drawer desk with a single shelf above it for my pen pot, scented candles and lucky brass egg. If space is tight though, I like the idea of a simple wall mounted desk*. A decent desk lamp is also essential. I love my BTC Hector that can clip onto a shelf, or try a classic Anglepoise from Manufactum (but try not get seduced by the sea of office supplies and body care potions).
PERSONALISE YOUR SPACE. While it’s good to limit visual clutter, a framed abstract or graphic art print can be a handy focusing tool while waiting for inspiration to strike. “I framed up a massive Ed Ruscha ‘Hope’ poster, a small, frugal change that transformed my living space,” says my accountant friend Joe. “It’s more Zoom-meeting friendly too.”
LEARN HOW TO SIT PROPERLY. Back and posture problems have increased nearly 25% in the U.K during Covid times, according to research by Lenevo. A sofa, kitchen chair or bed may work short term but if home working is going to be a permanent reality, you need a proper, supportive chair. Ideally an adjustable, swivel one that will prevent you being lodged in one position, like the classic Arne Jacobsen Oxford*. Or the popular Nova* from John Lewis (but soften it up with a sheepskin throw or cushion). As an alternative you can also go for the super lo-fi option – a Swiss ball. Seriously, this is what I have used for nearly 20 years. It keeps me mobile and doubles as my exercise ball when I feel like doing some impromptu sit-ups. If you have back issues, check out posture and Feldenkrais expert Maria de Sousa, whose YouTube has some useful pointers on how to correct bad sitting habits. Which brings me to my next point…
TAKE BREAKS AND DRINK WATER. If like me you’re a reluctant water drinker, encourage the habit by investing in nice glasses or a carafe. The trip to refill the carafe is also a reminder to take a screen break, walk around and keep all your limbs moving. Coffee breaks are important too. My friend, journalist, author and founder of That’s Not My Age, Alyson Walsh is an advocate of the fika (Swedish coffee break) to break up the morning. “I mastered the art of coffee making during lockdown and I’m pretty chuffed about it. All the coffee shops were shut so I had no choice.” She uses her coffee break to enjoy a quality brew on her balcony, a good way to get away from your screen, while upping your intake of vitamin D at the same time. (Incidentally, what is it with men and their intricate, oversized coffee contraptions? Are coffee machines the new cars?)
GREEN UP YOUR DESK. With no outdoor space to speak of, Joe turned his tiny London flat into a mini Columbia Road Flower Market, with an abundance of garden plants. “The oxygen from them is probably what’s been keeping me alive. The plants are a welcome distraction and unintentional mindfulness practice,” he says. Having some control over his botanical brood during the bleakness of lockdown also felt somewhat empowering. “I felt small doses of achievement seeing my plants thriving in this micro environment. I find myself taking breaks from work to rearrange the pots and water the thirsty but glorious hydrangeas. I believe in taking breaks so we’re ‘working from home’ and not ‘living at work’.” This sentiment is echoed by Olivia Kaufmann, UK head of PR and Communications for L’Occitane and Erborian. “I filled my front room with plants during lockdown,” she says. “When you are at home all day I think it is so important to be in a space you love.”
IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS. Some days, the monotony of the bedroom-to-desk commute can get to you. If you lose your focus mojo, try an invigorating smell, like citrus, rosemary or tomato leaf to boost concentration. Check out L’Objet’s room sprays*, Shay and Blue’s hand lotion* and Bella Freud’s classic fig leaf & tomato candle*. Meanwhile, the brand new line of Loewe candles* scented with cypress, tomato leaf and beetroot (below) also sound promising, and look great in their glazed terracotta pots. Another focusing tip: Plugging into binaural beats is unexplainably effective. This recording will get you in the zone in seconds and help you meet that deadline however distracting your environment. The MyNoise app is amazing too, while the Freedom website blocker is recommended for locking you out of social media in emergencies. That said, despite our digital reliance, sometimes going analogue is best for coming unstuck from a problem. I use my Muji gel pens and plain sheets of A4 paper to draft any important work in long hand. Words have a way of flowing from my brain to my pen faster and more eloquently sometimes than brain into keyboard.
GET THE ACTION HABIT. Did you know that procrastination is simply a fear of failure? Without office colleagues and the pressure of presenteeism, procrastination can creep up on you. Especially if your motivation has taken a thrashing in recent months. Remember, motivation always follows action, not the other way round, so don’t wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something. Just do the thing first, even if it’s as basic as writing ‘to do’ on your to-do list. I recommend The Magic of Thinking Big* if you’re in a funk, and for recent freelancing newbies, Sheryl Garrett’s The Creative Life coaching service and email course. My three quick fix tips: 1) break overwhelming jobs into manageable micro-goals; 2) commit to just five minutes of an unappealing task (chances are you’ll keep going); 3) write that difficult email you’ve been putting off and park it in drafts. When you’re feeling stronger, just hit the send button.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Credits to come
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