Turning a home into a workspace

Elaine Rossall, head of UK offices research at JLL and chair of the BCO Research Committee, shares ideas for wellness and productivity.

The coronavirus pandemic has launched Britain’s workers into a nationwide experiment. For the first time, entire workforces are now working from home. Britain’s offices, which have been designed to boost the wellness and productivity of employees, are deserted. Instead, we sit and log in from home.

Although we may not always notice it, an office helps us work effectively. In the most modern offices everything, from the fruit selection to the office layout and its temperature, has been set a certain way to help boost workers’ productivity and wellness. At home, we are shorn of this. We are left to try and focus in an environment that is designed for life, not work.

Yet this is no reason to despair. With a little effort, we can aid our work at home by following the core principles of a successful workplace wellness strategy.

Light and space

To start, consider your lighting. Natural light can have a profound impact on both your productivity and mood, combatting feelings of anxiety and sadness, something that is particularly important given the current whirlwind we find ourselves in.

Spring may tease you with its sunlight, making you lament the picnics not had. However, this sunshine is a blessing. Set up your workstation in front of a large window or by a balcony door to make sure you are giving yourself as much access to natural light as possible. And make the most of the sun while it’s here, don’t be afraid to work in your available outdoor spaces – whether that’s catching up on your reports in the garden or taking a video call from your balcony.

Space is also important. The best office designs deliver versatile spaces that allow people to move freely and aid productivity.

We have a natural tendency to feel restricted when we work from home, but this is a myth we have convinced ourselves of. Consider how you use the space available to you – and just as you would in the office, think how you can use different spaces for different work needs.

In fact, for many of us, working from home likely means we have more space than ever – the whole of the dining room table, the garden patio usually reserved for summer nights or kids’ birthday parties. Working in a spacious environment can aid productivity and focus, allowing you to produce your best work at a quicker pace.

Social creatures

Offices also help us work by keeping us active. The very best offices have movement built into them, through smartly planned staircases and layouts. We may no longer benefit from these designs, but we do have a world of new possibilities. Can you take a team meeting on the road and dial in on your daily walk around the neighbourhood? Can you replace your commute with a daily exercise regime? Whatever approach you take, try to factor in a good amount of activity to your daily schedule. Doing so helps beat the lethargy that can feel common when working from home.

Finally, let us not forget that we are social creatures. Workplaces are designed to be collaborative. Many of us now miss the informal contact of our colleagues more than our desks, so it’s important we make time to connect with one another.

Schedule the regular Friday bar by Zoom, put in “coffee breaks” with your friends on the phone, make sure you maintain momentum with appraisals and career development. These may seem like small steps, but they can have a tangible impact on recreating the comfort and culture we so take for granted in a traditional working environment.

There will come a day when we return to the office, and I hope it is a day not too far off. But until then, let’s not use working from home as an excuse to fall into bad habits.

Elaine Rossall is head of UK offices research at JLL and chair of the BCO Research Committee. This article first appeared in EG on 27 April, 2020


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