Do you work from home? I do. And speaking as someone whose living space doubles as a job space I can tell you that working from home is sometimes very stressful. There have even been occasions when I’ve found it to actually be more stressful than working in a commercial office.
Stress is, of course, problematic. It can lead to anxiety, tossing and turning in bed at night, diminished ability to focus, and decreased motivation. Stress can put you in a bad mood, which doesn’t do you or anyone in your orbit any favors.
Some sources of stress might surprise you. Others won’t.
A sense of disconnectedness
The mere fact that we work from home can be a source of stress. For example, working in a traditional, outside-the-home office usually lets us be a directly plugged-in part of the company’s culture—we’re able to interact in person with our colleagues, so we feel fully connected.
Working from home, on the other hand, can reduce our sense of connectedness and leave us feeling a bit invisible. Many of us worry that the disconnectedness and invisibility will lead to us being recognized and rewarded less for our efforts. Wham. Right there you’ve got stress.
Another example. Some of us experience stress as a result of worrying whether our colleagues who continue to work in the office-office imagine those of us working at home aren’t actually doing any work but are instead lounging around the patio all day, sipping iced tea while watching puffy little clouds in the sky drift lazily on by.
To compensate for lower visibility or to reassure colleagues of our dedication, what many of us do is work longer hours so that we can be as productive as possible and make ourselves as valuable to the team as we can. But this too adds stress.
Sweet home dynamics
And one more example. If we have a child or children at home with us for part or all of the workday, well, need I say more? You already know how distracting that can be. This one wants a snack, that one needs you to stop the other one from teasing, and on and on it goes.
So you have to remove your “work hat” and put on your “parent hat” to take care of things. That’s stress-inducing in and of itself. But we also lose momentum every time we have to stop to attend to our children’s interruptions. In short order our productivity decreases, and we start falling behind—which leads to stress.
The farther behind we fall, the more stressed out we become. (Check out our earlier post about 6 survival hacks for when you have kids at home).
How your setup can reduce stress
What can be done to relieve the stress we experience? For me, personally, one of the best solutions I’ve found is to make my work-at-home environment more soothing and comfortable.
Environmental psychology plays into this. Whether we are talking about ancient Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra or the more recent principles of biophilia, neuroscience research has shown again and again that interior design elements can evoke a positive emotional response in us.
Specific actions you can take to increase the good vibes of your work area:
- Be more active throughout your workday
- Introduce soothing shapes and colors
- Improve lighting
- Add plants
You don't have to do these all at once. Make the changes at whatever pace feels right for you (in other words, the pace that won’t further stress you out).
If you ask me, I’d say start with being more active. That’s the single best thing you can do for yourself to reduce stress. You’ve heard it before and it’s true: being active gets your blood circulating, which, as it turns out, happens to be an antidote for relieving stress.
The challenge for many of us is it’s not easy to be active during the workday. Of necessity, we must sit for long hours at a time. However, what can help is to engage in “active sitting.” There are chairs and desks made for this specific purpose.
Next, I would address lighting, shapes, and textures. The shapes of the things that you have in your office and the textures of those things can affect your stress levels. Experts recommend filling your space with soothing round and oval shapes rather than jagged angles. Desktops and frames that use organic materials are also good because they reinforce our connection to nature. They make you feel good when you come into contact with them.
On the subject of light, there is not one light in my home that does not have a dimmer switch attached to it. The reason is that I want to be able to vary the intensity of light throughout the day. Adjustable indoor lighting has a great influence on your circadian rhythm which is essential to maximizing well-being.
Lastly, plants. I have a lot of them surrounding me. Consequently, I experience an elevated mood and less stress. As time went by, I learned more about plants and was able to make better choices as to which ones to have. I also became more aware of biophilic design principles, with we actually covered partially with the above.
There are, of course, other things you can do to relieve stress. Yoga is one of them. Breathing exercises are another. You can also take more frequent breaks, go for short walks through your neighborhood or a nearby park, treat yourself to premium bottled water, eat healthier foods, and indulge in a hobby such as knitting or solving jigsaw puzzles that you can lose yourself in for a few minutes before returning refreshed to your business work.
Now that many of us may have to work at least partially at home for the long haul, it is important to assess or reassess how our workspace is set up and ask ourselves whether we can improve upon it in order to reduce our stress levels.
My goal in creating Phil Zen Design was to help people achieve a sustainable work-at-home environment brimming with positivity, healthfulness, comfort, and stylish beauty by offering a catalog of conscientiously sourced quality products that can help you feel better and be more productive. We are here to help, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support in your efforts to de-stress your work environment.