New year, new lockdown: five simple steps to improve your remote working environment

It’s 2021 and we’re still working from home. Our senior product designer Isabel Taylor shares what she’s learned about the importance of environment from nearly a year of remote working…

More than ever before we’re all feeling the effects of working at home in comparison to the office. With the new year bringing yet another national lockdown, the prospect of catching up with our office pals feels further away than ever. We’re all facing challenges maintaining a line between home and work, whether it’s the family or housemates being around all the time, or simply the irresistible urge of staying in bed on a cold day.

A Nulab survey of remote workers shows that a whole 72% of us are not working from a dedicated office space. And 40% aren’t even working from a desk. A fifth of us are curled up on the lounge sofa (please tell me how you get anything done other than Netflix and snoozing!?) and a further 30% are working from their bedroom!

Nulab survey of remote workers

So it’s clear not all of us have the luxury of a dedicated workspace. But fear not! Sofa, desk, bed — wherever you’re doing your work — here are some pointers that can help to improve your mood and your productivity:

Might seem simple, but get some fresh air! Studies from Harvard and Syracuse Universities showed that employees in a ‘clean air’ environment performed 61% better on cognitive tasks than those in the standard office conditions. Open a window or a door; get outside for five minutes. Fresh, cool air can help us to stay alert, on the ball and a little more revived, wherever we happen to be in the house.

It’s been proven through various experiments that indoor plants can reduce all kinds of stress by calming the nervous system and even lowering blood pressure. According to a recent survey by Arboretum, 42% of participants said that being around plants improved their mental health. This figure was even higher in London, where more than half (56 per cent) admitted plants make them happier. Nothing like a little asparagus fern dropping its needles all over your keyboard, right?

As much as humanly possible, from all directions, everywhere. Plainly and simply, sunlight is great for you! It increases productivity and it boosts our vitamin D levels. In fact, Northwestern University research showed that workers in offices with windows slept an average of 46 more minutes per night than those without. More light = more sleep = one happier you.

Notifications, notifications and more notifications. In case you didn’t get enough from Slack, Teams, emails and everything else. Turn them off. A study from three researchers at Florida State University suggests that merely receiving a push notification is as distracting as responding to a text message or a phone call. So even if you don’t look at them, you’re still adding to your stress levels.

You know how it goes: tidy space, tidy mind! In a survey from Brother 40% of people admitted a messy workspace makes them less productive and 20% said it actually adds to their workload. While it may not be top of our lists to go round clearing up, it’s well worth giving yourself 20 mins at the start of the week to make sure your space is clear.

So, while we don’t know yet how long this will go on, there are many things we can do to brighten up our working-from-home life. Even if it’s small things like letting in some fresh air, or sitting near a window where possible, it’s all about finding the ways in which we can make this next stretch of working from home that little bit more bearable!

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We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.