Work and Wellbeing · 16 April 2020

How to help employees create a happy and productive home office

home-office

Art consultancy boss Patrick McCrae offers insider advice on how employers can help their staff create a pleasant and productive office space at home. The ARTIQ CEO dishes the details below…

We are witnessing a workplace revolution, a giant social experiment on a scale that has never previously been attempted. Millions of us are working from home whilst Britain is on lockdown and we have no idea for how long it will last, or what ‘business as usual’ will look like once social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Working from home during lockdown

Some of us are familiar with working at home and the different rhythms associated with being away from the office, but few of us are used to doing it day in, day out. One of the biggest challenges it  creates is how we maintain our creativity and avoid being distracted by our home environment. So, how do we adjust to the new normal?

The first step is to design a designated home working area; ideally, that would be a home office, but not everyone will have a spare room they can use for this purpose. Think creatively: anything from a chimney alcove, a narrow corridor or the gap under the staircase could be transformed into a made-to-measure home office workstation.

Designing home workstations does not need to be expensive. Furniture can easily be used for other than its intended purpose, particularly if you are short of space or money. Old clothing armoires with shelves could be repurposed as filing space, for instance.

Don’t neglect the obvious little touches that can transform a home working environment. Carefully chosen accessories can breathe life into any office space. Simple features such as placing a house plant on the desk will make the area more homely and inviting.

Alternatively, an existing dresser or living room table could readily double up as a multi-purpose workspace. If possible, choose a location that offers as much natural light as possible, or with an outside view.

‘Tidy desk, tidy mind’ is a saying that not everyone agrees with – we all know that colleague who works between mounting piles of paperwork on their desks – but at home it is a mantra that should be applied rigorously. The first step to achieving a happy and productive home office space is making it an organised space.

Organising a home office

Plants are important when designing an office space

Keeping clutter to a minimum will help you focus on work, rather than the mess around you. Creative storage solutions can help, such as ottomans or shelving to avoid the untidiness of cables, charging points and printer cables. However, finding a suitable working area will not necessarily encourage a creative mindset.

The best office environments are designed to stimulate employees. For example, research by ARTIQ showed that staff were almost 15% more productive if their workplace featured art. Meanwhile, in a study by the British Council for Offices, six out of ten employees said artwork inspired them to think and work more creatively.

These findings are unsurprising because art enables positive, cognitive distraction. It engages staff, helping them to think beyond the four walls that surround them. Clients to whom we rent art collections likewise say that it has makes employees feel more engaged. What’s more, you can achieve a similar effect at home.

The important thing to remember is that creating a stimulating work environment doesn’t need to be expensive. Hanging postcards and posters, or displaying personal photographs, can act as a source of inspiration and give personality to your workspace. Making a montage can also be stimulating and create an arresting effect. Or you can create your own artworks by framing wallpaper samples or painting onto simple abstract canvases.

Designs to boost your mood

Many academic studies have revealed that what we see around us, and interact with, directly influences our wellbeing. So, as well as thinking about art in all its forms, it’s important to think about colour. Different colours affect our moods in different ways. An all-white room, for instance, can have a clinical feel; block colours and strong lines are preferable for jobs that require long periods of focus and concentration. Strong colours with refined compositions can inject the necessary inspiration to the working day.

The uncertainty of the current lockdown has made many of us anxious, concerned about our families and fearful for our jobs. Artwork with abstract content and neural palettes can promote calm and tranquillity – vital tools to help us to adjust in this time of turmoil.

The positive impact of art on our physical and mental health is tangible – a fact recognised by Florence Nightingale 160 years ago. Long before the term ‘wellbeing’ had been coined she wrote “little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect.”

Now is the perfect time to encourage your employees to discover that for themselves…

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Patrick McCrae is the ceo of ARTIQ, one of the UK’s foremost art consultancies.

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