Create The Perfect Working Environmenton 21st October 2016
If you find yourself gazing at a computer screen, brain half-asleep, wondering how you are going to finish your assignment, maybe it’s time you injected some thought into where you are working and how your workspace can become more helpful to your performance. The physical attributes of your surroundings can have a greater influence on your performance than you might imagine. According to research by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, ‘subtle changes and environmental cues can help increase motivation and willingness to achieve goals’. With this in mind, here’s some ideas on how to make your workspace motivate you to create the best possible results for your clients.
The standup desk or height-adjustable desk is something that creatives are now favouring in many quarters. When you are sitting down for long periods, you burn very few calories, which can in turn, lead to unhealthy weight gain. Your metabolism slows and your physical shape when sitting and working, hunched over a computer, can lead to problems with posture and associated pains.
Dietician, Joe Leech argues there are scientific grounds for the standing desk lowering your risk of heart disease, back pain and bad moods, whilst also increasing your work performance. Leech says ‘reducing sedentary time can improve physical, metabolic and even mental health. This is why sitting less and standing more is such an important lifestyle change’. For anyone new to standing desks – start out with time split 50/50 between sitting and standing, suggests Leech.
Get a nose for freelancing
Lisa Evans writes in the publication Entrepreneur that ‘smell is the strongest of the senses and best able to influence brain activity.’ She references a list of productivity and mood boosting scents compiled by Beverly Hawkins of the West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy. They are Lemon, Lavender, Jasmine, Rosemary, Cinnamon and Peppermint. Time to break out those scented candles to get you in the mood for creative work.
Another idea is to have a pot of filter coffee on the go in the office. The aroma of a quality coffee might stimulate you and relax you simultaneously.
Take a 30 second break
Let’s face it – whilst we know that keeping your desk uncluttered is a way to keep your mind uncluttered, having a personal thing or two on your desk can make all the difference to your daily outlook.
Firstly – the fun things – we are talking about desk toys, which are now ridiculously varied, from mini skittles to magnetically floating globes and mini ant farms. Stress balls, potted plants, artworks – all add a little creative dimension to your desktop. Anyone who has worked in an agency will know that office toys are like mascots to your cool and a staple inclusion for visual pleasure, fun and brand identity.
On the other side of desk distractions – there are the personal photos of your loved ones, the award you won, or momentous of a time you relished. Sometimes it’s good to remember what the important things in your life are, the real motivation for getting up and getting on with it.
If you want to combine a toy with pics, then there is the fun Instacube, which streams your image feeds from Instagram and Facebook.
It’s self-affirming to own your workspace, to let yourself know that it is your personal property and you are not restricted to someone else’s office rules.
See the light
Having a window, or lots of windows is not just nice for you to look out at the world now and again, it can also play a role in how much sleep you get. A study called the Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the working environment has a key role in setting our body clock.
It was discovered that if you have a windowless office you can lose close to 50 minutes of sleep every night. This has a long term negative physical effect on the body.
Daylight also provides a source of Vitamin D, which we need to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body (poor Vitamin D intake makes your bones softer).
So if you hide away in a windowless attic or cellar office with no natural daylight, it might not be the best environment for your performance and health.
Stop working! Create a breakout area or escape the office
Ever feel like you cannot stop for a moment because work is too urgent? It’s easy to punish ourselves with routines where we do not believe we can stop for a single second to focus on ourselves and our mental and physical health. In reality we are not doing ourselves or our work any great favours when we live in this work-grinding fashion.
It’s always worth weaving activities like exercise and meditation into a daily routine – as you may benefit in your well-being and your overall performance. One study revealed that if you take 2.5 hours out of your work time to focus on physical exercise or other health promoting measures, you maintain your level of productivity or even increase it.
Some people have a selection of gym equipment in their office, a treadmill or exercise cycle, or alternatively make an area just for relaxing, like a comfy chair in which to read a book. Yoga is a great way to relax in a 10 or 20 minute break and there are plenty of YouTube video tutorials you can view on your tablet, computer or TV. You can always choose to go for a walk or run outside instead. Part of freelancing is building a quality life for yourself – so keep this as your first thought when those stressful assignments begin to challenge you.
Developing a strong mindset is about shifting the emphasis to feeling and being in control more of the time – being proactive, rather than being out of control and reactive to the demands put on you. Look after yourself physically and mentally. Put yourself first, at least once every day.
Join a creative community
This last point is less about physical environment and more about not letting your physical environment keep you hidden from view.
Freelancing is often a solitary job, you are isolated to some degree, so it’s good to find a way to expand your reach. You can always be part of a virtual community, to find other people like yourself or to raise awareness of your work. There are social media groups, unions and organisations dedicated to freelancers out there.
If you are freelancing in the creative industry, follow our blog at Find a Creative Pro for tips and interviews with other freelancers. If you need to promote yourself to raise your game and get new work, you can put yourself in front of businesses looking to hire with a basic profile or premium profile – just click on Register as a Creative Pro on the homepage and follow the options.
If you choose a full profile – take some time gathering materials together first, like a photo of yourself, a CV, portfolio work you want to show people, links and logos of places you have worked, as this will save time when uploading content.
If you want to find out what other freelances are doing and also carry out some basic self-promotion and marketing, a professional personal profile online, via a freelancer focused site, can be a good start.
Get involved and get noticed! Check out our mini digital magazine by clicking here, featuring some of our members. If you are on the Find a Creative Pro database and want to be involved in the next magazine – drop us a line with your idea or content. If you want to design the next one to show what you can do – we would love to hear from you too.