How to create a mindful workspace or home office
Whether you work from home one day a week or full-time, creating a mindful home workspace can make you more focused and productive. It’s not always easy when home doubles up as the office, which is why it’s so important to establish an environment that’s conducive for you to knuckle down and do your work.
With that in mind, and understanding the challenges that come with the work-from-home life, here are some simple solutions for designing a home workspace that encourages mindfulness, so you can be fully present and engaged during your workday.
Work can often be fast-paced, chaotic, and stressful, which is why so many people often resort to multitasking, and, in turn, risk running on autopilot in order to get everything done. But when you train yourself to be more mindful at work, you learn to be fully present and take care of one task at a time. This, in turn, helps you feel less stressed, overwhelmed, and reactive and more focused, productive and resilient. In fact, one study showed that 10 days of mindfulness and meditation practice with Headspace reduced stress by 14 percent and; a second study found that nurses who used Headspace for 30 days had significant improvements in job satisfaction. In other words, setting up your space to promote mindful working can have tremendous benefits for your job performance and how content you are with your work.
What’s more, when your home is also your office, separating your professional life from your personal life can be particularly challenging. Rolling out of bed mere minutes before you have to start working and spending the whole day in pajamas may sound convenient and attractive in theory. But over time blurring the lines between work and home can lead to inefficiency, declining performance, increased stress and even burnout.
That’s why creating a mindful home workspace can be essential for maintaining a strong delineation between work and home life. Even if your workspace is only 10 feet from your living room — the reality for many people — integrating elements of mindfulness into it can help to keep you grounded in the present moment and focused on the task at hand no matter what the workday brings. Alternatively, it can also help you more fully enjoy your time when you’re NOT working, training your mind to be more present and engaged when it’s time to step away from the laptop.
Creating a workspace with mindfulness in mind doesn’t have to require a lot of physical space. Some people have a designated home office, but if you don’t, a walk-in closet, a nook, an unused corner, or even a seat at the kitchen table can work well. Don’t get hung up on trying to find the “perfect” spot. What’s most important is that you pick a spot and then stick with it as often as you can in order to maintain consistency and a work-focused mindset. Here are some things to keep in mind to set up a space that encourages being calm, comfortable, and present.
First, you’ll need a surface to work on. A basic desk is an obvious choice, but you could also use the dining room table, a kitchen island, a shelf mounted to the wall, a lap desk if you are working from the couch — basically any flat surface will suffice. Ideally, if your workspace is in your living space, then your surface would be something you could stash away, completely out of sight at the end of the day: for example, a portable table you fold and put in the closet or, more simply, committing to put away your laptop and other work items and transform your workspace back into your kitchen table when it’s time for dinner.
You’ll also need to decide if you want a comfortable supportive chair or if you prefer other options. Some research shows that sitting for long periods of the day can lead to an increased risk of anxiety; additionally, studies have shown that standing at work helps minimize fatigue, depression, and tension, as well as increase focus and energy. If you’re looking to incorporate healthy movement into your home workspace, consider a standing or adjustable height desk; an ergonomic floor mat or active sitting chair may also work well for you.
Minimizing distractions as much as possible will also help to promote awareness and being present. You can do this by separating your space from the rest of your home with physical items: think about a privacy screen, room-dividing shelves (which can also double as storage) or tall plants. If you live with other people, use a visual aid like a sign to notify family or roommates when you’re available and when you shouldn’t be distrubed (unless, of course, for emergencies). And when all else fails, noise-cancelling headphones can often help you tune out even the most annoying distractions.
One of the best ways to promote mindfulness in any space is to use decor that taps into the five senses, helping you tune into your body and ground yourself in the present moment.
Sight. Choose visual decor that makes you feel happy and peaceful. Paint the walls in cheerful colors. Frame photos of friends and families that conjure up fond memories. Decorate with lush and vibrant potted plants (which also help to purify the air). Hang a favorite quote or piece of art that can serve as a motivational anchor, inspiring you every time you look at it.
Sound. Use headphones, ambient noise, or focus music to mask any loud distractions. Soft music and nature sounds can also promote a more tranquil environment.
Smell. Plants can be wonderfully fragrant, making your workspace smell fresh, green, and crisp. Or try filling your space with pleasant scents from an essential oil diffuser or scented candles; lavender and bergamot are known for their calming effects, while peppermint, sweet orange and lemon tend to be more energizing.
Taste. Keep healthy snacks and plenty of water easily accessible. Try putting your work down when it’s time to eat and practicing mindful eating so you can really pay attention to what you’re eating and how rejuvenating it feels to take a break and nourish your body.
Touch. Incorporating a range of textures in your workspace can help to stimulate presence and focus: for example, a soft blanket to cuddle under or silly putty to squeeze when you need some stress relief.
A mindful home workspace can set the tone for being fully present and consciously focused on the tasks at hand. There are also other things you can do during the day to give yourself even more opportunities to practice mindfulness during the workday. For more ideas about simple grounding breathing exercises, meditation content, and simple changes to your routine that can help you feel more energized and productive at work, check out the article How to be Mindful at Work.