The PLASTARC team has compiled a list of home office hacks to help navigate the new normal of remote working.
Workplace wellbeing thrives when we treat the built environments around us like they’re flexible and adaptable. It’s empowering to be able to customize our spaces so they suit both our personalities and the tasks that await us. The past several months have provided challenges and opportunities in this regard, with many organizations switching to work-from-home models out of necessity.
Chances are you’ve since refined your understanding of what’s required to ‘get things done’ under these new conditions. Even so, learning about what psychologists call need-supply fit may be useful. It’s precisely what it sounds like: a match between the needs of individuals and the supplies available within their surroundings! As with everything, we differ in our unique requirements and preferences when it comes to workspaces and styles, as well as in our interpretations of the very same settings.
In light of this, we’d like to suggest a reflective exercise: Grab a pen and paper and set aside five minutes to jot down any physical, emotional, or cognitive needs you have found are common to the work you engage in, no matter how idiosyncratic. Simply having a conscious awareness of what these are can help you better curate your set-up and your schedule to meet your own demands.
Now what? To help transform these personal insights into useful solutions, we’ve compiled some home office hacks. They touch upon factors that might be impacting your mental and physical health, productivity, creativity, or relationships. We also offer ideas for experimenting with what likely is in your control during these unusual times, even altering resources you may already have at your disposal to optimize your daily experience.
The hope is that you will implement what immediately resonates with you, further modify what could, or start brainstorming what form your own work-arounds might take.
Let the inspiration begin!
Home Office Hack #1: Setting Boundaries Between Work and Home Life
It takes active effort to maintain work-life balance these days, but it’s essential as the boundaries between personal and professional duties can otherwise blur rapidly. The first step in a more sustainable direction is to prepare for your workday—mind, body, and environment—as if you’re going into the office. In other words, get dressed, make your breakfast beverage, and plug into routines that provide structure. How might you do that?
- Each morning, give thought to the sequencing of your day and anticipate what you’ll need on hand (even if it’s as basic as setting out a snack to grab between back-to-back calls).
- Ensure tech devices are fully charged and outlets accessible— investing in a retractable extension cord can allow for more optionality and preparedness here.
- Readopt the activities you once enjoyed while commuting—perhaps that was listening to a podcast or reading a book—as a form of selfcare before diving into meetings and deadlines.
- Define your workspace—be it four walls, a zone within a room, or even just a chair. The sight of it should signal that it’s time to enter heads-down mode. Your bedroom (or at least your bed), by contrast, should be designated as sacred grounds for resting where work is banned.
Home Office Hack #2: Reimagining Your Workspace
Chances are you did not originally decorate the inside of your dwelling with your outside job specifications in mind. That’s ok! With a little ingenuity, you can will functional workspaces into existence by crafting your own multi-purpose ‘furniture’ in cost-effective and mental energy-saving ways. If you have the ability to switch up your location throughout the day, we have some additional recommendations to consider. What might all this look like, you ask?
- Fashion a sitting or standing desk out of items you currently have at home—the key is to focus on arriving at the correct height for your frame, which may involve some stacking and rejiggering.
- Invite variety by finding spaces with a range of scales, enclosure levels, and seating types.
- Prepare for a mobile office: set up devices with a personal hotspot or locate free public Wi-Fi, take advantage of the ambient noise inherent to the locale or else bring along your own source of music, and identify any required amenities before settling in.
- Get outside—if you’re staring down a string of 1:1’s that can be navigated hands-free, stick your phone in your front shirt pocket on FaceTime and go for a walk, allowing your coworker to come
Home Office Hack #3: Attending to Your Basic Needs
You’re only human. Even if you’re relatively confined these days, your body needs to move, your brain needs breaks, and your senses require the occasional refresh. Attending to your atmosphere—from the standpoint of ambiance and ergonomics—can boost mood in the short- term and buffer against burnout for the long haul. Eager for some pointers?
- Try employing invigorating scents like rosemary, citrus, and peppermint channeled through essential oils, candles, or fresh fruits and herbs to keep energy high. Opt for the soothing aromas of lavender and chamomile for restoration.
- Embrace the light (that’s right for your setting). Depending on how often you’re reading and referencing paper materials, some new fixtures—whether that’s a modern dimmable LED or a classic design—might be a worthwhile investment. For downtime, turn on a floor lamp with a 2700K color temperature or set your dimmer to mimic twilight or dusk.
- Tuck something behind your back or under your seat to provide extra lumbar support and avoid unnecessary discomfort.
- Whenever possible, sneak in stretches, mini workouts, or even a solo dance party to mitigate the toll of sedentary positions.
Home Office Hack #4: Socializing in the Time of Distancing
The proverbial water cooler chats may be temporarily on hold, but fostering social connection is more important than ever in this new era of widespread distributed working. While it’s natural to crave face-to-face interactions, much of what you appreciate and miss about gathering together can now be translated to a distanced setting thanks to support from technology. How about some examples to get you started?
- Organize online lunch hours or coffee breaks where coworkers can sign up during dedicated timeslots.
- Schedule laid-back, end-of-day check-ins with a drink of your choice. Bonus points if you get a group beer of the month subscription and sip the same drinks at happy hour!
- Establish a remote game night with teammates—use a service like Jackbox and a video conference platform such as Zoom to share your screen while playing. Collectively joining a “room” on the app Houseparty is another option.
- Host a virtual “kid & pet parade” so everyone can show off their cute companions while celebrating the loved ones that are often behind closed doors during business hours.