Scrolling through some pinterest images today, I saw a few pictures of amazing office and studio spaces. I wondered to myself how many people actually have home offices that are that amazing. Then it hit me – the style or architecture of a space isn’t really what’s most important. Sure, it’s nice for things to be aesthetically pleasing, but there are other elements to consider when creating the perfect work space.
Have you ever stopped to think about your working environment? Did you ever plan it out or did it kind of just create itself, perhaps out of necessity? It’s easy to get caught up in work and not consider about your surroundings. But when you take a little bit of conscious effort to create a space that will boost your mood, and help your energy levels, you feel the positive benefits physically, emotionally AND in the work you produce.
A year ago, I was still working a day job at a large advertising agency that participated in the “open office” trend, meaning there were many seating areas that had no walls. I was part of a dedicated team whose entire focus was building a new website for Volkswagen. We were all placed together in a conference room in an effort to make collaboration and communication easier.
Personally, the co-seating arrangement was more distracting to me than anything. I love this article where the author refers to the open office working environment as “being in middle school with a bunch of adults.” Yes, it can be fun. But when you have a deadline, I need my personal bubble to be bigger – and quieter!
This is why I consider having complete control over my working environment to be one of the absolute BEST things about working for myself.
When I first left my day job to start my own business, I was using the guest room of our house as my office space. There were pros and cons to this situation. I loved sitting next to a bright window, but resented the guest bed that took up most of my space. Having my book shelf nearby, filled with inspiration and references, was great. No comfortable space to take a yoga and meditation break – major downer.
This is when I first started dreaming of my ideal work space. I started making a list of ideal elements and must-haves.
When we decided to relocate from Los Angeles to Austin, my work space went through an incredible metamorphosis. We lived in a series of airbnb short-term rentals while we were in the process of selling one house and buying another. In one space, I had very limited natural light and access to one incredibly depressing overhead fluorescent light. The other space was a tiny nook that was surrounded by walls on three sides – talk about claustrophobic conditions! Almost everyday, I would leave to go work at a coffee shop, preferring the bit of extra background noise to the stuffiness of the temporary apartment.
Through these experiences, I learned very quickly how much impact working environment has on the actual work. I found it difficult to concentrate with low lighting and hard to sit still when the space was too cramped.
As we were looking for new places to live in Austin, I took a look at my list of desirable qualities for my future work space. Creating a comfortable space was especially important to me because I have my own business and work from home, hence spending a majority of my time there.
My list looked like this:
- dedicated room for office space/studio
- organized, easy to find things, filing system, different types of shelving and storage, proper labeling
- high ceilings
- lots of light (natural light from windows + interesting light fixtures)
- multiple seating areas (desk, couch, art table, floor seating like bean bags?)
- Colorful and eclectic
- Creative inspiration (art, textures, vision board, chalk board?)
- ambiance, smells and feels fresh (candles, plants)
- art supplies readily available, but organized
- Instruments (guitar, piano) Easy to pick up at the spur of the moment and encouraging to just sit down and create
- space to practice yoga
- a comfy space to meditate
Tips for Making Your Work Space More Awesome
Everybody works differently and thrives in different settings. That’s why it’s important to figure out what works for you.
Take a few moments to think about what helps you focus, what inspires you, what makes you feel good. Make your own list and write it down! You will see and feel the positive benefits physically, emotionally and in the work you produce.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
If you have stuff covering your desk, I recommend starting there. Clean it up now! Have clutter filling your work space will have the same effect in your mind. By cleaning off your working surface and putting everything away in it’s proper place, your mind will be less distracted and more able to focus on the task at hand.
If necessary, invest in a filing cabinet to wrangle all of your loose documents. Add shelving or a book case. Pinterest is a gold mine of organizational ideas! Clear the clutter, clear your mind!
Lighting can have a HUGE effect on your mood! Low lighting can induce a feeling of depression and nobody wants that! Adequate lighting helps you boost your mood and attitude so make sure you have enough in your space. Perhaps that means opening the curtains more or getting an extra lamp.
I like to have multiple sources of light. I’m fortunate enough to have a large window with natural light. But I’ve added some other lighting which improves the look and feel of the space. I placed a cute owl lamp on a small table across from my desk. It’s small, but provides a warmer light and it adds to the aesthetic I’m going for.
On my desk, I have a pink himalayan salt lamp, which is said to help clean the air and improve energy levels. I absolutely love the soft glow it produces, giving the room a sort of magical atmosphere.
Get creative with your lighting – it doesn’t have to be boring!
If you spend a lot of time at a desk, consider investing in a quality chair that has lumbar support. You might even consider converting your work space to incorporate a standing desk (these were super popular at my old workplace) or a balance ball chair.
Consider alternative sitting spaces. I like to have different options of places to sit for different activities. If I’m working on something that doesn’t require my computer, I might go hang out on the pillows I’ve set up in the corner of my office. It’s amazing how a new perspective helps shift your energy enough to get some new juices flowing!
I also like to spend time each day practicing yoga and meditation, so I have a little area specifically for that:
Perhaps pick up some decorative pillows, a yoga bolster, meditation stool, bean bags or arm chair. Or a hammock! That would be awesome…
Think about the activities that you do during the day and whether or not alternative sitting spaces might help you mix things up and get a fresh outlook.
Before moving into my new home office, I never really considered scents when it came to working. But when I made my list of things that I wanted in my perfect space that would create an uplifting energy, a specific scent came to mind right away.
There’s this one candle that I’m obsessed with – obsessed! It’s the Volcano scent by Capri Blue. I used to pick one up at Anthropologie every once in a while as a treat but it’s really hard for me to justify spending $30 on a candle.
Luckily, I found an air diffuser in the same scent on Amazon for a much more affordable $20 (considering it lasts for MUCH longer). Plus, it actually works out better because it is constantly making the room smell amazing and I don’t have to worry about an open flame.
Now, every time I walk in my office I get a refreshing waft of tropical and citrus fruits. This instantly picks up my mood and makes the space feel fresh.
Fill the air with scents that uplift you and make you feel good. Perhaps you get an air freshener plugin, room spray, essential oils, candles or even incense.
Sometimes it’s nice to have music going while you work but it can also be distracting. I really like Noisli when I’m in concentration mode. It lets you mix different ambient and nature sounds to “create your own environment.” Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds!
A lot of people recommend classical music for concentration. But if that’s not your jam, check out Vitamin String Quartet, a group of musicians who turns modern rock and alternative music into orchestrated, vocal-free tunes. Fun fact: I used to work for this record label right after college! My favorite album is VSQ’s renditions of Radiohead’s OK Computer.
I have a bunch of playlists on my Spotify that I shuffle through when I don’t feel like picking out anything specific. Check out my picks here!
Make your work space custom to you and your interests. Hang pieces of art, posters, favorite album covers (I love using these frames for displaying vinyl record sleeves) that inspire you. Are motivational quotes your thing? Here some really cute posters for you!
Paint the walls with colors that lift you up. Or maybe paint one wall with chalkboard paint so you can doodle something new on it every day.
Whatever lifts you up and makes you feel energized and happy – bring that into your space! This is your sanctuary – don’t be afraid to make it awesome, bright, creative, relaxing, energizing, or whatever adjective you jive the most with.