More people are working from home due to Coronavirus and if you’re anything like me you may have scrambled to find a small-yet-productive corner of the house to work in. Many also predict that even after the pandemic a large proportion of people will continue to work from home and never return to the office.
A recent survey from the Royal Institute of British Architects shows that many people have suffered increased levels of depression and stress while working from home.
So here we share our best advice to help you be happier working from home.
Add Naturalistic Elements
The facts are undeniable…put plants and other natural objects into a space and you will feel better. I think I’ve lost count of the sheer amount of claims made for the wellbeing benefits of contact with nature.
This makes sense when we consider that, according to the Anthropologist, Dr Alice Roberts, in her recent book “Tamed” she explains that we have only spent about 1% of our entire existence as a domesticated species. Before this we were completely exposed to nature and it is therefore embedded in our evolution.
As animals, we are as prone to being stressed in unnatural environments as any other species, which is why enclosures in zoos are designed to be as close to the animal’s natural surroundings as possible (and safe).
With that in mind, our environment needs to be as stimulating and stress free as possible by recreating natural stimuli in buildings and that does include bringing some natural, or naturalistic elements into our buildings, for example, wood, stone and plants.
According to the Environmental psychologist Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe
“Looking at natural objects can give your brain a break – or a series of ‘micro-breaks’ from focusing. They take up your attention, but not in a demanding or over-stimulating way.
She further adds that “We also associate nature with recreation and relaxation, so again that can help enhance our mood.”
If you’d like to read more about the health benefits associated with exposure to nature do take a look at our earlier blog titled: Nature for Health and Wellbeing.
You may find that your activity has decreased since working from home, for example, walking to and from public transport or up and down long corridors no longer takes place.
If your commute is now from one room to another in your home you’re probably missing out on your steps that could boost your physical and mental health.
Many studies show that exercise is a natural stress buster, boosting physical and mental energy, and improving wellbeing through the release of endorphins.
Dr Ratcliffe says that “a lack of exercise can have a real impact”.
“If people are missing out on exercise, they need to think about how their day is structured – and start making an explicit effort.”
Here are some easy ways to get you moving:
- mind.org.uk advice trying to sit less and get up and move around a bit every hour. To make sure you don’t forget, set an alarm.
- You could also try exercises or stretches– the NHS website has lots of gym free workouts.
- Include exercise in your day-to-day routine:
While brushing your teeth for the recommended three minutes do some squats with your back against the wall.
Walk briskly everywhere you can.
Run up the stairs instead of walking
Do some gentle stretching while you’re watching TV.
If you’ve had a chance to read our blog on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) you will know just how important sunlight is for our mental wellbeing.
Light Up Your Life
Consultant Psychiatrist Dr TBS Balamurali states that: “Sunlight…is fundamentally good for your mental health.”
This is due to the fact that natural sunlight stimulates the brain to secrete the hormone serotonin. This hormone is responsible for feelings of calm, boosting our mood and lowering our stress levels.
Ben Channon is an architect and head of wellbeing at Assael Architecture. He states that sunlight “…has such a big impact on the way we feel about a space – and on regulating sleep. Dealing with Covid has been exhausting for everyone, so that’s particularly important right now.”
Ben shares the following advice to maximise the amount of sunlight entering our home:
- Situate your desk near a window
- Draw the curtains back fully
- ensure the windows are cleaned regularly (the more dirt the less the light can pentrate)
- use mirrors to bounce light around the room
- If possible work in a room upstairs as they always capture more sunlight
Make time to socialise
Working from home has huge benefits, but let’s face it—you get a little lonely.
Many people report missing the social contact they receive from being in the office, whether it’s chatting in the office or on the stairs, it means a lot to people.
Dr Angela Carter, associate fellow at the British Psychological Society “Remember we’re social animals… part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people.”
Consultant psychiatrist Dr TBS Balamurali says “Staring into a screen on Zoom is not enough.” He recommends getting out “…at lunchtime and in the evenings – connect with friends, family and neighbours – people you feel connected to.”
Meeting up with people is obviously more challenging during lockdown, but he suggests meeting another person to go for a walk with or even do some exercise.