Making Work from Home Work

Toronto-based figure3’s motto is about connecting people to place through design, and Canada’s largest independently-owned interior design firm has been continuously investigating how design influences workplace effectiveness, then implementing the findings into new projects.

Their findings have revealed certain patterns that define effective workplaces have emerged, but given the sudden tectonic shift in social behaviour due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of “distancing” and “isolation” we are quickly having to adapt workplace patterns into home life.

That said, Suzanne Wilkinson, a principal at figure3, has modified workplace effectiveness techniques so that they fit the new paradigm of working from home. “The principles still remain, and are powerful to maintain productivity, connectedness and well-being during this time,” says Suzanne. “We’re ready for this, now more than ever.”

Here, then, are Suzanne’s 10 ways to achieve a fulfilling work from home experience:

  1. Right to Light: Daylight is essential to us all, and there is a direct correlation between well-being and the amount of natural light in your workplace. Find a place in your home with a view to the outside and position your workstation there to ensure you can get some sun and light throughout the day.

  1. Movement: Whether it is getting up from your chair every 30 minutes or scheduling a workout session, it is important to keep moving, even in confined spaces. Try putting a meeting invite in your calendar to keep yourself committed to a program. Many gyms are offering bootcamp and yoga classes online which is a great way to stay active. Reach out to your gym or personal trainer to see what they have to offer you. Kids at home? Schedule a bootcamp class and do it with your kids. This is a great way to show your kids who’s BOSS!

  1. Variation in Work Settings: Choice as to where, when and how you work can greatly impact creativity, engagement, and health. If it is possible to change up work settings at home, it will help to keep things fresh during the day. For example, in the morning work from your living room with your coffee, then position yourself at your desk or kitchen island, or on your balcony or patio. You’ll notice the difference by changing it up.

  1. Ergonomics: So, you’re probably working from your kitchen island and/or sofa and are likely already feeling the effects of bad posture. In order to avoid long-term physical effects of your new working environment, take a moment today to assess your work area and make adjustments as best your can. Now might be the right time to order a new chair or a larger monitor for your home office. Here is a link from the Association of Canadian Ergonomists that I found very helpful: “Working from Home in the face of a Pandemic – Applying Ergonomics Principles

  1. Wellness Spaces: Working from home can be hectic, but don’t forget about self care. Giving yourself the time and finding a space to mentally refresh and de-stress will make your day that much better.  Whether it be yoga, stretching, meditation, a hot bath with epsom salts, set a routine to take care of yourself daily.

  1. Biophilia: Connection to nature is beneficial to one’s productivity and mental health. Consider buying potted plants or a bundle of tulips from the grocery store to lift your spirits and brighten your day.

  1. Social Spaces (virtual): Social connection is one of the greatest predictors of happiness and reduced stress. With technology, we’ve never been more prepared for isolation than right now. There are so many options today to maintain contact with co-workers, friends and family such as Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and the list goes on. By incorporating socializing that enables human connections, you are more likely to create deeper bonds with those you stay connected with.

  1. Privacy: If you haven’t yet seen the video of the BBC News reporter interrupted by his child in the middle of a broadcast, you need to check it out. This is the perfect example of working from home and needing privacy. So many of us have noisy children in the background or a spouse on a conference call at the same time as you. It can be difficult to find the privacy you need to work effectively in tight quarters. Try setting up some rules of engagement between family members, share your schedules at the beginning of the day and, yes, if you have a very important video call with a client, set your children up on their favourite video game. Sometimes (and I stress the word sometimes) Fortnite is a blessing!

  1. Learning Spaces: I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned so much in the last week about how to work remotely. I’m blown away with the technology we must keep our business functioning at full capacity. I’m equally impressed with how my children’s tutors and music teachers have stepped up by continuing their instructions remotely. My point is that learning need not stop during these unusual times. If you happen to have a little time on your hands (since you’re no longer commuting an hour each way to and from work) this is the opportunity to take ‘that course’ you always wanted to take. What better time for self-improvement!

  1. Pride of Place: You don’t want your home environment to stress you out, so take some steps to take pride in your home. It can be simple things such as making your bed in the morning and keeping things in order. This will set the tone for how you feel, maintain high standards and meet goals. Take 5 minutes each day to tidy up and you’ll feel much better about working from home.

Canadian Interiors: What work-from-home hack is the easiest to implement but garners the largest benefits?

Suzanne Wilkinson: You might miss having a larger computer monitor at the office, or even have multiple monitors. Having these can greatly improve productivity, so now might be a good time to purchase these items for you home.

If you can have your office task chair delivered to your home, it will help greatly with ergonomics and keeping good posture. A great alternative is using a yoga ball to keep moving while also strengthening your core. Now is a great time to use the one you have, or even order one to start using.

WFH etiquette: always use mute unless you are talking. This helps greatly to minimize distractions that may be occurring around you during the meeting.

Back-to-back conference calls can be very draining, especially with decreased interpersonal communication that you would have with in-person meetings. What I’ve found to be very helpful is to reserve some time between calls to get some movement in. Whether it be some stretches or yoga poses, or even getting a few minutes outside, it really helps to stay fresh during the day.

CI: Name the one (or two) things in your workspace at home that is staving off cabin fever.

SW: I like to be surrounded by plant life. With my groceries, I like to include fresh cut flowers that I can have with me to take care of and to help brighten my mood while working.

As well, with a lightened social calendar, I’ve spent more time and energy on weekends organizing my home, spring cleaning, and donating items to charity. It brings me a feeling of peace, accomplishment, and positivity. Making fresh meals for my family and baking also feels good, and I’ve had more time to make our favourites and even create new ones.

CI: What are you binging on Netflix (i.e. tv) right now? Is it Tiger King? Be honest…

SW: I’ve been enjoying more documentaries with my kids – science, nature, planets. It’s been fascinating. I’m exploring a bit more beyond Netflix, but a new stand-up performance by Jo Koy is hilarious! As well, I couldn’t avoid watching Tiger King. It’s so fascinating!

Climbing the ranks from Senior Team Leader to Principal at figure3, Suzanne Wilkinson understands the power of design. Working with some of the most prominent companies across North America over the past 20 years to design beautiful and engaging spaces in workplace, residential and retail, Suzanne is passionate about leading clients and the figure3 team through a strategic and interactive design process starting with what is most important: a company’s core values.