4 Strategies for Creating a Calming Workspace at Home
Looking back now, I laugh.
When I first got the news that I would be working from home, I didn’t bother setting up a workspace. I thought I would be back in the office after a few weeks. My desk was cluttered, disorganized, and inefficient, but I slogged through it because I thought it was temporary. After about two months of disorganization and some new back pain and headaches, I realized it was time to complete the task I procrastinated — setting up my home office. I needed to create a workspace that worked for me.
Even after developing an initial workspace, I suffered from work spillover. Because I worked in the same place I lived — slept, showered, ate, and relaxed— I couldn’t differentiate between work and home. And it greatly affected my well-being and my work productivity.
There is a way to set up your workspace that is calming, organized, efficient, and mentally separates work and home. But it might take some tweaking and trial and error. Check out these five strategies to promote maximum calm in your workspace.
Establish a Method to the Madness
When I look at my desk covered in papers, I instantly feel anxious. And there’s nothing more anxiety-provoking than missing a deadline or losing an important note because of clutter.
The first step to a calming workspace is some type of organization system. Don’t organize so much that it takes time away from your work, but have a designated space for most things. The Spruce outlines 10 organizational ideas that blend beauty and efficiency.
Personally, I organize on Friday. It keeps me from neurotically shuffling throughout the week. When Friday rolls around and my desk is inevitably messy, I clear the clutter. Then when it’s Monday and I don’t feel like working, I’m at least coming into work with an organized space ready for calm and steady productivity.
An organized desk is the first step to calm productivity.
Have a Meditation Bell Handy
Meditation bells, or signing bells, are one of my favorite cues for tranquility. Mindfulness bells are used to signify the start and end of a mindfulness practice. When we repeatedly pair a cue (like a bell) with a behavior (mindfulness), the resulting response (relaxation) can be paired with the cue. Eventually, just seeing or hearing the cue (mindfulness bell) can result in the paired response (relaxation). It’s called classical conditioning.
Practice mindfulness using the meditation bell throughout the day. It's preferable if you can sit on a pillow or another seat away from the desk while you meditate. Taking frequent mindfulness breaks can decrease stress, provide mental clarity, and even improve task efficiency. Even if you aren't able to complete a mindfulness practice, just seeing the mindfulness bell at your desk can be a cue to pause, take a deep breath, and feel more relaxed. A small pause, even just for a few minutes, can provide huge benefits.
Self-Soothe with Soft Items
Self-soothing is one of my favorite therapy skills to teach. It involves physically soothing the body through the five senses in order to reduce distress.
I keep soft items for self-soothing right by my desk to grab in a pinch. This can include a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a heating pad or heated blanket, pleasantly-scented candles or reed diffusers, or your favorite lotion for a quick soothing hand massage. I personally like self-soothing with touch, but you can also use your other senses. Appeal to your sense of vision by having a picture of a meaningful moment or a relaxing scene. Play calm music or relaxing sounds like waves crashing. You can even create your own self-soothe “kit" — a basket with all your favorite self-soothe items.
There is something so special about nature. Nature allows for stillness and self-reflection. It helps us appreciate beauty in the world. It allows us to connect with other living beings. And sitting in nature has various psychological and physical benefits.
In the National Geographic, Florence Williams notes that even small doses of nature can have big psychological benefits. She suggests placing small tokens of nature (like houseplants) strategically in the home. Williams also says that nature follows a dose curve — the more nature you are exposed to, the greater the benefit.
Give your office space a heavy dose of nature. Create a terrarium. Strategically place a photo of a relaxing landscape. Play a recording of outdoor sounds, like birds chirping, rain falling, or waves crashing. Display your collection of sea shells or river stones. Allow the soothing properties of nature to heal you, even at work.
Bonus Tip: Set Up a Space for Your Pets
One of the best parts about working from home is our new coworkers. Most of us find significant comfort in our pets, so use that to your advantage in your workspace.
Set up space for your furry friend. Put your dog’s bed near your desk or chair. Put a heat lamp for the cats to sit under, or the fish bowl near your line of vision. I’ll sometimes even put a blanket on my lap for my dog to covertly sit while I’m in meetings.
Allow your pets to be there for you. They’ll likely appreciate the affection and attention!
Now You're Ready to Work
Although work may not be calming, your workspace can be.
Start with organizing your space. Find a system that works for you to maximize your productivity and stave off any unnecessary worries. Have cues placed strategically near your desk for easy viewing, like a mindfulness bell, various self-soothe items, and nature-related tokens. These items can provide soothing serenity throughout the day for maximum relaxation.
Your new workplace setup will allow you to be the most tranquil and composed person “at work.”