Creating a positive work space

So this was originally intended as a different type of post. I was planning on talking about how I took the lessons I learnt during the first lockdown when it came to creating a positive work space and applied them to my work space in school…then lockdown number 3 happened and I’ve not actually been able to go into school (I am currently attempting to be the remote learning queen of EYFS). This means that 1) I’ve not been able to apply the lessons and report on the effects (September to December was the time it took me to notice the difference and realise that something needed to be done) and 2) I’ve realised that there is still work to do on creating a positive home working space.

This post, therefore, will focus on the further changes I’ve made to my work space at home, some of the concepts I’ve considered in this, the wider changes I’ve made to my working pattern that can be applied else where and finally how I’ll move forward when I’m back in school.

How many other people during lockdown 1.0 had to turn a dining table/sofa/bed into a make shift office. That was how I started my lockdown. Our spare bed became my office and it wasn’t long before everything was chaos!

I don’t do well with chaos. Luckily I have an extremely talented partner who stepped up and built me my very own desk and filing shelves using some left over random pieces of wood and a couple of scaffolding planks. a bit of jiggling around of furniture, some decorating and £50 spend at Argos on an office chair and I had a lovely calm space to work in.

The start of my calm positive working space

However after several months, my lovely office had once again become the place people seemed to want to dump the clean washing and Christmas had left it full of random tutt. Enter lockdown 3.0 and I am suddenly spending 8 hours a day in here, with additional resources to entertain 3 – 5 year olds on teams (this requires A LOT of random objects) and I was back to feeling overwhelmed and chaotic. This isn’t just down to my environment but I am someone definitely influenced by this. The whole remote learning aspect of teaching is hugely overwhelming for those delivering it. A way I’ve always managed my emotions to to clean and organise giving my full attention to this activity helps me to focus on something I can exert control over.

First of all some background; just before Christmas 2019 I came across the word hygge while scrolling through Pinterest for Christmas ideas, at the time I had some friends who seemed in need of this idea of creating a calm cosy safe space to spend quality time with loved ones in and so made them my own interpretation of a hygge goodie bag. As with Pinterest I then started getting more notifications about hygge relating pins. I fell into the rabbit hole and did some research. I think there can be many interpretations of this life-style concept, that I will probably dig deeper into in later posts (I’m currently doing a Centre of Excellence course on it) but something that came through a lot for me was about creating a calm, safe, comfortable space to enjoy (something that I have naturally tended to do). My ‘office’ doubles as my hobby room and a spare room for the kids or when the other half is driving me nuts so a comfortable cosy, safe space was key. I also believe that you do your best work when you’re in a positive environment. I therefore wanted to create a space with this concept in mind; workable yet cosy somewhere I could happily spend 8 hours a day in but also somewhere I can retreat to during my downtime if I need to.

Cue phase two of the work space…

Firstly I want to create a positive smell to the room, distinctive from the room fragrances in the rest of the house. One of my first lockdown hobbies was candle making, mostly I do this for other people but now I turned my hand to wax melts for myself. I focused on using oils that would sooth anxieties and uplift me; I went heavy on the orange based scents – sweet orange and bergamot, with notes of lavender and chamomile to create my own custom scent for the room (I don’t use this smell anywhere else in the house). FYI oranges both in terms as a scent and a food are excellent for managing anxiety and peeling and eat one is a great mindfulness activity!

uplifting scents help to bring focus and clarity

Next I had to get rid of all the build up of crap, after a considerable amount of nagging, I got some shelves put up which meant I could take things up off the overly cluttered desk.

I also added some cheap bathroom draws extraneous teaching materials could be dumped in. Very quickly it became a workable space again in which I could feel calm and focused.

You will also notice a plant, everyone who knows me DON’T panic it’s fake! While real plants do provide oxygen the number of plants that you actually need per square metre for this to be effective means that I’d not actually fit in the room. So I’ve gone for a fake one from next to add a bit of texture…and opened the window for oxygen!

Don’t worry people it’s fake!

The ridiculous number of teddies I’ve accumulated and am to sentimental to chuck out are useful for entertaining 3 year olds and add a cosiness that I like but not having them on the bed means I’ve got a space to curl up and read or sketch when I want too.

I have my Ikigai up in front of my desk to remind me of where I want to go (it does need to be framed though). Having set myself a series of goals I want to make sure I keep myself focused and accountable.

Finally I have started to return to what my school friends used to call my hippy-dippyness (I prefer the term unique) and started saging the room once a week. I try to do this on a Monday while setting out my aims for the week. This isn’t something everyone is into. It is not something that I do as a fad or because I am a particularly strong Wicca. It’s something I do after careful thought and consideration as part of my own personal process. As a teen after I had first started dealing with anxiety I found that activities such as visualisation or meditating really helped. Today we’d call it mindfulness but then I simply found those practices and other similar ones very helpful and became more interested in reading about paganism, wicca, folklore and native American culture. In recent years I’ve started to pick up some of these old habits again and find them helpful. I find that I respond well to order and routine. A routine where I start my week by focusing purely on my aims for the week for 5 minutes helps me to have a more positive week. I also take time each morning to focus on my aims for the day. It’s somewhat more fun than just writing lists and timetables (although I do those as well). Most people set themselves goals for the week in different ways my way is just more imaginative and smells better than others (in my opinion).

Setting goals that smell nice

Apart from spending time each morning meditating I also realised that because I’m working at home I don’t actually turn off…or leave the house. I have now started blocking out an hour or so in my day to go outside for a walk. I try to plan in breaks to my day as well just to visit the rest of the house. I noticed before Christmas that I’d stopped taking breaks during the day at work leaving the building and getting fresh air. This was something I was really good at pre-pandemic. It’s a CRAPPY habit to be in and I am trying really hard to change that and take time out in the day.

Look my house has an outside…who knew?

The focus of this has been to demonstrate the importance of creating a positive space to work in and give you ideas on how to do this. My workspace is currently based at home but I will try to put this into practice when I’m back in school and let you know the progress in further articles. Adults spend the majority of their waking week in their work environment, it has a HUGE impact on us physically and mentally. You need to own your space and make it one in which you can be comfortable and happy. If you are unhappy in a space you spent more than 50% of your time in then that will not have a positive impact on you and will impact on other aspects of your life. In further articles I will talk in more detail about mindfulness practices that you can bring into your day but if you do one thing this week try to take control of one space you inhabit and implement one thing to make it more positive.

This article has focused more on myself and adults spaces but the message behind this its 100% applicable to Children and young adults. They too are affected by the environment they’re in and work better with calm and positive work spaces as well as with routines that include time out to be mindful (see last weeks post).

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