The COVID-19 pandemic has the world adopting work-from-home en masse, with many not knowing the importance of workplace designs which could enhance personal productivity. Our individual home workspaces may be far from ideal.
The way we perceive the world is strongly connected to our surroundings and how we interact with it. If you want an increase in productivity while working from home, you should carefully consider how your workspace is lighted up, together with your posture.
Posture contributes greatly to mental state and emotions. How you sit and stand at your workstation can have a big impact on your productivity. If you’re slouching, or sitting in an awkward position, it can cause aches and pains that can lead to increased stress and fatigue.
The best seating posture is to sit up straight and keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle. If you have a chair with armrests, push them up and away from you and sit close to your desk so your body is in a straight line.
But despite adopting a good sitting posture, have you ever felt that the fixed standard desk heights just don’t feel right for you? Or even from time to time feeling lethargic and dozing off? It’s not your fault — we all have different optimal desk heights, and our blood circulatory system requires that we stand up and move about to re-energize.
This is where a height-adjustable table can come in. Not only can you adjust the height of your work desk to what feels the most optimal to you, you can also raise it to standing height so that you can momentarily work while standing, keeping you alert, energised and feeling confident even — great for making presentations over video conferences!
Having good lighting around allows you to be more productive and creative when generating ideas. To peak in creativity, you should be well rested, alert, and energized, and be in an environment with the right lighting, and the right amount of it. According to Staples' 2018 study, an overwhelming 75 percent of employees said they felt more productive when their workplace had better lighting.
Lighting that is too dim can make you feel drowsy and tired. Too bright, and it can irritate your eyes and affect your sleep. Both extremes can be harsh on your eyes and trigger migraines. If your brain is working extra hard to fill in the blanks, it causes fatigue, impairs creativity, and makes you unproductive.
The color and temperature of lighting should vary based on the function of the space, where the type of light source in a home or in a workspace can impact mood, circadian rhythms, physical health, productivity and creativity. For example, one study found that a natural light environment encourages collaboration and stimulates creative energy.
Cool blue light gives the impression of daylight, which is conducive to help focus on the task at hand and aid concentration. Blue light also has been found to increase alertness, where they are used at your workplace desk or when in a library. In an ideal situation, the color and temperature of lighting should change based on the time of day.
For example, in the morning, lighting should be brighter and cooler to help employees stay alert and concentrate. In the afternoon, it should be warmer to help employees wind down after a long period of work.
Sunlight helps our body maintain our internal circadian rhythms. These rhythms affect things such as sleep and energy levels, and the release of serotonin, which can help us feel more focused and calm.
Since the pandemic, many studies have examined how light can be used to improve circadian rhythms in different indoor environments. Businesses like offices are the one place where many of us spend a significant chunk of time during the day.
But these lighting principles also apply when you're working at home. The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute advises people to spend as much time as possible outside in the morning and to take a walk or run every day. This will help boost vitamin D absorption.
During the day, individuals should face a window and open the curtains or shades to maximize daylight. “Get a lot of bright light every day, especially every morning,” recommends former LRC director Mariana Figueiro.
Exposure to natural light can help alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder, a serious depressive illness that normally kicks in during the run up to winter and affects about 6% of the population.
Finding the best office lighting has, with good reason, become a top priority for design teams and office managers.
Changing your lighting system can have a huge impact. In one case, a U.S. postal office renovated its lighting system to expose employees to more natural light sources and found that it saved the company $50,000 per year in energy costs and made workers the most productive in the Western Hemisphere. Among other things, they also experienced increased revenue, and error rates dropped for machine operators.
With a major issue of the coronavirus forcing more workers to work from home, issues with the mental health and wellbeing of employees have increased. Employees’ comfort at home will improve their mental health and wellbeing and in turn, productivity.
Having established that natural light is the best kind of light that you can have in your office, a few pointers that may encourage employees to make better workspace decisions are:
In a 2014 study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researchers found that workers who had better access to windows slept longer and enjoyed better sleep quality. This will definitely help keep us sane during the pandemic isolation.