For the past 10 years, I’ve been designing conscious workplaces for companies around the world, including Airbnb, Soundcloud and Headspace. In an attempt to fit into the boardroom, I’ve kept more veiled my growing passions for environmentalism, yogic philosophy, and so on. My best design work definitely stems from my connection to the natural world, but I never felt safe in fully owning it.
When the pandemic swept our world, I knew people suddenly quarantined would struggle, so I turned from workplaces to homes, helping women and families for the first time. The world has since taken to remote working, and it’s clear many companies are adopting fully remote or hybrid policies going forward. Our struggles are far from over: various reports released since the start of the pandemic show an increase in burnout and overworking, the rise of Zoom fatigue and so on.
It’s therefore more important than ever that people work on their connection with their homes and ensure their home workstations are designed with their wellbeing in mind.
I’ve taken extracts from my new design guide, Where Spirit Meets Space, to offer 8 tips to help home workers enhance their home workspaces and deepen their connection with their space.
The more space we give to our stuff, the less space we have for ourselves.
The more skilled you become at clearing your space, the more clear you begin to feel.
Consider how you feel when stepping into a yoga studio. Why do so many people experience an immediate feeling of calm upon entering such a space? Perhaps because it is empty.
Your own home is no different. When you clear away the things that you don't truly love, your spirit can take up more space and you'll feel much more free.
Essentialism is the new minimalism. Our focus should not be on having as few things as possible, but rather on having only the things that are essential to our health, our happiness, and our wellbeing.
Many of us have experienced being confined to our homes for the first time this past year. This is a perfect opportunity to take stock of everything you've accumulated in the room you work in and begin to clear away anything non-essential.
One question that I’ve found personally useful in determining whether an item is essential is, “Have I physically touched this object in the last month?" Have I actually engaged with it? Have I used it, worn it, read it, or picked it up? If the answer is no, I almost always say goodbye.
Because we are creatures of nature, it makes sense that we feel more at home living and working in spaces that contain the elements found in nature. The specific elements we want to make sure are present and balanced in our home office spaces are water, fire, earth, metal, and wood.
Earth elements support us in feeling centred, connected, and grounded. They are slightly warming, but mostly they bring a sense of solidity that helps us sink down, out of the mind and into the body.
You can bring the element of Earth into your home with anything made of ceramic, clay, brick, sand, marble, or stone of any kind. Earth tones and colours such as browns, tans, taupes, beiges, and soft yellows also bring in the element of Earth.
The fire element is connected to our inner flame; our ambition, our passion, and our willpower. Fire can also be a very meditative element.
You can bring the element of fire into your home office with actual flames through candles and other warm lighting, and the colours red, orange, and mauve.
The element of water is cooling, cleansing, calming, and invigorating. It represents our journey through life and our career; where we have been and where we are going.
You can bring the water element into your home office space with glass or mirrors. Black, dark grey, and any shade of blue also represents the water element.
When we think about designing our homes and home offices, metal is perhaps the most commonly disregarded element. The element of metal represents our ability to let go of rigidity and to yield, forgive, and relax. Metal energy is smooth, strong, cool, and precise.
We can bring the element of metal into our space with metals themselves: Gold, copper, bronze, silver, and sparkles. Some of our technology brings the element of metal, as do circles, ovals, domes, or arched shapes, and the colours white and grey.
The element of wood brings warmth and vitality into our spaces. Wood energy represents family, ancestors, and new beginnings.
You can bring the element of wood into your home by incorporating wooden sculptures or furniture. You can also bring in plants, trees, flowers, tall pillars or column shapes, and any shade of green.
Most architecture—whether skyscrapers, offices, or homes—is designed with predominantly Yang qualities. This is at least partially because most architects in the world are men. Only 20% of licensed architects in the US are female. It is important to be aware of this because it means that we often must balance the Yang-like containers of our homes with more Yin-like interiors.
The energy of Yin can be understood as a feminine energy. Yin energy is dark, small, cozy, soft, and ornate. Its qualities are round, curved, and organic in shape. Yin is the intricate details.
To bring more elements of Yin into your space, you can add anything round, curved, circular, or organic in shape. You can use more dark colours such as black, dark blues, deep purples, or pinks. You can also add soft materials, plush fabrics, and billowy curtains to increase Yin.
The energy of Yang can be understood as masculine. Its qualities are straight, boxy, and angular. Yang is bright, big, expansive, broad, open, and spacious.
To increase the Yang energy in your space, it often helps to focus on what you can remove. Yang elements are clear countertops, hard surfaces, closed cupboards, and empty spaces. You can also add tall or towering plants, bright lights, bright colours, and fire elements to increase the Yang energy in your space.
Choose signs and notes with words or phrases that uplift you.
With art and especially with photographs, it is important that we update them regularly and make sure they maintain deep relevance to our lives. Refreshing old frames with new photos can be a great way to bring more of who you are becoming into your space.
When we bring plants into our home offices, we bring life itself into our space. Especially now, when many of us are spending much more time working at home, and may continue to do so for the long-term, it is so powerful to be able to witness the cycles of life through the growth of a plant.
Maybe you want to start a herb garden on your windowsill. Maybe you want to grow food in your backyard. Maybe you simply want to get a sprout jar and start sprouting mung beans. Maybe you want to start giving yourself the gift of fresh flowers in your home on every new moon. The possibilities are endless.
Understand how your home receives the light of the sun in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. As you set up your space, take into account which windows you receive the light of nature through.
Wherever possible, choose lights and lamps on dimmers so that you can adjust based on the mood you want to create.
The need for boundaries when we work from home is paramount. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index - which interviewed over 30,000 people in 31 countries - analysed the impact of increased online communication while teams are working remotely. Over half (54%) of respondents said they feel overworked, and 39% said they feel downright exhausted.
Despite her busy work life, author and businesswoman Arianna Huffington is able to prioritise her sleep by keeping a strict rule against technology in the bedroom. She even has a tiny iPhone bed outside her bedroom, where she tucks her phone in for sleep before tucking herself in at night. I love this.
Given the 1,000,000 reasons that sleep is essential for us to live our best lives, ask yourself: Is your bedroom designed for you to enjoy a restful night's sleep? What rituals do you have around bedtime, and could they be healthier? If you are a parent, consider all of the love you put into the bedtime ritual you give to your child. You deserve a beautiful way to wind down as well.