The new normal is far from the normal we are so accustomed to. It has blurred the careful line of separation that most of us maintain between our work lives and personal lives. Now that we’re all working from home, having a dedicated workspace is more important than ever.
Picture this. In jammies, sunk into the couch, and typing away on the laptop. Or precariously having the laptop perched on the kitchen table, and pouring an OJ and gorging on a sandwich. It seems like an awfully familiar sight, doesn’t it?
Well, that’s you. That’s me. That’s almost all of us these days. Because we have to work from the confines of our homes, we are no longer maintaining a distinction between work and personal aspects of our days. Quite simply, we work and live in the same space, and that is a recipe for disaster in the long run.
The blending of the work and personal stuff might seem non-trivial at first, but it soon ends up becoming one large day where you cannot separate one from the other. You will find yourself struggling to get things done and on time, and often have to deal with a wandering mind.
The psychology of physical spaces
While we generally don’t ever pay any attention to it, we develop instinctive cognitive biases around and about the physical spaces that we find ourselves in every day. These help us in maintaining order and a sense of purpose for each space.
An office, a bedroom, a kitchen, a balcony. All of them are defined by how they are set up, otherwise, they are all just floors and walls and ceilings. We attach a purpose to each room and decorate it to serve that purpose. And every time you enter a room, its layout and appearance will remind you and drive you to use it for that specific purpose.
When you work in different areas of the house, you are blurring the purpose of each of these physical spaces that you normally wouldn’t. When you sit in the kitchen and work, is the room now a kitchen or your office room? You can no longer markedly separate the two when it comes to how your mind perceives it.
The stimulus your mind receives is that you are present in a kitchen environment, but you’re telling it to get job-related work done. Because the environment is not separate for either of the activities, you can guess why you could very easily be distracted in such a scenario.
Dedicated workspaces reduce distractions and help you focus
Think about why we were all working out of offices in the first place. The infrastructure was physically designed to help us to focus on work, and not anything else.
Similarly, when you have a dedicated workspace when you’re working from home, you are virtually removed from the personal part of your life. You now feel the same way you do when you’re sitting at your desk at your office. But instead, you are in your home office space.
When you have your own office room or any other work-from-home office setup, you bring a sense of legitimacy to your work environment. You are away from the temptation of doing anything else that is not work-related.
You’re no longer thinking about having an impromptu snack or a quick round of social media surfing since you’re sitting at your home workstation and you are focused on that.
Being in an environment that feels like work makes you automatically think and focus on work. When you remove yourself from the goings-on of your home life, you suddenly find yourself far less distracted and more focused than before.
You are more productive when you have a proper workspace
Having an office space that is independent of the other areas of your house is quite necessary for your work productivity. In a workday, you need to be able to access work-related resources that are available when you need them.
Having a constant workplace instead of a rotating one will help bring consistency and a routine to your work.
When you work from a proper workspace, you will have things measurably more organized and in order. This has a direct impact on your efficiency and your performance.
When you truly make it your own workspace, you then tend to associate it with work and nothing else.
You become automatically more productive because that is your only goal when you sit down to work at a dedicated workspace that you have made for yourself.
There is a sense of discipline when you have a home workstation
A dedicated home workstation encourages you to be more disciplined with the time that you work, just like you would be if you were at the office. Since you are also less likely to be distracted, you are more likely to stick to your discipline and get work done accordingly.
Whether you live with roommates or have a family, there are bound to be things that happen to take your attention away from your work. If you have a space that you only use for work, then the only thing you do there will be things related to work.
You instinctively set boundaries for yourself and are more mindful of your work with a dedicated workspace. Physical boundaries automatically translate into mental boundaries as well, and you no longer stray from your daily work tasks in pursuit of other thoughts.
You hurt your health when you choose to work from anywhere and everywhere
Whether your home office space is contained in a room of its own or is carved out from another area, not having one has an impact on your health. Both physical and mental.
Working from the couch, a bean bag, the dining table, or any place else, you tend to not focus on your posture. Hours on end on incorrect posture affects you in ways that are readily noticeable. Back and neck pains, cramps of the leg and hands, and headaches are common ways it will affect you.
That is because none of those are designed for long hours of sitting and working. Do you know what are? An office desk and chair combo. This is because their height, design, and structure are meant to keep you comfortable while you work.
A survey by a University of Cincinnati professor found out that over 75% of people working from home hunch over their laptops. This, according to the study, adds about 10 pounds of additional pressure for every inch of forward or downward dip. That does not sound good, does it?
Dedicated workspace at home helps in work-life balance
With a dedicated home office space, it will be easier for you to disconnect when you are done with work. You will not be bringing that energy into your personal life. We all were particular about having a work-life balance when we were working out of our offices. Why should we think any differently when working from home?
If you work from your bedroom or living room or any other place, it is that much easier to overwork yourself and cause burnout. This is because there is no mental disconnect between your work life and your personal life.
A direct reason for this is the lack of a physical disconnect between the two. The physical barrier and mental barriers complement each other to help you have a separation between work and personal life.
With a distinct and earmarked space for work, it will be much easier to turn your work mode on and off. This is because when you are away from your home workstation, you tend to disconnect from work-related things. When you’re back in that space, you then only think about work. It is just how our mind gets conditioned.
Some of us already found it hard to do that when work and personal lives happened in different places. Imagine how much more difficult it would be if they are overlapping each other every single day.
Separation of our personal lives from our professional ones plays an important role in how we perceive both. A dedicated home office space and having a home workstation help us maintain that difference between the two.
The inability to disconnect from work when you’re living your personal life will become a cause of concern if you don’t actively separate the two. A dedicated workspace is a must for great productivity, good health, and a distinct work-life balance.
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