Working from home sustainably

Working from home sustainably

Creating a sustainable workspace for you and the environment

Since almost all classes are online and we have to work from home for probably a little longer, it is important to have a home office where you can get your work done. However, it does come with its fair share of struggles. A while ago we asked on the Green Office Instagram whether you experience certain issues while working from home. We noticed that the majority of people experience such issues, both physically and mentally. In this blog we will address some of the common issues that occur while working from home, and we will provide you with some tips on how to tackle  those issues.

Social isolation

Spending hours behind a screen does not do any good to our social interaction. Social isolation is one of the biggest issues that is related to working from home [1]. The lack of social interaction can lead to a sense of loneliness which might hurt your productivity, motivation and thereby your overall work performance [2]. To combat the social isolation and feeling of loneliness you can reach out to your peers, have some background sounds such as music or a radio program, get some fresh air and be proactive, but above all stay positive [3]. Try to keep in touch with your peers everyday and start a meeting by seeing how everyone is feeling. Call a friend or family member during a break, or find yourself a walking buddy. SWU Thymos has a buddy system for the sporty ones among us, or find yourself a buddy through the Walk & Talk of the Bongerd, in the Corona Buddy Wageningen group on facebook or perhaps there is a walking buddy group within your association. 

Source: Resource

Low motivation, lack of concentration and not being able to switch off

Social isolation was just one of the issues that we can experience while working from home. Working in the same environment everyday can become dreading and result in a low motivation, lack of concentration and not being able to switch after a long day. To work more productively and to stay concentrated starts as soon as you get up. Get a morning routine that gets you ready for the day and make a schedule with a starting and ending time for getting your stuff done [4]. Managing your time also includes taking breaks. Taking regular microbreaks will help you to reboot your brain, move your body a bit to prevent CANS/ RSI and stay focussed [5]. You could install WorkPace that you can install for free through the WUR. The program will allow you to determine the ‘strictness’ and after how many minutes you would like to have a microbreak. Another option would be to simply set a timer on your phone.

Besides working with a schedule, it can help to establish a dedicated workspace. It could be very tempting to watch lectures from your bed but it will help your productivity to get behind your desk. Dedicate this one space for getting things done and leave behind all your work-related worries once you leave. This might be easier said than done. But if you decide that the day is done at 17.30h, then switch off your laptop and clear your mind in a different space than where you work. You could also meditate to clear your mind with the help of apps (IOS: Balance, Headspace, Calm – Android: Zen, Aura, Shine), YouTube videos or online classes.

While working remove distractions, bring in daylight and greenify your workplace to improve your concentration and motivation [6]. Put your phone somewhere out of reach so you are not too easily tempted to scroll through social media. Another option could be to install the Forest App, which lets you plant a tree that will grow while you focus.

Move your desk near the window since natural light will not only increase your productivity but staring into the distance once in a while will also reduce stress and help you prevent eye strain [7]. Moreover, when the sun is out and shining on your desk, it will motivate you to go outside during a break to get some fresh air. 
Another way to upgrade your home office is by adding plants. It does not seal the deal like going outside does, but it boosts your productivity, reduces stress and cleans the air [8]. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that plants could increase productivity and creativity with 15% [9].

Source: webMD
Source: Bloomberg.com

Physical issues

We have to take care of our mind and body. We sometimes tend to sit behind the same desk the entire day with a slumped back, troubled eyesight and joints that do not move. Besides taking breaks that are beneficial mentally and physically, it is also important to have the right equipment. You could invest in office equipment that will help your posture and prevent neck and back pains, and issues that are related to CANS/ RSI. Think about a standing desk or adjustable office chairs that can adapt to your height and comfort. If you are not ready for such an investment you can go for smaller adaptations that will help you work more comfortably from home. Think about installing an extra screen and/or keyboard, using a laptop booster or an ergonomic mouse. 

Some equipment can be purchased with a discount from the WUR shop. However, it is a better and more sustainable option to first see whether there are any good second hand alternatives for sale. You could roam around the Wageningen Student Plaza group on Facebook, or check websites that specialize in second hand furniture such as albeka.nl and desko.nl.

In addition to the right equipment it is important to keep your body moving. Sitting for too long has a negative effect on your blood circulation which could result in a less sharp brain and back issues among other problems [10]. Every break you take is a good moment to get up and walk and stretch for a bit. You could try to incorporate exercise in your daily schedule varying from 30 minute online classes to an hour walking outdoors. De Bongerd offers online classes that you can attend with a sports subscription, or you could do literally anything else. In regard to CANS/ RSI you could follow yoga classes that target those problematic areas (yoga instructions, yoga YouTube video).

Last but not least, be kind to yourself. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet, get a goodnight sleep and drink enough water. After all, working from home takes its toll on almost everyone so don’t pressure yourself too much and don’t hesitate to reward yourself every so often. You deserve it!

By Sarah van Kooten

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