Nov 12, 2020
I’ve just passed the six month-anniversary of working from home. I sense the internet’s collective sigh or shudder, depending on your viewpoint. And let’s face it, our individual circumstances can vary enormously. One of my colleagues is in a one bedroom apartment with her partner and two yappy dogs with the only reprieve: A window facing a brick-wall. In contrast, by day I have the run of my four bedroom house with a dedicated-office and a front and backyard to give me both space and serenity. Residence aside, there are a few things we can all do to improve our new home offices and working spaces to make them physically calming and energising.
If you live in a high-density apartment block, especially in the CBD, you might feel disconnected from nature, especially if you’re spending more time working from home. But fear not, there are easy tweaks to bring the outside, in. To decrease your stress levels and increase your focus, consider the concept of biophilia, which comes from the Greek words ‘bios’ (life) and ‘filia’ (love/friendship).
A report distributed by Planet Ark’s Make It Wood campaign highlights the relationship between work performance and increased wellbeing fostered by natural elements—like plants, natural light and air, water features, views and wooden surfaces.
Biophilic design drives feelings of satisfaction, creativity and home or workplace wellbeing, due to the strong incorporation of nature into our increasingly indoor lives. I made some conscious decisions about improving my nature-connected interior design with some of my choices of furniture and furnishings in the room I now call my office, my large wooden desk, for instance. Facing this desk outwards, into my front yard (rather than inwards) was also a crucial decision. I love looking out into trees during the day.
Before I’d set-up my home office, my crude workstation was the kitchen table. I found this to be quite intrusive outside of the traditional 9-5. My boss may be delighted with this, but I also found myself flipping open the laptop because it was always within sight. One immediate remedy, and one I recommend, is to pack away the ‘work-station’ at least on weekends. I found that this approach let me immediately separate work life and home life, something that can be hard to do when working from home.
The indoor plant trend which ushered in an obligatory Ficus lyrata, or Fiddle Leaf Fig into 72 per cent of Australian households and cafes (a made up number, but entirely plausible) definitely helps with our biophilia. I’ve got lots of indoor plants, mostly cacti and succulents, even though my friend Pete Tran tells me with certainty that cacti bring bad feng shui if placed in living rooms, bedrooms or at the entrance. I find that columnar cacti suit my minimalistic tastes (such as Euphorbia ammak which grows tall and straight and then branches out). Despite endless interior design photoshoots showing cacti in dimly-lit bedrooms, they do love really naturally sunny areas. You’ll find cacti begin to grow thinly, a process named etiolation, when deprived of sufficient light.
Depending on how well developed your green thumb is, you might wish to embrace indoor plants that need a little more care, like Azaleas or the Zebra plant. Friends who might be reading: please never bring me an orchid!
But there are even low-maintenance options even for you plant-killers out there; look into the so-called snake plant or Mother-In-Law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) or the peace lily (Spathiphyllum), both of which are very forgiving and tolerate serious neglect. Peace Lily tip: if it ever looks droopy, just add water!
Perhaps the best thing about plants comes from year 7 biology. Through photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and water and convert it into oxygen. Given they help oxygenate our workspaces, that maybe the best incentive to keep our green house-guests thriving.
The easiest way to elevate your interior design is with wooden furniture. Whether its light-coloured wood, or rich darker hues, wood instantly adds charm while evoking the sense of the natural world. And wood looks good in any interior design style, whether you favour the ultra-modern look or prefer that rustic feel.
Planet Ark ambassador and regular Make It Wood contributor James Treble tells us, “Timber furniture creates a natural material for our eyes to rest on, and a timber desktop allows us to look away from manufactured surfaces like keyboards and screens.”
Given that we have an affinity with timber and natural surfaces, it isn’t a big ask to bring elements of nature into our homes and our new work-spaces. Peter Maddison, host of Grand Designs Australia and my favourite architect (aside from my father-in-law, another Peter) suggests that incorporating sustainable timber products around the home is not necessarily expensive.
I’ll give the final word on the topic to Peter, from a great article he penned for Make It Wood;
“Some people may worry about the extra expense of wood, but it’s a long-term investment. It’s a bit like when you put a solar PV system in your home—it’s going to take a few years before it pays for itself. Likewise, the biophilic design principles will pay off in increasingly significant ways in terms of improved wellbeing, reduced sick days, and increased productivity (and) if you’re looking at a home situation, it could be a more productive home.”
Ormond College – Masters Office
Design: Nest Architects
Carbon Positive House