Well folks, we are practically one year into the pandemic. This means that many of us have spent the past year at home: studying and working at a workstation which may or may not have been cobbled together the second week of March 2020. Our desks which used to serve as a place to do course readings and write essays in the ‘before times’ have now evolved into an area where many of us spend the majority of our days. Given this, and given the fact that we are in the dead of winter, many of us may be feeling drained as we sit at our desks day in, day out, hoping for a change. Whilst the return to ‘normal’ is likely still a little ways away, there are several easy–and affordable–ways to brighten up your desk and create a space which is not only functional, but happy and warm as well. My fool-proof formula is as follows:
Step 1: Proper Equipment
Proper work equipment can make all the difference not only in our ability to be productive, but to the health of our bodies as well. Sitting hunched over your laptop typing on a tiny keyboard and scrolling on a trackpad for hours on end can very quickly cause back and neck pain, as well as headaches. No, I don’t mean go and purchase a new and expensive computer, a desktop monitor, and the like. Instead, assess what your needs are and look for affordable solutions. For me, this means a laptop riser to bring my computer screen to eye level, a wireless keyboard, and a cordless mouse. When you are able to work properly without pain, you are well on your way to creating a workspace you don’t dread.
Step 2: A Desk Lamp (Your Eyes Will Thank You Later!)
No matter how well lit your workspace seems, or how much natural light you have, I cannot recommend a desk lamp more. I spent my first 2 years of University without one, and I simply do not know how I managed for so long. Not only will this make it easier to actually see what you are reading or working on, but I have found that it helps to mimic the summer sun during this particularly gloomy time of year. A good desk lamp certainly isn’t a replacement for a light therapy lamp, but any little bit helps.
Step 3: A Few Plants
If you know me, you likely know that I’m a bit of a crazy plant lady. I have 28 plants in my apartment, 13 of which live in various areas of my office. And whilst you certainly do not need to go to the level that I have, a study done in 2014 found that “plants in the office significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality” (University of Exeter). That is to say that having a plant or two on your desk or bookshelf may not only contribute to productivity, but happiness as well. Green thumb or not, there are many easy plants out there to get you started, and many amazing local plant shops in the city! Find some of my favorite plants HERE.
Step 4: Aromatherapy
I am someone who loves burning candles and diffusing essential oils to create a relaxing atmosphere. This also applies to my office! You can regularly find me burning different candles, diffusing oils, or even using roll on oils. I find that this helps to create a cozy and calm environment for myself, thus helping me focus. Depending on what I need in a given day, I may choose something relaxing, such as lavender, something energizing and mood boosting, such as citrus, or just something that smells nice. I swear by Saje oils in my diffusers at home, particularly their Quick Study Oil in both roller and diffused format, which is designed to help you focus and concentrate.
Step 5: Something Cozy
Having worked in a shared office environment prior to the pandemic, I quickly learned that having something cozy at your workspace is invaluable, as it not only keeps you warm on chilly days, but helps you to settle in and focus on your work, rather than the temperature of your workstation. For me, someone who is perpetually cold, I keep a large blanket scarf folded and draped over the back of my chair, but a comfy sweater or cardigan would also work great here. Essentially, the intention behind this is to avoid losing focus when you inevitably need to get up and grab a sweater, as well as to create a cozy space for yourself to accomplish work.
Step 6: Small Things That Spark Joy
Last but certainly not least, to truly make your workspace a welcoming and happy environment, be sure to incorporate a few small knick-knacks which spark joy. Whilst I generally try to avoid too many things on the top of my desk to avoid clutter, it is so important for me to be able to glance over from my millionth Zoom call and look at something that puts a smile on my face. On my desk, I have a photo of my twin sister and I, a Ruth Bader Ginsburg figure, and a candle with the Bernie Sanders mittens meme on the label. These items are totally random, and serve no real purpose other than to pull me back to reality after a particularly long day. So go ahead and liven up your space with art and accessories that put a smile on your face!
*If you have pets in your home, be sure to research which scents and plants are safe for them to be around. It’s important that we keep our furry companions happy and safe as well!*
University of Exeter. “Why plants in the office make us more productive.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140901090735.htm.