Every job has its challenges, but for people who work in public services and mental health- your job is especially draining, and you need to be in a restorative environment. If you are lucky enough to have your own office, then this article is for you. Your office is your retreat. A place where you can recalibrate, decompress and focus. You want to open the door and breathe a sigh of relief, not feel overwhelmed.
1. Organize. Whether it is having a pin up/bulletin board to post important reminders or having a tray of “to-do” items- get things off your work surface and put neatly into zones.
2. Speaking of bulletin boards- have 2 or 3 personal items- a picture of your family, a postcard from a friend or a piece of artwork your child made for you. But don’t overdo it. You want to surround yourself with items that reinforce your work- stay focused and positive. If you are surrounded with pictures of you on vacation and your family, your mind will wander and you will start to think about them, the time you need off and suddenly you are making grocery lists and freaking out that you are an out-of-touch mom. Put your work hat on and post the quotes you love, the funny cartoons that make you laugh, the business card of someone you need to call and a brochure of a recent lecture you went to.
3. Just because you don’t need to surround yourself with photo albums doesn’t mean you can’t personalize and have things that feel like “you.” Splurge on some nice pens, have a fun pencil holder and drink out of a coffee cup that makes you smile. I always recommend having a blanket in case the office gets cold and a fan you can plug in, if you get too hot. Temperature control is a huge factor in comfort.
4. Light. Overhead fluorescent lights can be migraine inducing and just too much. Get a task light for your desk and if you have the space, a lamp in the corner to provide a softer, more ambient light.
5. Nice guest chairs with arms. If you want people to confide in you or feel like they can relax, you need comfortable chairs and having arms allows them to do something with their hands.
6. A quality task chair for you! You need an ergonomic chair that will be comfortable and can be adjusted into a position that best suits you.
7. Color has a strong power. It can stimulate, it can relax, it can feel cold. You want your space to be restorative- so go with light, soft shades of color- blue and green are always good choices as they emulate nature and that’s naturally calming. However, a soft blush pink can be equally as calming and the subtlety can be a nice change.
8. Plants. Something about nature just makes us feel good. It makes our surroundings feel less sterile. Even if they are faux, plants add life. These thrive in lower office light.
9. Sound. The sound of rain, white noise or ocean waves can be incredibly soothing. Sometimes just having light classical musical playing in the background during a meeting can be nice and good for privacy.
10. Art: Put it up! Not the generic office prints you see in dentist offices but photographs of nature, art on canvas and prints of things that make you happy. The only real thing to avoid is highly abstract art in environments where you are counseling people. It leaves too much up to the imagination and can have a negative impact.
It's your office and although there are typically constraints on what you can or can't do, these are some suggestions to help personalize and make your work space a mental retreat after a day of home visits or stressful meetings. And who knows? Maybe it will start a wave effect and everyone will want a well-designed zen office. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to help make your whole office a place where people want to work.