There are pros and cons to working from home. No commute, but also less interaction with people. Saving money on expensive coffees is good, but you don’t get to experience those amazing pastries from that place near the office. There are less distractions but it can be hard to switch off. So, what does science say about the perfect home work situation? You can check out a deep dive at the Work in Progress blog,but we want to know what you think about; working in solitude, your environment and collaborative work.
The layout of an office is a science
Solitude or isolation?
A lot of us are working at home on our own. Even if we live with others, they might be working from home as well, and there might even be some kids running around but for the majority of us, we are working‘alone’ for the majority of the day.
There’s evidence as to what social deprivation does to us over time and it’s not great. We’re doing it for a good reason at the moment, but it is important to remember that isolation can cause stresses of all different kinds—agitation, confusion, and depression. It can shrink the part of the brain responsible for making memories, and grow the part responsible for fear and anxiety. While that sounds scary, there’s plenty that can be done to keep social, while working from home.
We know it’s easy to connect with colleagues on work things, with Dropbox Paper, Zoom meetings, Slack and everything else, but do you chat with our colleagues casually anymore?(We took a look at some of the best reasons to bring back a casual chat here.)
Try to incorporate a social element to your daily or weekly calendar in to your home office, to help you actively plan(and follow through with) social catch ups with your friends from the office. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal, but something small just a few times a week can stave away that feeling of isolation while working from home.
There are definitely some things we miss about the office, but one of the things you might not have considered is the office plants. They aren’t just to fill dead space or impress clients, it turns out.“Psychologists have seen that people perform better as teams… if they’re surrounded by houseplants,” she journalist Florence Williams.“Nature allows us to access feelings of communitarianism and behave in pro-social ways.” That’s right, plants can encourage compassion toward your distributed teammates, your community, and beyond.
Similarly, natural light isn’t just to show off how nice your office is, a more natural environment has a whole array of positive effects on people.“For instance, natural daylight is like 10 to 100 times brighter than artificial daylight and affects our circadian rhythms.” So along with logging those precious walks in the morning to regulate your sleep cycles, orient your desk closer to a window.“Look outside it when you remember or just add a‘Look up!’ reminder to your phone. These moments are a kind of micro-restoration for your brain and seem to boost creativity and productivity.”
“In nature, you feel more connected to the world around you, but you also feel more connected to other people, which it not so intuitive,” she says.“People just feel less lonely when they’re connected to the natural world.”
Plants, check. Natural light(even if it means going outside every now and then), check.
There are a lot of different ways to get collaboration right. Starting off on the right foot, working on inherently collaborative formats, like Dropbox Paper, you can keep in touch with your coworkers in real time, wherever you all are. You can learn all about how to make sure everyone is signed up here.
Of course, if you do something a lot, you want it to be as easy as possible. That’s why Roombas exist, it’s why dishwashers exist and it’s why Dropbox integrations exist. Zoom calls are an integral part of the working from home world, and now it’s as easy as one click to start a call with your team, right from Dropbox. Here’s some tips on how to make the most of Zoom and Dropbox.
Same goes for Slack, the integration with Dropbox means your files are easy to share. You can start a Slack conversation within Dropbox to discuss changes or updates to shared content, and to make it even easier you can see what Dropbox content was shared in Slack from the Dropbox file activity, so it’s simple to see how your team is collaborating.
Collaboration is proving more and more important, with scientific back up that it results in better work being done, for some simple reasons.“There’s more and more to know in the world, and you can only have so much in your head,” says Benjamin Jones, of the Kellogg Management School in Illinois.“So the share of stuff you know as an individual is declining in any field.”
“Pixar designed its headquarters in California with all the bathrooms in the center of the building, and all the food and coffee in the center in an atrium,” Jones says.“They were very intentional about wanting people who are artists and animators, and the coders, and the music people, and the screen writers to be constantly bumping into each other in random ways to spark ideas.”
While we can’t currently bump in to each other at the office, we need to make sure we collaborate in a way that can still spark ideas.
As we said, there are pros and cons to working from home full time, but there’s an opportunity to do some amazing work with others, while keeping sane at home. If you’re finding it hard to keep motivated and keep up good habits at home, we created a cheat sheet to take some of the thinking out of it, and every little helps.
Has your home office set up changed over time? Are you collaborating more or less with your team?