Some hybrid version of working from home (WFH) and working in the office will be part of our next normal. This requires a re-examination of how we structure work to benefit our well-being. Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment. Traditionally, it has focused on modifying the structural system of work to suit the individual. A 2019 Gallup study of 7,500 full-time workers found that 23% reported regularly feeling burned out at work. During the Covid-19 quarantine, we have all had to adapt to new ways of working. Since 2020, the root cause of burnout is a lack of distinction between work and personal life.
It is important that we design healthy habits, integrated into our work, that ensure well-being. The ergonomics for today should factor in the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of the person. Here are three ways to design your work to fit all dimensions of you.
1. Your Furniture Really Matters.
Yes, it's still important to consider the physical equipment of a 21st century workstation. Invest in an ergonomic chair with good back support and adjustable armrests. Also make sure to adjust the lighting to avoid computer eye strain. Speaking of eye strain, investing in glasses that are sensitive to blue light can significantly reduce eye strain.
2. Hack Your Brain.
How we feel in our environment is key to how well or poorly we produce. Thus, factor in the five senses and your emotions into the design of space and work experiences. Retailers, restaurants, and hotels do this on a regular basis. There's a reason why Ikea smells of home baked cinnamon bread, and that the W hotel pipes lounge music through the elevator and lobby sound systems.You can also catalyze certain feelings to get you in the mood to work by modulating temperature, smell, and sound. On a recent Clubhouse conversation I led about creativity, one designer shared how she lights a candle, plays soft music, and drinks a cup of cappuccino to get her brain in the right state of mind. Do not underestimate these hacks.
3. Embrace the Pause.
Get away from your desk, get up, and take regular breaks. Make sure you move around. Even if it's limited to a small circle inside your apartment, that's fine. Even better if you can walk for as short as 5 minutes, or as long as 30 minutes. Write in sprints, ranging from 12 to 30 minutes at a time. Make sure to turn off all notifications and beeps. Reward yourself with a glass of water or a walk around the block at the end. Just as intermittent physical activity is effective, time-outs ensure that we give our brains the recovery time they need for deep, focused work.
As a result of these resets, you'll experience a surge of creativity while increasing your resilience to insulate your brain fog and avoid burnout.