Key habits to increase your productivity and well-being at home.


Scientific Education

How we behave in our spaces will largely determine our productivity: Key habits and implementable strategies to increase your output.

While the flexibility of working from home offers numerous advantages, it also presents challenges for maintaining productivity and work-life balance. In our previous article, we explored how design decisions can help to enhance productivity, but to thrive in any environment, it’s also essential to optimise your behaviour and routine. Now we’ll delve into the science behind productivity and day-to-day practices, from controlling light exposure, to when and how to take breaks, to mindful nourishment, and more. By providing tangible, implementable strategies, we aim to help you boost your productivity and overall well-being when working from home.  

1. Refine your morning routine

The first hours of the morning will inevitably set the tone for the rest of the day. The choices we make in the mornings can enhance our ability to concentrate, discern where to allocate our time most effectively, and consequently boost productivity throughout the day.

  • Meditate: Wharton research from 2019 suggests that meditating for just a few minutes a day can make you more productive, which is a large reason why it’s been used by CEOs for years. According to Professor Shauna Shapiro, the effects of regular meditation on the brain include improved attention, creativity and problem-solving abilities, as well as reductions in stress.
  • Exercise: Choosing to start your day with exercise has also been shown by Basso and Suzuki to lead to neurophysiological changes including improved executive functions, enhanced mood states, and decreased stress levels for minutes to several hours after activity.
  • Cold showers: In a similar vein, those who’s health can tolerate it may benefit from cold exposure, to improve stress resilience and focus – particularly immediately prior to concentrated tasks. A 2016 study of workers who took cold showers every day for 30 days, found an improved level of productivity and an almost 30% reduction in self-reported sick days. Some doctors such as Dr Molly Maloof – author of The Spark Factor – and Dr Andrew Huberman suggest 2-3 minutes a day and no more than 11 minutes per week.
  • Delay caffeine intake to ~1.5-2hrs after waking: This evens out your body’s cortisol level and reduces its rapid caffeine induced spike and fall pattern that lead to buzzing and afternoon crashes respectively.

2. Consciously control light exposure

Our previous article on the critical relationship between light and sleep explores how our exposure to light plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythms, which subsequently influences productivity. Making a conscious effort to spend time outdoors throughout the day, while also reducing artificial light exposure at night are key to supporting cognitive performance and optimal rest at night.

3. Effective nourishment and hydration

Nutrition and hydration play a vital role in cognitive function, energy levels, and overall well-being. For example, one study published in Applied Ergonomics on forest workers showed that as little as a 1% drop in body weight loss of water can decrease productivity (both mental and physical) by 12%. When it comes to diet, it is well understood that keeping blood sugar balanced throughout the day is essential for supporting moods, hunger and focus. A literature review by NASA looking at the effects of blood glucose levels on cognitive performance shows the many ways in which blood sugar can impact productivity and demonstrates that an individual does not need to be hypoglycaemic to experience effects. Even ‘normal’ fluctuations in levels can impact memory performance.

  • Set yourself a hydration challenge: Consider using a water bottle with time markers to track your intake, or recording it in a health app. A 2022 study showed using a smart drinking cup and an app challenge to encourage water intake in a workplace not only increased hydration levels, but also improved blood pressure, leg muscle performance, and emphasis on self-care.
  • Consume electrolytes daily: Drinking mineralised water with electrolytes will enhance productivity in comparison to distilled water. Electrolytes are charged minerals that control water balance andhelp ensure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should, with direct effects on cognitive performance.
  • Balance your meals and snacks for blood sugar regulation: Breaking a fast with a savoury, protein-rich breakfast and constructing meals and snacks with plenty of quality protein and moderate amounts of dietary fats and carbohydrate is important for maintaining good blood glucose control and thus, focus.

4. Implement proven working methods and take regular movement breaks

While choosing the right approach for you is key, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a number of structured work methods can be used to improve daily performance. Too many stimuli in a cluttered environment compete for your attention, while certain sounds can improve output. A study conducted by German Think Tank Next Work Innovation suggests that interruptions to work add 15-24% more time to tasks. Planning, time blocking and break scheduling – particularly for movement – are widely used by many to ensure a healthy and efficient approach to workdays.

Final Thoughts

In summary, optimising productivity while working from home requires a holistic approach that integrates environmental design with personal habits. By 1) refining morning routines,2) controlling light exposure, 3) maintaining proper nutrition and hydration, 4) implementing effective working methods, and 5) incorporating movement, you can significantly enhance productivity beyond that which is informed by the design of the environment. These strategies not only improve focus and performance but also contribute to a healthier work-life balance, which is something we hope for our residents at City Sanctuary.

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