By Jenny Bowers
Happy new year to you all!
This month I am looking at something very ‘concrete’- your workspace.
Over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to see many peoples’ work spaces, either by being in their space or by the window of an online video call. Several times, a discussion that started about wellbeing and stress has included a discussion about the workspace and its impact.
Therefore, to start the year I would like you to cast your reflective eye around your workspace and ask, what does this say about me and my wellbeing?
Pause | Reflect
…now let’s start to collaboratively deconstruct, looking at 6 areas.
- First of all, what light do you get? We all know natural light is important, for our physical health and for our mental health. However quite a few SENCOs or leaders end up in converted cupboards or reclaimed spaces. In effect there is either no light, indirect light or light blocked by blinds! If you have no light or poor indirect light find out what lightbulbs are used in the space and request a natural light giving bulb, which can also be more energy efficient. It may be that a lamp is better than the ceiling lighting. It is possible to have a change. If you have blinds shut all day, think abut why and when natural light can come in.
- Sticking with nature, do you have any real greenery? We all know that being within nature often helps our wellbeing, but it can be tricky to get out into the open. A great office plant is a peace lily, this is because they are very tolerant of irregular watering, of low light AND they are known for cleaning up the air. A huge benefit in schools, particularly ones where getting a good air flow is an issue. If you are thinking about a plant here is a helpful article
- The next thing to consider is comfort. This does matter. Not just in the workplace assessments’ that check screen light and chair posture, but it is also about how hot or cold the space is. It might be about the noise level. For example, are you next to the music room? How much of this you can control is dependent on your situation, but if something is making concentration or focus on your work tricky, you should raise it, along with a potential solution, if you have one.
My reflections: One thing I learnt though about physical comfort was that as a left-handed person I need my set up to be left-handed. This means my mouse sits comfortably in my hand and is not moulded for right hands, and the mouse buttons are the other way round (which can cause hilarity for me when any right hander tried to do anything on my computer if I was logged in). Are your tools fit for your use?
- I also would consider where visitors would sit and how that space would feel with one or two others in. Did we all have good personal space? My office size often led to my headteacher and I swapping rooms!
- Let us now consider personal touches. Do you have a distinctive piece of artwork? A family photo? Knick knacks? There is no right or wrong answer to this, part of this decision is related to comfort, part to whether it is a shared space and part to what you want other people to know or notice about you. I wouldn’t have photos of family as that was private, but I do have a mandala that a student made for me in my second year of being a Senco, it has been in every office space that I have worked in since, and I am looking at it right now! It is a good focus for grounding activities in times of stress and was a reminder of my purpose.
My reflections: One decision I made as a deputy when I left my classroom was that I wanted my favourite books in my office, and some random curiosity items that either I have picked up or people have given to me. It was important though that there was a defined space. Sometimes if something was added, something was also removed It was a space for curiosity Knick knack clutter, but within a clear boundary! The items would help me when I was stressed, in a variety of ways, and my staff members also valued being able to pick them up and ‘play’ with them. And of course, when I had children in with me, they also had access to this shelf.
- Finally, a focus on decluttering. Is your spaced cluttered? Overcrowded? Busy? Does it change, and is it related to your stress levels? A research study in 2011 study Princeton University concluded that a cluttered environment makes it more difficult to focus on a specific task due to a person’s visual cortex being overwhelmed by all the task-irrelevant objects in the room. That study is referenced in this article
There is no right or wrong way to have a desk or workspace, but considering how it is influencing or impacting your wellbeing is a good use of your time. I will leave you with one more article. This may be talking about cleaning and home, but it does reference the positive impact of mindful washing up.
Let me know what shifts in your workspace, after reading this blog. Till next time.
Jenny is passionate about empowering educators to excel. She believes that a culture built on ensuring excellent wellbeing, where coaching and supervision is an entitlement for staff, enabling them to work to the very best of their abilities. This means they will have a good work life balance and good mental and physical health. Jenny is very focussed on her purpose and from the tender age of 3, she knew she wanted to work in education. After, pursuing a degree that had a year at university in the USA and a gap year to experience work in other sectors, this became a reality, with Jenny training as a 3-11 year old specialist. Jenny has taught in different areas in England and in addition to teaching has been DSL, SENCO, deputy head and headteacher. In all these roles, staff wellbeing as been at the heart of Jenny’s approach. She continues to serve in this area through coaching and supervision. You can engage with jenny via Twitter @jennypurplemoon (ask her about the moon image … it is quite a story!)
#TeamADL is a not-for-profit multi-agency team of specialists, committed to developing people, growing organisations and strengthening localities. Find out more at http://www.teamadl.uk