The spaces in which we work have the ability to impact our mood and productivity significantly. Because we all work so differently, there is no one way to curate a workspace to be the most beneficial, but there are actions we can take to make sure that our work spaces are individualized, efficient, and allow us to be our most productive. When schools shifted to be remote in March, and then again as students and parents geared up for a (primarily) remote fall term, there was a steady stream of articles, blogs, and posts regarding “creating the perfect workspace” for your student. Although some of the work spaces are pristine and Pinterest-worthy, a designated work station in your student’s room is just one of many options. And, it may not be the right option for you or your student! Some of us work better alone, while others work best around others. In a time of remote work and learning, finding the right workspace can be a difference between passing and failing a class.
Many students may actually benefit from working around others. It can be helpful for these students to see others also at work, as this can help them feel more focused and less isolated. For many students, the idea that they’re missing out on events happening around them leads to more distraction. Finding a separate but central place for these students to work is important, as it allows them to have a work space where they can concentrate while also being held accountable and knowing they are not “missing out.” This space could be the dining room table, a desk set up in the living room, or perhaps a desk in an office with another focused worker.
Students easily distracted by auditory and visual stimuli may benefit from a more isolated environment. However, it can be helpful to find a space that is still somewhat central. This allows the student to work in a quiet space with limited distractions while making it easy for a parent to check in. Whether a student works better alone or around others, creating a space that is central but separate can be a helpful strategy in promoting focus and productivity.
Other environmental factors such as lighting, neatness or messiness, and comfort level of a space can all also significantly impact our ability to focus. If possible, have your student set up their work area in a bright and naturally lit space. Not only does this improve the student’s mood, but the light will also help them stay more alert and awake. Similarly, a messy work space can both affect mood and ability to stay focused. Have your student re-organize their space at the end of each day; this allows them to come to their desk in the morning, able to begin their day in a clean and focused environment. It’s also important to make sure that your student is comfortable in their work space and that they have everything they might need to do their work. This eliminates time spent unnecessarily situating themselves in the space or searching for materials they need in order to complete their tasks. However, a space that is too comfortable can be detrimental as it can feel too casual and lead to distractions like watching TV or constantly checking social media.
When a student’s work space is outside of their room, this “climate control” is more achievable and allows for more intervention. When a student is working behind their closed door in their bedroom, it’s harder for parents to hold them accountable and check in since students feel like parents are prying and invading their space. A central workspace also ensures that students won’t work from their beds. This can hinder productivity since we associate our beds with rest, relaxation, and sleep!
No matter how you and your student decide to curate their work environment, remember to take breaks throughout the day that involve leaving the work space to move and refresh. This will improve your student’s focus and prevent the space from becoming stale. Knowing how your student works is the most important piece of information when setting up a work environment for them. It may take trial and error, and it may require a frank conversation about study habits and acknowledging your student’s major distractions. Setting up a space that works well for your student can make all the difference, and taking the time to figure out what works best for your student will greatly benefit them in their academic endeavors.