Where I Work: Athina, an interior designer working from her flat in lockdown

Where I Work is our mini series looking at the reality of working from home – as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown has made remote working the norm.

We’ve explored home offices on houseboats and met a teacher making grammar-themed rap videos.

Today we’re chatting to Athina Bluff, 28, who’s the founder of Topology Interiors.

She used to get business done from a coworking space, but since the pandemic hit has been working from the London flat she shares with her boyfriend, Theo, and their rescue dog, Sasha.

Here’s how she’s handling working in lockdown.

Hey, Athina! Has the pandemic changed how you work?

Coronavirus has changed a lot.

We were working in a community co-working space in Clerkenwell Green for the last year which we absolutely love – it’s filled with plants, colourful decor and everyone there is super friendly.

Now the other team members and I are now working from home, which although is still possible, means things get done a lot slower.

We’re not around each other to quickly ask questions, or bounce ideas off one another.

Additionally, we are unable to do site visits with clients and we’ve had to postpone workshops that were sold out.

Now I’m working from home, I’m sharing a small office space with my partner in a modest-sized London flat, so it’s quite a shock to the system.

Talk us through your working space.

I’ll always ensure I have something on my desk that keeps me happy, be it a scented candle, a photo frame, or a plant. There’s a lot of research around the benefits of having the presence of nature around you when you work, so plants are especially great. There’s a real trend for ‘biophillic’ design in offices so why not try this at home? They also detoxify the air – win win.

Another tip I like is to have small jug filled with water on my desk as the sight of water is not only proven to calm us down (just what we need amongst corona chaos) but also promotes us keeping hydrated throughout the day.

Equipment wise, I’ll always have my architectural ruler, fabric samples and tape measure close to hand!

Have you found working from home tough?

There’s a few challenges for me – namely feeling claustrophobic and often itching to be in a place with a bit more buzz. As much as our London pad is lovely, it should be the place where you come home and relax in. Not wake up in, work in, go to bed in.

The other thing I find tricky is that now my partner is working from home too, we both like listening to very different things! A very minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but I need something calming and relaxing like a podcast, whilst he’s a more upbeat, high tempo kind of music guy, which stresses me out.

Lastly, it’s also much harder to manage a team remotely and keep other team members positive if you’re not around to chat to each other throughout the day, or have that after-work drink with.

What are your personal rules for getting stuff done while working from home?

There are so many things I do! Firstly, I don’t just roll out of bed and head to my desk still in pjs. I’ll make a point of getting dressed, including shoes (this is important) and once the coffee is brewed I’ll then begin work.

I’ll also try to do something for around 30 mins – to an hour before starting working from home, such as a jog, a dog walk, yoga or reading – it starts the day right and aids a more productive day.

Lastly, I schedule time for email responding, rather than replying as they come in – this is a game-changer as you get so much more done. I’m a person who loves to tick off a to-do list daily, so this helps me finish that ever-growing list of things to do.

What advice do you have for people working from home in lockdown?

Try to create a workspace that’s filled with light – if a space is well lit, we can read and study faster by up to 18% and it can improve our mental health and overall wellbeing. Whether this means positioning your desk near to a window, adding more table/ floor lamps or putting a mirror opposite a window to increase light reflection around a room. It’s the key to staying happy and focused.

Addtionally, unless we’re forced to strict quarantine measures, try to get some fresh air or exercise before you start work or during your lunch break – even if it’s just a 20-minute walk, it helps to clear your head and can aid productivity.

Do you have a home-working space you fancy sharing? To get involved in Where I Work, email [email protected]

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