Creating a work sanctuary

I adore the word sanctuary or maybe it’s just the thought of what it represents. It makes me feel warm and safe and cared for. I believe a certain kind of freedom lives in that idea – not all that different from the kind of liberty that takes up residence in one’s own mind. It is a place to be oneself, to flourish and to find peace.  A place you give yourself permission to live outside of the expectations of others.

Often, our homes are thought of as our sanctuaries. But the idea of it absolutely applies to our work environment too. While we all can’t spend our professional days in a spa-like den or a fairytale forest like Muir Woods (definitely my slice of heaven), we can positively sway our senses with stimuli that benefit our cognitive processes and encourage creativity – and all very specific to each of our needs and the kind of work we’re doing.

While I know there are very scientific findings on what scents boost productivity (try cinnamon and peppermint), what colors make you feel some type of way (yellow if you’re in the creative field like we are), how what you see can adjust frame of mind (river versus interstate), etc., this is really more of an inspiration piece on the elements to keep in mind as you design your own personal work sanctuary.  

The mess around And by that, I mean clutter that sucks energy right out of you the minute you walk into your space. I’m certainly not a neat freak, but having an organized workspace calms me. Be sure and have designated (best is out-of-sight) areas for things that matter – supplies, files, notes, charging cables, etc. Honestly, I personally try to keep a mostly digital footprint. If paper isn’t needed, then I’m all for it. Even the best intentions can sometimes go awry though, so just take time each week to refresh your space and keep the mess at bay.

Do you see what I see? I’m all about surrounding myself with an environment that soothes the soul and feeds the spirit. For me, color is a major player in that conversation. I enjoy neutral palettes with pops of bold color – my go-to these days is gray with steel blue and metallic tones. It creates a relaxing feel for me no matter what I’m working on. Photos of my family definitely help personalize my spaces. Fresh flowers are a huge spirit-lifter for me too. (I typically go white or blue with peonies or hydrangea.) And nature is divine, so I try to bring it “inside” when I can. I want to see trees, mountains, water, rain, grass – whatever helps me feel closer to Mother Nature. So doors and windows are a must when possible. Artwork is very personal to me, and I want to glance at things that inspire.  

I can see clearly now Light is a major mood-setter for sure. Fluorescent makes me feel like a robot and hurts my eyes. For me, the winning formula is a mix of natural light and lovely lamplight. Too much sun, and it’s too bright. Too much lamplight makes me feel like I’m at a romantic restaurant. But together, I’m in business. As writers, mood is important as we craft our stories. What kind of lighting mood works for you?

Is that the sound of silence? I sure hope not. Silence isn’t my cup of tea. EVER. It makes me nervous. Even when I’m sleeping, I want the lulling sound of a fan. So when working, my Pandora channels keep me rolling. I have one for each kind of work mood. It’s more than what’s in your headphones though. Sound can include what else is going on in your office space or nearby. Are you always distracted by water cooler chat or other meetings going on? If you share space, be sure and take advantage (if possible) of quiet spaces to do intensive work that requires more focus. At OPR, we have a room just for this, which we call our bat cave. Maybe ambient noise helps you do your job, staves off boredom and inspires? If so, put yourself into the thick of things if you have a choice.  


Relax! Is your body working overtime in that chair? If you’re spending about eight hours a day in a very tight environment, make sure it at least keeps you comfortable. For some, that just might mean a quality chair that doesn’t make your bones ache. An exercise ball could be a great option too if you’re into that. Comfort is key. Make yourself at home and do your body a favor. Your mind will thank you.

Ch-ch-changes Spice of life, baby. That’s what I’m after. One of the best ways that I create sanctuary is to create diverse workspace options (lots of sanctuaries to choose from!). Sometimes my desk is just fine. Sometimes my home space is much better. And there are many times that I seek refuge at Spring Creek Ranch, where I’m in a nature-rich environment much different than my other work areas. Even if you can’t get away far from your official desk/office, I’m sure there are areas that you can take advantage of – patios, conference rooms, lounges, etc. Consider it little work vacations throughout the day.