Making the Most of Work from Home: An Interview with My Favorite Space Therapist

Mar. 16, 2020

Sara Garlick Lundberg

[This article was originally published in Sara Garlick Lundberg’s LinkedIn on 03/13/2020]


Joy Stephan spends her days helping people understand how space influences work. She has a background in organizational change management and uses her understanding of human behavior and decision making, along with her experience in real estate, to help employers and landlords understand how space impacts productivity and maximize space for human engagement. Joy is also a longtime friend and a great mind. I turned to her, as I often do during periods of transition, for her thoughts on how to approach work from home (WFH). 


Q: As someone who specializes in helping people utilize space effectively, what’s running through your mind as people shift to WFH?

How space is used is a personal thing. Most people never ask themselves where they will be most productive in a given task, because they never had the flexibility when coming up through the ranks. If anything, widespread WFH will give people a chance to experiment with working in different environments and see how it impacts the way they work. And when they come back, they might be better equipped to integrate some of what they’ve learned back into the office.

Q: What advice do you have for leaders as they manage this hopefully temporary transition with their employees?

Studies show that in the short term, working from home can result in breakthrough levels of productivity. And not only are people diligent about completing necessary day-to-day tasks, but they can be stimulated creatively by the change in atmosphere.

Support your people. Provide coping techniques and increase technology bandwidth and support if needed. Recognize that home life distractions may be a reality, but so are distractions at the office. And if you haven’t done so before, communicate what is expected when people WFH in terms of availability, communication, locale, health updates, etc. so people feel comfortable as they experiment with new ways of working and understand what’s expected.

Q: For those who may be skeptical of the effectiveness of online meetings – whether interviews or team meetings – do you have suggestions?

It comes down to experimentation. One successful tactic with a remote team I led was to collect data in advance of meetings and shape each agenda based on the feedback we collected. It changed the meetings from status updates with lingering ‘what do we do about it’ often a lingering question after 30 minutes, to more action oriented, collaborative troubleshooting and problem solving. We co-created that meeting, starting with conversations about what a meeting would need to accomplish in order to be worthwhile. We discussed the conflicts. The meeting format was adapted and surpassed expectations. The lesson here is not the format we used, but the willingness to experiment and prioritize.

The best thing people can do is abandon the idea that just because it’s unfamiliar, that it will be worse. With an open mindset, new ways to work emerge and lead to a more resilient organization.

Make it fun. Challenge one another to take small risks and share what you learn from the experiments. By all means, if what you’re trying isn’t working, try something else. But you might come away with a new understanding of how you can perform.

Q: What tips do you have for individuals transitioning to WFH? I’ve found, for example, that establishing and adhering to a strict schedule keeps me motivated and feeling accomplished.

Not everyone works the same way. For people who have only worked at a desk, WFH can be a big change. But it’s not necessarily the only way to work. I encourage experimentation; see what works for you.

See how changing your space impacts your work product, or how you communicate. If you tend to be formal, an interesting experiment might be to move from your desk to a more relaxed area like your sofa to see if it has any impact on how you write or talk with people.

Another experiment would be to use voice transcription on your phone. See how differently you communicate in writing compared to spoken word. And then to take it one step further, see if there’s any difference between using vocal transcription when you’re sitting versus when you’re walking around. Experiments like these can shine new light into our understanding of productivity. When you go back to the office, you can come back with a wider range of communication styles.

Q: You’ve spent a good portion of the last decade in co-working spaces or working remotely. What’s worked for you?

I start the workday out of the house. It doesn’t matter where. And it doesn’t have to be for very long. But I start working more quickly when I change environments.

But I started changing environments for different tasks when I worked at a traditional office. Later, I found comparable spaces at home. For example, if I’m going to read an article that’s more than a page, I’ll step away from my desk and move into a more comfortable chair where I like to read. It helps me focus on one task in a comfy chair I sit in when I read or pet my dog. When I’m sitting at a desk I’m more conditioned to pivot from one task to another as needed. By stepping away from the desk, I read the article more quickly and I digest more.

Music is another tool. I change Spotify stations, or turn the music off entirely, to shift my energy throughout the day. Music without words helps me write, but upbeat music before I run a meeting helps to shift gears. And when it’s over, the music I played earlier gets me back on track.



#workfromhome #WFH #coronavirus #nonprofit #realestate #workfromanywhere #homeoffice #maximize

To learn more about Joy and her work, reach out to her at

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Read my previous article, “Good Work, Girls”


[This article was originally published by Sara Garlick Lundberg in LinkedIn on 03/13/2020]