Annie Leeson talks about why the right working environment is key to productivity.
Annie Leeson is co-founder of Leesman Index, which measures how the environments an employee works from impact their ability to do their job. She is also CEO and Co-Founder at Agricarbon and CEO & Co-Founder at Agricarbon, having previously been an innovation strategist and consultant.
She spoke at a recent European Smart Work Network event about the importance of having the right working environment to achieve maximum output and effectiveness and about her own work setting. Leeson lives in Wales where she has surrounded herself with nature, which she says is “a giant stress sponge”. Her office is down a garden path. She says she has “a short beautiful commute” so that she can disconnect from work when she is at home. “I can feel I am in a work zone and I also have the ability to shed that,” she states, adding that having a different location for home and work is important.
It’s also important to set that up nicely with a good internet connection and all the utilities she needs so that she can focus totally on her work. Her office is an ex-display model garden office. She has a whiteboard and a mobile rigged up so she can film what she is writing on the whiteboard.
She also spoke of the importance of switching off from work totally when she is not working. She switches off email notifications on her phone and tries to ensure she gets at least one or two days off a week when she is doing no work. When she is writing she works on a device with no apps or email notifications so she has no excuses to procrastinate. Research suggests that once focus is broken it can take significant time to get back in the zone.
Leeson also thinks carefully about the visuals when she is on internet calls to create what she calls a “cosy fireplace setting” that makes for a relaxed and productive atmosphere. She says she prefers everyone to be either online or in person in meetings because she thinks hybrid meetings are much harder to get right. In some online meetings she says there needs to be time added on for less formal conversations to replicate the kind of talk people get in person over lunch.
She is also a big fan of picking up the phone spontaneously every now and again and she uses the call function on zoom or teams to do so. “It takes out the regimented feel of scheduled zoom calls,” she says. “It creates a more natural, human connection.”
Another big stress reliever is pets. Leeson takes breaks to walk her dogs and also has several rituals such as chopping wood which she says keep her grounded and energised. “We are hard wired to feel good when we are near elemental human needs,” she says.