Back to Work

category_diary80BACK TO WORK – The school term has well and truly started. Instead of buying new pencils and a satchel, I’ve redecorated my office. I’m lucky enough to write at home and have my own room: where you work has an enormous effect on your productivity and creativity.Office orchid

These days the trend is towards open-plan offices but research shows that they have an adverse impact on your output. It sounds obvious, but the best office is one where you are physically and psychologically comfortable and which functions well for all the tasks you’re assigned. Dr Craig Knight, a psychologist from the University of Exeter, says that designing your own workspace can increase health, happiness and productivity. He adds that plants boost creativity by 45% and productivity by 38%. Fortunately, I love plants!

Office plants

I like a minimal, well-organised space so that I can think, I won’t be distracted and I can find things if I need to! My office is almost entirely white but with splashes of colour and beautiful wood. My desk, floor and skirting boards are ethically-sourced oak and my cupboard is made out of white-washed driftwood. A large desk allows me either to concentrate on writing at my computer without heaps of clutter or to spread out my plot notes or the timeline of my novel.


I keep my reference books next to me, as well as shelf of all the books I’ve had published (eight so far, plus a couple of encyclopedias I’ve contributed to!).

Lots of drawers allow me to file things away so I don’t get side-tracked. A cosy sofa is the perfect place to curl up and proof-read – and doubles as a train/plane/imaginary continent when my daughter is in here with me.The cushions are made from traditional Mola embroidery, which a Kuna tribe from Panama gave me when I stayed with them.

Office JasmineSmell can hugely effect our working performance via the emotion and learning centres in the limbic region of the brain. Ruth Mastenbroek led a team from the British Society of Perfumers to create a scent, called Ascent, that’s designed to boost brain activity. It has notes of peppermint for concentration and citrus for its uplifting power. I burn Bay & Rosemary by St Eval, as it’s fresh and invigorating, and their Sandalwood candle to wind down in the evening.Office pictures

I love art but I want the pictures in my office to be reflective, calm and inspiring and since I’m obsessed with flowers, I’ve gone for a modern, botanic art feel. The prints (on the left) are by the enormously talented Hannah McVicar, daughter of herb grower, Jekka McVicar. My brother, Patrick O’Connell, is a brilliant photographer so I’ve printed some of his photos of my daughter too.

I always make sure I have great coffee – I love Extract, a fairtrade, ethical roaster based near me – to get me going in the morning – but I often escape to cafes to work too since my office doubles as a guest bedroom-cum-laundry – and there is never any cake.

Where do you work best?

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