Calm Living and Working in the New Hybrid Environment

Olga Trusova
Stanford d.school
Published in
4 min readJan 27, 2023

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At the start of the pandemic, I decided that it was time to write my first book on what it means to have calm living and working in the new hybrid environment. All of us are now facing additional challenges that emerged during this time, such as maintaining productivity and creativity while managing compounding stresses and demands that come with remote/in-person work. Simple, intentional changes to any environment can have a profound impact on your calm and well-being at home and at work.

After practicing design and innovation for over a decade, and teaching design thinking workshops and webinars to thousands of people, I knew it was time to put everything I knew together in a book, so that people could have their very own design handbook at home for creating spaces that offer peace and clarity (even amid chaos), enable your mind to flow, and give you room to learn and grow effortlessly. Calm Living is a guide to making simple design changes to feel more inspired, clear, and energetic.

Publisher: Chronicle Books

So, what is calm?

Being calm has been described as being peaceful, quiet, and free from disturbance. When your mind is free and relaxed, rather than feeling anger or anxiety, it allows for greater clarity, a tranquility of sorts. More poetically, a calm sea or a lack of wind represents a certain freedom from rough motion — stillness, serenity. This is the feeling I want you to create in your space to nurture your body, mind, and soul.

Are there areas of your home that make you feel the opposite of calm — uncomfortable or stressed? Or maybe there is a room that makes you involuntarily smile when you walk into it. You may not even be able to place your finger on why, but some areas feel out of balance while others exude peace and tranquility. Choosing an area that gives you positive energy is critical to creating a space for resetting. To understand how you react to different areas, I recommend you take an energy inventory by moving around your home and noting which areas give you energy and which drain you.

Move through your space with sticky notes and a marker. Notice how you feel in each room, nook, or part of your dwelling. Write a plus on a sticky note if a space feels energy-giving or a minus if it is energy-draining. Rely on your initial gut feeling; don’t overthink this. Assess spaces, furniture, or objects with notes. You can also use different colors to color-code: green or yellow for positive vibes and red or purple for negative.

Your goal is to pay attention to emotional details and note the unintentional choices you are already making in your home. For example, we all have our favorite place to sit. In our house, it’s the office couch, and while I tried to make our living room comfortable and inviting with a grand sofa, everyone in our household, for some reason, still gravitates toward the office.

Next, brainstorm at least three ways to decrease the drain or increase the energy by writing each idea down on a sticky note and putting it in that area. Get out of the building to get new ideas! Get inspired before you brainstorm by conducting analogous research in spaces you like to visit and work at outside of your home. In your notebook, make a list of the top ten energy-giving activities and identify various environments where those actions or behaviors are typically exhibited.

If you feel more creative while writing in a coffee shop, start thinking about what makes that environment conducive to creativity. Go there and notice what makes that space supportive of the behaviors you want your space to encourage — such as having your favorite beverage, working alone together, or being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the café. Take notes in your notebook, or photos and videos on your phone, to fuel your brain-storming. Borrow what works there and make it happen in your own space, even if it’s a small change, such as buying a fancy espresso maker.

Calm Living is rooted in design thinking and the content inspired by my many years of experience as a designer. After graduating from the Stanford design school, I became a design consultant for Fortune 500 companies, and built centers for innovation and creativity around the world. I’ve studied how different environments, cultures, norms, and rituals foster deliberation and calm. My conclusion is that there is no single aesthetic of calm, but there are underlying principles that can empower anyone to create spaces that bring out the best in themselves and others. It isn’t about sparse white rooms where everything is in its place; it is about filling your space with intention. Calm is not static.

(Excerpted from CALM LIVING: Simple Design Transformations to Fill Your Spaces with Tranquility by Olga Trusova, on pre-sale now from Chronicle Books.)

Olga Trusova is a designer, design consultant, and teacher originally from Ukraine. She founded the design strategy consultancy Bluefig and the lifestyle company Airis Mer, and has taught design thinking at Stanford University, California College of the Arts, and General Assembly. She has collaborated with a range of major organizations on design strategy, including Nordstrom, Starbucks, JetBlue, IDEO, SFMOMA, and Kaiser Permanente. She is based in San Francisco, California.

Follow Airis Mer for design inspiration for calm living and working.

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