This everyday object may be a game-changer for your productivity

Every office has a token that reminds you of where you are. The off-white colored walls, a dried coffee ring mark on a desk,  a coworker’s shy smile or even the the weekly fantasy football talk every Monday morning; these moments matter.

But the coronavirus pandemic was a curveball that no one saw coming. It continues to shelter workers inside their homes, robbing people of the little daily routines that have been established in order to get in the right frame of mind.

Workers have adjusted at home, but distractions still exist. While productivity from home as been up since the start of the pandemic, juggling at-home chores such as childcare can be troubling. Experts warn that the work-from-home model isn’t a for productivity, despite companies forgoing offices and moving operations full-time remotely.

Nicholas Bloom, an economic professor at Stanford University, called remote working a “productivity disaster” due to the distractions of home and said that there will be an innovation layoff due to the decreased chances of collaboration.

“A collapse in office-time will also lead to a slump in innovation,” he said. “…the inventions we’re losing today could show up as fewer new products in 2021 and beyond, lowering long-run growth.”

There are little hacks that you can do remotely to make your home feel more like an office. Designating a room to strictly work-use is an excellent way to remain focused (if you have the space). Adding color through paint or objects can enhance mood and even help productivity.

Another home item to consider: candles.

Scent plays a huge role in both our wellbeing and productivity, according to research. Studies have shown that different smells can effectively be used as aromatherapy, which uses natural elements in helping promote health and wellbeing. One study found that certain scents — like lavender — can help prevent decreased performance when fatigue kicks in, which means when you’re feeling a lull during the day and need an extra jolt from something other than caffeine, a potential remedy could come through candles.

Abigail Cook Stone, co-founder and CEO of Otherland, transitioned from art buyer to candle maker by infusing pieces of the world (art, design, and fragrance) into home via a candle. She told Ladders that she’s an advocate for candle use during the pandemic, especially during work hours, which stems from her time at Columbia University, where she used candles to help hone in during study sessions.

“Candles are my favorite desk-side companion,” Cook Stone said recently. “The ritual of striking a match and lighting the flame creates focus and intention as you kick off your productivity session, coupled with a lovely reward of a beautiful scent and candlelight glow as you work. Creating this small but meaningful ritual for yourself can create focus and help to elevate your home office (or dining table) into the ideal working environment, as well as serving as a cue to others at home that you’re in a work flow.”

“New York City” by Homesick

Homesick, a fragrance brand that aims to make people feel closer to people and places, offer candles that focus on different destinations like New York City or places such as a “Beach Cottage,” which oozes bergamot and sea air to let you drift to a beach far away from your cramped apartment. It shouldn’t be surprising that Homesick’s candle — Hawaii — is its most popular fragrance during the pandemic, according to Lauren Lamagna, the company’s director of product development and merchandising.

“As people have navigated the challenges that come with merging home and office, and oftentimes a playroom and virtual classroom for their kids on top of it all, these fragrances that evoke the feeling of relaxing on a warm sandy beach or celebrating with friends provide a sense of escape,” Lamagna said.

“Whether it’s taking five minutes away from your inbox to light a candle and take a moment to yourself, or using fragrance to create a more relaxed ambiance throughout the workday, we’ve found these fragrances have resonated particularly well with our customers during this time.”

Ladders tested a few candles to see the benefits for ourselves. Here’s a primer on how to get the most with candles for your at-home work situation.

Time and place

Figuring out when and where to light a candle can be tricky. As a novice candle person, it can be tempting to just let the candle burn throughout the workday but you’d literally be burning through money and not receive the actual benefits of what a foreign scent can bring to your home.

Cook Stone’s favorite time to light a candle is first thing in the morning, which stems from Scandinavian tradition. She said it’s a beautiful, tranquil way to start the day while awakening your senses.

For the workday, she said she’d recommend lighting one just as you begin working.

“Canopy” by Otherland

“The ideal burn time is one to three hours,” she said. “After breaking for lunch, early afternoon is a great time to switch things up with a different scent to energize your afternoon as you power through your work.”

Cook Stone keeps a candle to the left of her keyboard at her desk, similar to where a mouse would be on the right. She said it creates a “tremendous energy” due to the flickering flame.

“Pick a place not far from where you are seated, so you can enjoy the energy of the flame and scent as it radiates throughout the room,” she said.

Our recommendation: “Canopy” by Otherland.
– During the first cold days of autumn, this candle really provided something other than the rotting garbage and wet leaves smell outside my Brooklyn window. With a strong base of green fig, the hints of vanilla and mint helped turn my attention especially in the late afternoon of the workday. After extinguishing the blame, it leaves a delightful smell long after that feels soothing. It’s also ideal for using while reading before bed.

Cook Stone on “Canopy”:

“The inspiration for the scent came from my love of fresh, green California fig. Fig is such a beautiful fruit scent—I typically don’t love ultra-sweet, fruit-forward scents, but the green fig we went for hits the right balance of juicy and fresh! Perfumer Pierre Negrin layered in subtleties of summer greens, mint, morning dew and the tiniest hint of vanilla, which are complemented by the coconut in our wax blend. The result is an absolute dream in green, evoking images of rolling hillsides, covered pergolas, misty mornings, soft moss and warm rain, all through the lens of our hero, California fig.”

Get me far, far away

Remember your travel plans for 2020? Those were probably pushed back until 2021 (and it’s still not looking too good).

While the pandemic has travel restricted in most countries out of the US, perhaps it’s worth trying to grab a candle from Homesick, which can get you as far as the Seine in Paris to the breezy beaches of Hawaii. Whether you yearn for the smells of spring days in Central Park (or even department stores) to even scents associated with book clubs, Homesick has just about every scent you can imagine to get your frame out of your home and someplace else.

“We carefully craft each of our fragrances to authentically bring to life cherished places and memories, and to do that requires an in-depth understanding of how different fragrances work together to achieve a specific feeling,” Lamagna told us.

“Hawaii” by Homesick

Our recommendation: “Hawaii” by Homesick.
– I’ve never been to Hawaii but I certainly can imagine what it might smell like through Homesick’s candle. The distinct smell of water mixed with tropical fruits like coconut are prevalent. The multilayers to the candle provide a fresh fragrance as it descends like an ocean wave.

Lamagna on “Hawaii”:

“As with all of our location-based candles, we wanted customers who choose our Hawaii candle to feel truly transported there as soon as they experience the fragrance. To achieve just the right balance for Hawaii, we pulled inspiration from local elements that really embody all of the islands: from fresh seashore notes to fruits like juicy pineapple, tropical coconut, and floral cyclamen.

WFH  — wait, what?

Yes, there are even candles for the current working situation.

Anecdote Candles released its 2020 Candle of the Year dubbed, “Smells like WFH and WTF,” which features scents of amber and mandarin.

“Many have asked if we have a candle that’s reflective of the times. We waited until the hysteria died down a bit to put our social commentary in candle form,” Julie Maskulka, founder of Anecdote Candles, told Ladders over email. “We wanted 2020 to be a fragrance that’s complex and a little unexpected, much like the actual year. That’s why the key notes are amber and mandarin: the brightness of mandarin reflects the optimism of a new decade, while the depth and weight of amber reflect the unexpected complexities 2020 gave us. Some customers say it’s too pretty to smell like 2020, and we’re okay with that.”
– Title aside, this was one of my favorite scents that I used. Hints of amber surprise (just as 2020 has) while the jasmine and mandarin burn consistently. I found this candle the most rewarding when used early in the morning before noon. It’s subtle yet potent.

“Home Office” by Homesick

Our recommendation: “Home Office” by Homesick

Lamagna on “Home Office”:

“Home Office is our way of helping our community through the challenge many of us have faced this year of finding ways to create a space at home, however small, where we can be energized, focused, and productive throughout the workday. The result is an earthy, fresh fragrance that balances relaxing notes like amber and vanilla with outdoorsy notes like water lilies, patchouli, and oud to provide a calming escape from a bustling day. Cinnamon adds a kick of energy with a warming, stimulating effect that helps to fight fatigue and gently boosts mental and physical alertness.”