It has been a huge year for work from home. In the face of a global pandemic, companies have scrambled to figure out how to transition huge portions of their workforce to working remotely. Even before coronavirus took hold throughout the world, the percentage of people working from home was on the rise. In fact, reports show that there has been a 44 percent growth in remote work over the last five years, and a 91 percent growth in remote work in the past 10 years. Indeed, it is becoming the standard for many workers.
Overall most employees feel that they can do their job from home as well as or better than they can from the office (and studies correlate that, showing that working from home increases productivity). We’re more focused, more fruitful, and generally happier when working from home. But there’s one thing the traditional office may have over the standard home office, and that’s a dedicated, smartly designed workspace.
If you work for a big company, you may have the benefit of a whole human resources department and a massive budget for ergonomic office furniture, but fear not! You can still create a supportive, healthy, and productive workplace at home without sinking thousands into specially designed office furniture. And, trust us, it’s worth the effort. A properly designed office can help prevent and treat back pain while warding off the serious side effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Here’s how to get started when setting up a home office space that focuses on health, well-being, and productivity.
- Employ the Principles of Ergonomics – Ergonomics is the science that the aforementioned HR department uses to create individual workstations that prevent muscle strain, poor posture, and chronic pain. Essentially, you can use it to make small tweaks to your workspace so that it serves you better each day. Here are some quick ergonomic improvements you can make:
- Adjust the height of your desk, chair, or armrests so that your elbows rest at roughly a 90-degree angle when typing or using the mouse.
- Place your computer monitor so that it’s at or slightly below eye level to prevent having to tilt your head up or down, which can lead to straining.
- Position all computer peripherals and your phone in a way that doesn’t require you to reach or overextend your arm for access.
- Adjust your chair so that it’s supporting a straight posture with no slouching. You may need to add a lumbar pillow or roll.
- Place your computer monitor so it doesn’t create any glare from windows or bright lights. This will help prevent eye strain.
2. Claim Some Private Space – It can be nearly impossible to find a quiet, private area of the home if your family members or roommates are also working or studying from home. This is especially true for parents dealing with little ones or teenagers when trying to work. However, the conference calls, video chats, and long periods of intense focus must go on, and this definitely calls for some privacy.
We know that not everyone can create a dedicated, exclusive home office with a door that closes and zero distractions, so if you have to “claim” the living room or kitchen for a period of time each day, don’t be afraid to do so! However, if you plan to work remotely for the long term, creating a dedicated office space should be one of the first orders of business.
Tip: Use a do-not-disturb hang tag on the door to let the other people in your house know that you’re on a call or need some quiet, undisturbed time to focus. You can make one yourself fairly easily using things you already have around the house.
3. Stock the Fridge – Anecdotally, if you ask the remote workers in your life if they eat better or worse when working from home, you will get a ton of different answers. Some people say it’s hard to stop snacking when there’s a stocked fridge and pantry so close, while others say it’s easier to keep things clean when there’s no temptation to eat out or raid the vending machine. Either way, keeping a selection of fresh, healthy snacks on hand and keeping your reusable water bottle filled and nearby at all times will help ensure that you’re keeping things healthy.
4. Practice Positive Self-Care – When you work from home, it can be hard to turn work off. But practicing good self-care like stretching periodically and taking occasional walks throughout the day can help. If you feel the inevitable desk work stiffness or back pain that often comes after a long, stressful week, consider using at-home massagers, foam rollers or laser light therapy belts to help temporarily relieve the pain and encourage deep relaxation.
5. Make a Few Investments – We don’t believe that you have to dump thousands, or even hundreds, into a properly functioning home office. But there are a couple of small things that may be well worth the investment. A good pair of wireless headphones (preferably with a built-in microphone if you’re on calls a lot of the day), a nice office chair, some productivity-enhancing candles—these are all things that will bring you joy and make your office more functional and healthier, so don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money if it helps you out.
6. Decorate for Energy and Joy – If you associate your home workspace with positivity, light, and good feelings, you will be much more inclined to spend time there. Use mood- and energy-boosting colors and bring in some live plants to help create some positive energy. Although it’s often one of the last places in the home to get the decorator’s touch, the home office can often benefit from a bit of extra pizzazz, which can lead to a brighter, more creative space.
Designing a high-functioning home office will differ for one kind of worker to the next. Not everyone has the same day-to-day needs or preferences.
However, following all or a few of these tips will undoubtedly help you create a space that suits your unique style. Just make sure to customize to your liking and tweak as you go.