Since the pandemic, lots of us have discovered that working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you have the freedom to design your workspace exactly as you please. But on the other, you may not be privy to the equipment and setup provided in a professional setting. And depending on your home layout, it might be hard to find space for an office to begin with. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or have just started remote work, creating a home office you’ll enjoy using day after day can be easier than you think with a few simple guidelines.
Get creative to define your home office space
When it comes to working from home, it helps to physically separate your workspace from the rest of your home. Doing so helps create better work-life balance by tucking the office away where it won’t be seen regularly (out of sight, out of mind as they say). In a perfect world, we’d all have a private room at home that we can dedicate to just work. But let’s face it – not all of us live in such a world. While it’s ideal to have an entire room allocated for just your home office, there are ways to carve out that space in other areas of your home. If space is an issue, consider spots like:
- Nooks, corners, or alcoves in less frequented rooms
- Rooms that don’t get much use, like guest rooms or formal living and dining areas
- Under a staircase
- An empty (or partially empty) closet
- A sunroom or enclosed patio
- A backyard shed
Bear in mind that the one place you’ll want to avoid having your office in is the bedroom. Putting your workspace in the bedroom is considered bad Feng Shui, and for good reason. Simply put, your bedroom should be a sacred space dedicated to rest and relaxation – the place where you take refuge at the end of a workday. Mixing the two together will make it difficult to draw hard lines between work and downtime. If your bedroom is the only option for a workspace, consider separating it off with a room divider, curtain, or bookshelf when it’s not in use.
Focus on function first
Especially if you only require a laptop and a few office supplies to do your job successfully, you can get away with just the basics when it comes to crafting a functional WFH office. For maximum productivity and comfort, we recommend putting some thought into choosing these key pieces:
- A sturdy desk. Your work surface doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be level and have enough surface area for essentials. When choosing a desk, consider how much room you need to keep items like a keyboard, mouse, and notepad close at hand.
- A comfortable chair. A cushioned chair that supports your spine’s natural curvature is best for long hours of sitting. It’s also wise to choose one with an adjustable height so your legs can sit comfortably beneath your desk.
- Good lighting. To prevent eye strain, it’s important not to overlook your light source. Natural lighting is great if you can position your furniture so it doesn’t cast a glare on your screen. If a decent natural light source is not available, well positioned light fixtures with LED bulbs (a brighter form of light that promotes productivity) work well.
- A monitor stand. Working on one flat surface doesn’t support most people ergonomically. It’s important to have the top of your screen right at eye level for comfortable viewing and posture. Thus, propping up your screen above the level of the desk is key.
- Shelving or other storage solutions. Depending on the nature of your work, you may need shelving or a filing cabinet to keep documents organized or provide a home for other equipment like a printer.
- A cushioned floor mat. For those who like to use a standing desk, it’s important to find an anti-fatigue floor mat to take the stress off of your joints after long hours on your feet.
Practice proper ergonomics
What is ergonomics? The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (more commonly known as OSHA) describes it simply as “fitting a job to a person” to prevent injuries while working. To create an ergonomic desk setup that will be comfortable throughout your day, you’ll want to arrange your workspace so you can sit or stand in one of the following manners:
Whether sitting or standing, always make sure that:
- Your eyes are level with the top of the monitor
- Your shoulders are relaxed and your upper arms aren’t overextended
- Your forearms extend straight out from the elbows
- Your keyboard and mouse sit roughly 6 inches from the desk edge, giving your wrists room to rest
If you’re sitting, be sure that:
- Your chair supports the spine’s natural ‘S’ curve
- Your knees rest slightly below hip level and do not bump into the bottom of the desk
- Your feet rest slightly outward from your knees and sit flat on the floor
If standing, ensure that:
- Your shoulders, hips, and feet are all in alignment
- The desk height is at or just below elbow level
- You use a cushioned floor mat (as mentioned above) to lessen the pressure on your feet, ankles, knees, and spine
Don’t go overboard with décor
Once you’ve got your basic furniture pieces and layout in place, it’s time to personalize it. And one of the great things about working from home is the ability to decorate your space without limitation. But when it comes to an office space, simple is best. Too many wall hangings or knickknacks can add unnecessary visual clutter, causing you to feel distracted from work. Choose your decorative accents carefully, and consider ones that also add function, like organizational desk accessories or cork boards you can hang both work documents and pictures on.
Looking for an accent piece that will help boost your mood? Opt for a plant or two. Plants tend to make us feel closer to nature, and they’re an easy way to breathe life into any space that feels a little cold. There are many resilient houseplants that will actually cleanse the air and release excess oxygen, helping to clear your mind for better productivity.
Don’t feel chained to your office all the time
That’s right. Even with a perfectly crafted office space, it's still a good idea to switch up your work environment now and then. Being stuck in the same space can make you start to feel stuck mentally too. And according to Indeed, trading your dedicated WFH space for a coffee shop, park, or coworking space every so often can help boost your productivity and inspire creativity. So if you feel like you're in a rut, get out of the house. And when you’re ready to feel grounded again, your home office will be there waiting for you.