As more people work from home, it’s become more essential than ever to have the home office support health and productivity. However, ending up with an uncomfortable work environment still proves to be quite easy. If the space doesn’t suit your working behavior or your mental and bodily needs, that can ultimately result in reduced productivity and poor physical health.
Fortunately, we’ve done our research and have looked into how best to optimize your home office space, so that you can be comfortable and stay focused.
Leveling Your Work Space
Poor posture and body positioning can lead to musculoskeletal disorders over time. Things like carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains or lower back injures are just a few of the issues that can arise after extended, repetitive work in an awkward position. This effectively leads to reduced productivity, definitely in the short term and possibly longer.
To help reduce such potentially long term problems, it’s important to make sure that your desk is right for your height. A fixed desk that is too high can result in wrist and shoulder problems, while a desk that’s too low can result in hunching. Generally, the suggested standard height of a desk is 34 inches. But a height adjustable desk is perfect in this instance, as it can adjust to your preferred sitting height regardless of how tall you are.
At the same time, a height adjustable desk is a great way to move away from sedentary habits. Between sitting in front of the computer and lounging at home, people sit an average of 7.7 hours a day.
Sitting has essentially become the new smoking because of how badly it affects your physical health over time. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time stalls your muscles from breaking down fats and sugars, which can lead to an increase in cardiovascular related issues and obesity.
A height flexible desk adjusted to full standing position is a great way to encourage yourself to get up while you’re working. If a height adjustable desk isn’t feasible, there are always monitor and keyboard adjustable trays that can latch onto standard desks and be adjusted when you feel like standing. Throwing in an anti-fatigue floor mat or a stool to perch on helps to train your body for standing over longer periods of time.
Sit Right, Sit Comfortably
Similar to improper desk height, an inappropriate office chair can lead to increased risk of injury and reduced productivity. A chair that doesn’t support your body properly only encourages poor sitting habits, which opens the door to potential neck, shoulder, back and hip problems.
The difference between an ill-fitting office chair and an ergonomic one is like night and day. A correctly sized and ergonomic chair will greatly reduce risk of physical problems and encourage you to sit properly with its comfortable and supportive system. Having adjustable and maneuverable capabilities within an office chair’s construction is highly important as well. The adjustability enables the chair to fit properly to your body type, while maneuverability allows you to move more easily from your seated position.
Let There be Light
Without a doubt, natural lighting is great on the eyes and great for creating ambiance. However, getting the angles of your monitor right will make the difference between a comfortable and focused working session versus one that strains the eyes, dries them out and gives you a headache.
Between the angle of the light source and its color, lighting in itself plays an important role with increasing comfort and optimizing productivity levels. The best way to work with natural lighting and avoid glare is by angling your monitors parallel to the windows, and by using a desk lamp to soften the brightness of the monitor.
Simultaneously, the right light color makes a difference in productiveness. Warmer lighting (lighting that gives off a yellow, red or orange hue) has been shown to encourage a sense of comfort and increase sleepiness, which is perfectly fine if a relaxed atmosphere is the aim. However, if the aim is to have focused attention, then lighting that gives off a cooler hue (like blue or pure white) will do just that.
When working from home, distraction comes easily, especially if you’re not the only one home. It’d be fair to say that breaks in concentration not only lead to decreased productive output, but potentially lead to frustration. Setting up camp in one of the more secluded rooms in the house is a great first step to reducing or even eliminating distractions.
If no such room exists, there are alternative options. Install sound absorbers, or run background noises. Sound dampeners will help to absorb and muffle external noises for a quieter working experience, while running a background noise will help to drown out distracting noise. If going the background noise route, it’s generally recommended to go with white noise or natural sounds, as either type serves dual purposes.
In a study done by German neuroscientists, white noise was shown to improve memory. Meanwhile, in a study done by Rensselaer Polytechnic University, workers were more focused while listening to natural sounds compared to working in silence or with white noise.
Bringing greenery into the home office has few disadvantages. Depending on the plant, they’re generally cheap and easy to care for. However, the real goal with introducing plants into the workspace is to create an actively engaging environment that will boost performance and happiness within your home office space.
After 10 years of studying this issue, Dr. Chris Knight and his colleagues concluded employees were 15% more productive with a few houseplants in the office because they were able to actively engage with their space. In addition to plants’ overall soothing presence, imagine the benefits of forcing yourself to take a break and water the plants.
Know How You Work
Finally, it’s important to understand your usual working behavior, so that you can plan your space accordingly. All of us have different working styles. Your space needs to accommodate your style, and it can be done through a little bit of spatial planning.
If you fidget and like to frequently get up and pace while working through a problem, the last thing you need within your personal space is no space. Depending on the size of the room, it could be in your best interest to invest in smaller office furniture. Arrange some pieces against the walls so that you have more floor space to move about. Or, if you like having an open workspace and hate working in clutter, then investing in additional storage pieces will help to keep your home office clean, organized and exactly to your liking.
The more you work from home, the more your home office should reflect your habits and adjust to your needs. Creating a healthy home office environment is essential to supporting your work lifestyle. Otherwise, what’s the point of working from home when you’d be more comfortable working at the office?
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