Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home has become the new normal. While many companies have brought employees back to the office in some capacity, whether, on a hybrid or otherwise flexible schedule, telecommuting has become a way of life for a large percentage of working Americans. Some workers who lost jobs during the shutdown in early 2020 have completely pivoted, with more people starting their own businesses or doing freelance or contract work so they can stay home, especially parents with kids who continue to do remote learning.
With these new workplace trends come the need for better home office space not only so you can be productive but also to allow for some separation of your work and home life. A poorly designed workspace can cause stress and inhibit your ability to concentrate. Sitting with your laptop on the bed or at the end of the kitchen table while your kids play three feet away is not the ideal environment to be at peak professional performance. You need a workspace that will help you to be at your best by supporting all aspects of your well-being: physical, emotional, and cognitive.
Follow these tips to help you set up a home office that maximizes productivity and reduces stress, all while providing a comfortable and inviting environment:
Designate a separate workspace.
If at all possible, make your home office separate from other rooms in your house. A spare bedroom or basement space, for example, can be a good choice. If your home space does not allow for a completely separate office, you can still set up an office space in a portion of a room that does not get high traffic—a desk near a window in a formal dining room, or a corner of your living room can also work.
However, it’s best to keep your workspace out of your bedroom so your work life doesn’t affect your quality of sleep. In fact, experts recommend keeping electronics, work materials, and the TV out of your bedroom entirely to help strengthen your brain’s association between the bedroom and sleep. As tempting as it is to stay in your PJs and work from bed, it can become harder to fall asleep at night since your brain will think you’re in a place of work.
Choose the right desk and chair.
You’ll be spending many hours in your office space when you work from home—so creating a comfortable space is essential. Decide if you want to sit at a desk or prefer a sit/stand desk that offers both options. Many desks available now are adjustable so you can move your computer to the correct height for standing work. Standing while working is a great way to ensure you keep your body moving throughout the day, and it can help prevent lower back pain.
If you prefer to sit, make sure you invest in a good, ergonomic desk chair, if possible, for good spine health. If funds are tight, you can adapt a kitchen or dining room chair by using supportive pillows to keep your back aligned properly.
Light up your space.
To decrease eye strain and ward off headaches, make sure you have some natural light in your office space. Set up your desk by a window, if possible, but make sure you also have blinds or curtains to reduce glare while still allowing in natural light. You shouldn’t rely on natural light alone, so a good desk lamp is also helpful. Choose a lamp that can be moved and adjusted as needed to enable you to position it to avoid eye strain, so it’s not shining directly on your face or computer screen.
Reduce the noise.
Working from home comes with its own special challenges such as noisy kids, barking dogs, or loud washing machines. A noisy environment can be stressful and raise your blood pressure, but a pair of noise-canceling headphones can help drown out distractions and allow you to listen to calming music while you work.
Sitting in front of a computer for a long workday can be bad for your back, neck, joints, and eyes. Make sure you get up and move at least once per hour, and consider taking a longer break to go for a walk or to do another form of exercise.
Being sedentary all day can contribute to health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Try to vary your position throughout the day so part of the time you’re sitting and part of the time you’re standing. Even if you don’t have an adjustable sit/stand desk, you can stand to take phone calls or to read reports or other documents.
Decorate your space.
Personalizing your workspace with things that bring you joy can also make your workday more enjoyable. Consider adding favorite family photos or colorful artwork, plants, scents, light fragrances, or other personal items that will help liven up a drab desk or wall.