Working from home can be hugely beneficial. A quiet space away from noise and interruptions can really boost productivity. However, a badly set up home office is guaranteed to negatively impact both your physical and mental wellbeing. If you spend some time considering the space you will be working in, it will enhance the work you do there.
Everything, from the colour of your walls to the positioning of your monitor should be decided with your health and wellbeing in mind. The first things to do is to find a suitable space, preferably a separate room with a door that closes and a window that opens. If this is not possible, section off part of a room that is used infrequently, using a divider, a screen or a couple of bookcases. It is important to ask yourself the right questions before you choose your layout, furniture and accessories. How many hours a week are you going to be spending in this space? Will you be sharing it with anyone? Do you need privacy for calls? Do you have any physical ailments that need to be considered such as a bad back, repetitive strain injury or even a tendency to get headaches?
Ergonomics are one of the most important factors in creating a productive home office. All too often people working from home use a regular chair from their dining table. Dining room chairs are not designed to be sat on for 7-8 hours a day and they will not provide the support your spine needs.
If your back is not properly supported, this will affect your posture, which in turn will affect how much oxygen you are taking in. If you are sitting in a slumped, uncomfortable position day after day it will make you feel sluggish and will cause pain in your lower back, neck and shoulders in the long term.
There are lots of furniture, accessories and aids that can help make your workstation super comfortable. The three most important ones are;
- Adjustable office chair
- Proper height desk with enough surface area to work comfortably
- Good sized monitor with riser, especially if working from a laptop
If you do nothing else in relation to ergonomics, these three things are the absolute basics you will need to be comfortable.
You should also consider the following products.
- Proper keyboard & mouse (if you’re working from a laptop)
- Laptop riser – allows you to position your laptop so that you can use dual display
- Copy stand – if you are likely to be reading from hard copy documents while working at your computer
- Wrist rest – brilliant for preventing RSI (repetitive strain injury)
- Separate back support – if you need additional support for your office chair
- Foot-rest – useful if you are unable to rest your feet flat on the floor when sitting up straight
- Sit stand desk or converter – excellent for anyone that hates sitting all day but especially those with a back or neck issue
There is a very persuasive argument for having the option of standing up while working, whether or not you think you need to. It is medically proven that if you stay fixed in one position all day, the amount of oxygen you are taking in is reduced causing brain function to slow down.
You will also need to consider the position of your furniture in relation to light sources in the room. Natural daylight is important for helping you to stay alert. Position your desk parallel to a window instead of facing or behind it so that the light does not bounce directly off your screen or cause glare. A blind that allows diffused light through is ideal as it gives you the option of removing the glare while still having plenty of daylight in the space.
For those dark Winter evenings (and mornings!) make sure there is enough artificial light to light up your entire workstation. Avoid working by only the light of your screen. This is a sure-fire way to cause eye strain and headaches. Give yourself a couple of lighting options by adding a good quality desk lamp and think about installing a dimmer switch on your main lighting so that you can control the amount of light at different times.
Light can also bounce off white and reflective surfaces so use muted and natural tones or darker matte colours for walls and furniture if this is likely to be an issue.
The colours you use in your workspace play an important role in your health and wellbeing. Many studies have been done on the psychological effects of colour. While it is most important to choose a colour you like and enjoy looking at, there are other considerations. It is important to note that the intensity level and tone of the colour you choose can also impact how it makes you feel.
White – can look clinical and cold and may cause issues with reflecting light
Blue – is said to help with focus and productivity
Red – is associated with energy and a sense of urgency but can cause anxiety if overused
Yellow – evokes feelings of happiness and stimulates creativity
Green – is good for adding freshness and vitality and creating balance and calmness
If you think you would find an entirely yellow room too distracting, neutrals like grey and cream can also be used as softer base colours with stronger colours like green and yellow used as accents.
Add some indoor plants to your workspace to give it a boost of fresh air. Indoor plants are said to reduce stress, help you feel connected to nature (which is something we all crave) and make a space feel healthier and more productive. When choosing your plants, don’t forget to check how much light and water they will need.
Depending on the type of work you do, whether you are sharing your space with others and your individual needs, you may need to invest in some acoustic barriers to help give you privacy when on calls and to reduce ambient noise. You can opt for free standing acoustic panels or ones that are fixed to the wall if you are limited on space. You don’t have to cover the entire wall, even two or three panels will absorb a lot of the background noise. If you are working behind a screen or divider you can also choose to fix the acoustic panels to the divider itself. Alternatively, you can purchase an acoustic panel like the ones below that will double as a room divider.
Another important thing to consider is storage. The last thing you want is to have files, papers, stationery and clutter covering every surface. An under-desk pedestal cabinet with drawers is ideal for stationery, pens, staplers and small bit and pieces. A wall cabinet with doors or pull out boxes is perfect for storing larger items like lever arch files and reams of paper.
Your workspace should also be motivational for you personally. Add some family photos, framed certificates or inspirational quotes to customise your space.
While ergonomics and aesthetics are hugely important in how your workspace makes you feel, the type and quality of the devices you use cannot be ignored.A slow or patchy internet connection will definitely cause anxiety especially while you’re on conference calls so make sure you have the best one available in your area and position your modem in your home office if possible. Do not put anything in front of the modem, don’t put it near a TV and try to position it at desk height or above. You want to be able to run a hard line ethernet cable from your modem to your device if necessary. Bear in mind that not all laptops have an ethernet connection port, some will only run on Wi-Fi.
You should also check the age of your laptop or desktop and make sure you have downloaded all of the latest software and security updates.
A large monitor is a must. You want to be able to have multiple applications open at once without having to flick from one programme to another on a small laptop screen.
A good quality wireless mouse, a wired keyboard, a printer and a shredder for disposing of any confidential company documents safely and securely are also a good idea.
A standalone web cam is recommended if the video quality on the built-in camera on your laptop or desktop is poor. Look for something with a glass lens, 60 fps rate and 1080p resolution. Some web cams come with built in audio which can help if your laptops audio is not great.
As a leading Irish supplier of Business & IT products and furniture, we can help you with a wide range of products for your home office. Get in touch today.
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