Tips in Creating an Ideal WFH Office Space
The ongoing pandemic has incited a complete overturn of how the world functions in its day-to-day. Stuck in the limits of their homes, people had turned to two things: an absolute frenzy of arts and crafts (remember when we all thought we could pick up new hobbies and start multiple projects?) and spending way more time on the online space. The quarantine might have physically disconnected us from everyone else outside our roommates and family members, but the internet and social media provided a semblance of staying connected.
It’s worth studying how almost everything has rendered everything into the tiny squares of our screens since COVID-19 started. Students and adults attended classes and meetings on different online platforms, shops and restaurants began accepting online orders for delivery, and job descriptions started adding work from home options. Because the quarantine shifted our study and work environments, you might have noticed another trend: space makeovers and interior design.
Setting Up Your Workspace
Whether you’re temporarily working from home or your job is inherently home-based, you shouldn’t care any less about creating a workspace ideal for concentration and productivity. Here are some steps you can follow to create your customized work bubble.
Pick the right spot.
It’s been said a million times, but paying attention to the physical environment matters to the kind of ambiance you want to have. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t put your work desk in the middle of the kitchen or the living room, right in the heart of all the action. However, there are a few more things you have to keep in mind when deciding where to set up your workspace.
Think of your preferred lighting setup.
There is no single formula for making people productive, so things such as the lighting option may vary. For example, you may feel productive in a quiet, enclosed space with controlled lighting or somewhere more out in the open, exposed to natural light.
It’s up to you, but here’s a little tip: exposure to sunlight is known to make people feel happier by increasing the brain’s release of serotonin and helping you feel happier, calmer, and more focused. Light plays a big part in evoking emotion, so it’s no wonder some people make time to sit in the sun for a few minutes every day. If you like sunlight and feel more productive with natural lighting, consider picking a spot near a big window.
If you’re working at night, consider setting up somewhere with optimal overhead lighting or somewhere that can fit a desk big enough to accommodate table lamps. Corners with outlets are the best, but if the perfect corner doesn’t come with a handy outlet, place one nearby or have an extension cord that’s long enough to travel the distance.
Keep it out of reach from distractions.
Make sure you find the quietest part of your house, away from barking dogs, noisy children, and obnoxious construction work. Your distraction-free space should have a considerable distance from noisy areas like the TV in the living area and the play area. If your home or apartment doesn’t allow this, make sure that your space should at least have a door to separate it from the rest.
When setting up your workspace, your mindset should be: “When I am here, I should be working.” Because you’re at home, you may find it difficult to mentally separate from chores, messes, and other things. Make sure that your workspace puts all of these out of sight and out of mind.
Place firm boundaries between rest, recreation, and work. Stay away from your bed (or the bedroom in general, if possible), and put away any materials for any hobbies that can distract you. If you have any children, make sure that they understand that there is a designated time of the day that you’re working and should not be distracted.
Keep it clean and tidy.
Your workspace should be one of the cleanest and tidiest parts of the house. Having a cluttered space can distract people from working and even cause stress, so you’ll want to reduce the visual clutter and keep your workspace neat at all times.
Develop a routine and clean up right after work, so you don’t have to start work the next day, being stressed about the mess you left from the other day. Once you sign off, put away all the pens, notebooks, and papers you used during the session. Take any coffee cups or bowls into the kitchen, and throw away any snack packaging. Wipe the desk down to get rid of dust and other small particles.
You should also schedule a periodic cleaning of your general workspace. Sanitize your keyboard and mouse with disinfectant wipes, and give any computer placemats and mouse pads a good cleaning by soaking them in warm water with soap and rubbing them with a sponge.
Of course, since hygiene and sanitation should always be on top of everyone’s priority during these times, make sure to have a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pack of disinfectant wipes on hand.
Ergonomics: Efficiency and Comfort
Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging things and systems that people use and function daily to enhance efficiency, comfort, and safety. The discipline uses several fields of knowledge such as anatomy, physiology, and engineering to ensure that designs enhance strengths and minimize limitations.
You’ve heard of ergonomic office furniture. They’re worth all the hype they get because they improve your posture, reduce risks of neck and back problems, and boost productivity. If your budget allows you such comforts, then it’s a worthy investment. However, having an ergonomic workspace doesn’t necessarily mean buying any more things than you might have. The key to creating the perfect ergonomic workspace focuses on four things: your chair, desk, monitor, and lighting.
The ideal ergonomic chair takes adjustable height, backrest recline, lumbar support, and material into account. Don’t worry if it’s out of your budget, because you can set it up yourself with your chair. Here’s how:
- Make sure your chair is at the proper height. Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Provide padding on the backrest by placing a folded blanket.
- Make up for the lack of lumbar support by placing a small pillow for your lower back to rest on, or buy the inexpensive external lumbar pillows.
- Add a seat cushion.
The desk is the heart of your workplace. From an ergonomic point of view, the most important thing to consider about your desk is its height. A desktop that’s too high for you can cause arm strain while typing, and a desktop that’s too low will make you hunch over. To know if your desk is just the right height for you, keep two things in mind:
- Your legs should fit comfortably under the desk, and space should be enough to cross your legs.
- When you rest your arms on the desk, your forearm and upper arm should form an angle between 90 to 110 degrees.
Ergonomic desks are also available as an option. Their main perk is the adjustable height, so you can alternate between sitting and standing. However, if your problem is simply the desk height, you can stack a few books under the table legs to get the angle right. If you’re using a laptop for work, try looking at laptop stands.
Monitor placement also plays a vital role in optimizing your workspace. A poorly placed monitor can cause neck and shoulder pain, as much as lousy chair and desk heights can. For the ideal monitor placement, try these recommended measurements:
- The monitor should be at least an arm’s length away, or 20 inches in front of you.
- The monitor should have an angle of 10 to 20 degrees.
- The top line of the screen should be at eye level or a few centimeters below.
If you work at night and can’t depend on natural light, choosing the best artificial lighting is vital. Poor or irritating lighting can interfere with your productivity and even affect your eyesight over time. A workspace lighting should illuminate the space by diffusing ambient light instead of directly creating glaring light that may cause eye strain.
Consider putting lampshades and floor lamps instead of direct overhead lighting. If you don’t have enough space for these, there are light fixtures designed to optimize a small space. Hanging bulbs and wall scones help open up space and make it look bigger. Task lights are more helpful than overhead lighting because they don’t take over the ambient lighting and reduce eye strain by only focusing on specific areas. It’s best to invest in one that comes with different light colors and intensities.
Organizing and Decorating your Workspace
Below are a few pointers for a more effective decor and clutter-free workspace.
Regardless of how differently we function, we all need a sense of organization to help us keep everything in check. Whether you want your desk to be minimalist or to have a bit of clutter, it’s best to mentally and physically divide the desk space into different zones. Here is a setup that might work for you:
- First zone: Things that are easiest to reach and are used the most (keyboard, mouse, monitor)
- Second zone: Things that need a bit of arm stretching to reach (notebooks, stationery)
- Third zone: Things that need you to bend to reach and are only occasionally used
- Fourth zone: Storage or ornament purposes
- Side areas: sticky notes, reminders, lists, calendars
Make use of storage.
Bins, baskets, and file holders can save your entire workspace. Nothing can beat the satisfaction of categorizing your things and putting them in the appropriate places. You don’t even have to worry about forgetting where you placed this and that because you can put labels on the bins and baskets.
Decorate to motivate and inspire.
No one said that you have to keep your workspace empty and devoid of any personalization whatsoever. If your desk is against a wall, it might feel better to put a few stickers, pictures, artworks, or posters on the wall and look at them for motivation and inspiration if you’re starting to feel a bit stressed or tired. It beats just staring at an empty wall.
The key is to surround yourself with things you love. Find items that speak to you, motivate you, and bring you joy. Adding personal touches can help boost your morale to be more productive. This is your workspace, so it should look like somewhere you would want to work in.
Add a few floor plants, a couple of succulents, a vase of flowers, or a framed photo of your friends and family. Of course, you should still keep the rules of visual decluttering in mind, but it can’t hurt to add a few things to help freshen the room up or bring a pop of color.
Appeal to the senses.
The best thing about working from home is being in complete control of your workspace, without worrying about how you might be bothering your office mates or vice versa. You are now in charge of what you want to see, smell, and listen to.
This is the perfect time to associate your workspace with pleasant scents. You can do this with your favorite air freshener spray or by lighting up a scented candle to help you relax and focus. Burning incense also works for some people because the aroma helps them re-center their energy and be more alert. If you also suffer from dust, pollen, and pet dander allergies, try investing in room humidifiers and essential oils.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys working with a good playlist, there’s no one to complain about your music taste. Pick out some songs that you can work to without being too distracting and curate them into a playlist. If this is not for you, putting on ambient music or pure instrumentals can also work.
Play with colors.
It’s true; color psychology works. Read up on articles discussing which colors evoke which emotions, and try to keep these in mind when personalizing your space.
Pops of green from indoor plants help bring freshness and life into the room, encouraging relaxation and creativity. Red encourages you to pay attention to little details, while blue helps boost your productivity. Bright colors like yellow can also lighten your mood and make you feel happier.
If you’re lucky enough to have a whole room as your office space, you can go all out and paint the entire room. Consider painting your walls white or a light color, save for one side to be an accent wall with a pop of color. If you don’t have time for painting your walls, try looking up LED lighting to soak the whole room in your favorite colors.
The discussion of optimizing your ideal workspace alone means that your physical environment significantly affects your mental state and productive wellbeing. Hence, this means you should put time and effort into making your work from home office space efficient and comfortable, as well as pleasant and aesthetically pleasing. All you need is a little bit of adjustment from things you already have in the house without making you spend on too many things.
Overall, personalizing your workspace will depend on what works in helping you focus and be more productive. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to workspace layouts, so making use of working from home lets you be in charge of what you want and need to stimulate productivity and creativity.