I’ve chosen to work from home throughout most of my adult life. My home office took some planning, has been rearranged a few times over the years, and is a pleasant space where I can be happily productive. But today’s work-from-home situations can be quite different.
Forced by the pandemic to work remotely, many people have discovered that they prefer the arrangement, while others can’t wait to get back into a traditional work environment. Either way, there are some basic ways to make a home workspace a healthier and less stressful environment.
1. Separate Office and Home
Separating work from the rest of life is one of the biggest challenges. I’ve found that defining your workspace is the most basic step.
Although a separate room might be ideal, all you really need is a work spot: space reserved just for work. It doesn’t need to be large; just big enough for your computer, phone, notepads—whatever you need to do your job. It can be part of a dining room table or a spot in the living room, but it’s strictly reserved for work.
By knowing where you work, you can go there, do your job, and leave, even if that means simply walking to another part of the room. Reserving a separate space for relaxing is equally important. If both these spaces are in your living room, it helps to organize things so that you aren’t staring at your “office” when you sit on the couch.
If you need a physical reminder that there are two separate spaces, you could put up a sign in the work spot that says “open” on one side and “closed” on the other. And turn it to the appropriate side when you start and end your workday.
2. Get Natural Light
Executive offices are often the only ones with windows, but surveys of office employees show that natural light can be a more valuable perk than on-site cafeterias or fitness centers. Working from home is an opportunity to benefit from natural light.
A study at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., looked at the effects of natural light on 313 office workers. It found that people who worked in daylit offices had 84 percent fewer symptoms of eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision, and 10 percent less drowsiness. Natural light and a window view help your eyes relax and recover from fatigue. And these effects increase productivity.
I’ve seen home offices in small, dark corners of big houses where there was plenty of room for a naturally lit workspace. Even if the view outside your windows is less than breathtaking, the daylight will enhance your workday.
3. Reduce Stress with Plants
Regardless of your workday view, or lack of it, plants in your environment can have a calming and restorative effect. And there’s evidence that plants in an office environment can improve morale and performance.
Researchers at Washington State University, in Pullman, ran computer tests on people who worked in a windowless office, with and without plants. With plants, participants were more productive, less stressed, had lower blood pressure, and felt more attentive than participants who worked in a plantless environment. The plants were placed in clusters so that they were within the peripheral view of each individual. Larger plants, or groupings of plants, can have a greater beneficial effect. For indoor gardening tips, visit Planet Natural.
Related: 6 Omega-3 Rich Foods
4. Clean Up the Clutter
It’s easy for clutter to accumulate on big or small desks, but it’s counterproductive. Researchers who study the brain call it “peripheral stimuli,” and have found that clutter is distracting because it competes for your attention and makes it more difficult to focus.
Bottom line, clutter doesn’t help you get things done in the most efficient way. And this can drag out your workday and make it more difficult to clock out of your home office.
5. Stay Nourished
Eating foods that enhance brain health and energy helps you focus. Top options include fish high in omega-3s fats, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines; poultry, red meat, and legumes for iron; vegetables and fruits for antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals; and nuts and seeds for healthy fats and essential nutrients.
In contrast, junk food can keep you constantly hungry, depress your mood, disrupt hormones, and lead to weight gain. Since there are no office vending machines around, working from home offers an opportunity to stock up on whole foods and plenty of vegetables, fruits, and healthy dips for snacks.
A multivitamin with a combination of vitamins, minerals, and choline, plus extra vitamin D, can provide additional support and insurance.
6. Avoid Toxins
Working from home provides a wonderful opportunity to steer clear of common toxins that are found in traditional offices, including chemicals in printers, copiers, and other office machines. But you do need to make sure that your home is well ventilated.
During a pandemic, disinfectants are essential for sanitizing, of course, but eco-friendly, nontoxic products for regular cleaning have the added advantage of keeping toxins out of your indoor air. And nontoxic hair and skincare products will reduce the toxins in your body.
Although not everyone prefers to work from home, it’s an opportunity to steer clear of junk food and toxins and create a workspace that suits you.