If you work at home, even some of the time, you may want to think about setting up a home office. Whether you bring home work from your job or want to set up a home-based business, the home office offers plenty of advantages:
- It allows you to have the space and silence you need to work productively
- It ensures that you have everything you need for work in one accessible spot
- It can mean a tax break if you work from home or run your own business
- It gives you a place to conduct client meetings or professional phone conferences
If you have a small room you’re not using much, or even a small space that can be separated from a larger room, you could be in business. When setting up your home workspace, there are a few basic things you will need to do:
Spend plenty of time choosing the right chair.
Choosing the right chair can be more of a task than setting up your business in the first place. There are hundreds of designs to choose from, and many make significant claims about ergonomic designs:
Traditional ergonomic office chairs. You can find these at any office supply store and many cost hundreds of dollars. The truth is, though, just about any chair can claim to be ergonomic, so just seeing that little label on a chair does not mean it is right for you. To find the right one, you will need to try several out. Before you head out to test drive a few chairs, review the factors that you should be looking for here. Choosing the right chair often means choosing the right chair for you, and that means one that fits your body and is adjustable to your desk.
Exercise balls. Some people use exercise balls as desk chairs, claiming that the movement of the ball forces them to move around during the day and helps prevent lower back pain as well as other office aches and pains. There is plenty of controversy about these claims, though, and some experts claim that these chair alternatives do not necessarily mean a safer or healthier work space. On the plus side, these chairs are often very inexpensive if you do decide to try them out.
Kneeling chairs. These chairs let you sit in an almost kneeling position as you work, so that some of your body weight is on your shins rather than your butt and thighs. In the 1980s, research claimed that these chairs were no better than traditional office chairs, but research in the 2000s concluded that these chairs may have some benefits. You can read more about this office option here.
Choose the right desk for you.
Standard office desks are designed for average-height people. If you are under 152 cm or over 157 cm in height you may find that your desk does not fit you well. You may have to crane your neck to see your monitor or your legs may crash into the desk because there is not enough leg room. Both are bad news. A good option is an adjustable desk, which can be adjusted to just your height. Some adjustable desks can also be adjusted for angle, which can make writing more comfortable than a purely flat surface.
Another option to consider is the standing desk. This allows you to stand while you work, which many doctors claim is a better option than sitting down all day. Some standing desks even allow you to switch back and forth between sitting down to work and standing up to work, which can be an ideal way to get some movement into your work day. If you want some ideas for DIY standing desks, check out the Makeuseof blog post here.
One word of advice: if you do decide on a standing desk, invest in a good adjustable desk that matches your height and also invest in a good anti-fatigue mat. Your feet and legs may get tired from standing all day and an anti-fatigue mat can help with that.
As with office chairs, office desks have a basic rule of thumb: if your office furniture makes you hunch, stoop, stretch, or sit awkwardly, it’s not the right fit for you. It’s easy to get lost in work and not notice aches and pains, so make it a point to evaluate yourself when you get up for breaks or when you stop work for the day. Do you have aches or pains? Are some limbs numb or sore? Any pain is a sign that you may need to rethink your office choices.
Invest in good lighting.
Bad lighting can hurt your eyes, can make it harder to work, and can give you a headache. If you are working on the computer most of the time, you will need lighting levels of 500 lux. If you work with documents, you will need task lighting for additional light. Be sure to add task lights by the phone (if you tend to take notes while speaking) and over any filing cabinet where you may be reading files.
Try to avoid any glare or harsh lighting. If you must use fluorescent lights, for example, invest in diffusers to soften them. Be sure your office has curtains so that you can block out bright sunlight on sunny days. When positioning lighting, be sure to set it up so that there are no shadows on your page or computer monitor as you work.
Encourage movement in your office.
An office where everything is within easy each may not be the best option – in fact, it can kill you. Studies have shown that inactivity in the workplace can contribute more than was previously thought to cardiovascular disease and early death. According to researchers led by Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health in Australia, workers who sit for at least 11 hours daily increase their risk of fatality of 40%. This is true even if the workers are in good physical shape and work out during the day.
There are many options for creating a more active office space:
- Set up a treadmill desk. Many companies, including TrekDesk make equipment that lets you walk while typing on your computer.
- Set up a timer and take active breaks. Productivity experts suggest that frequent breaks can actually allow you to get more work done, too. Try the Pomodoro Technique, for example, which allows you to work for 25 minutes before each 5 minute break. You can use the break to stretch or just walk around. You can learn more here.
- Make your office slightly inconvenient. If you have to stand up to walk across the room a few times a day to retrieve a file, stapler, or other item you use once in a while, you will end up moving around a little bit more.
- Use technology to change up work. Rather than working at your desk for eight or more hours a day, consider working outside by working on a tablet or mobile device part of the day. To encourage even more activity, consider using dictating software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking (you can find out about it at this Nuance website). You can talk and create documents while walking around the office or stretching. Dictation also reduces strain on your hands if you type a lot.
To find out how offices have created active workspaces check out this article in USA Today.
Set up your technology.
Take a look at where you will be spending most of your day working. If it’s in front of a computer, make sure that the computer is set up so that your eyes fall about one-third down the length of monitor without you having to move your neck or stoop down. Keep computers about an arm’s length away from you.
If you need to look at documents often, invest in a document holder so that the documents can be held up when you are reading. This can actually help you be more productive since it prevents you from having to bend over a paper to read and it can help prevent neck and back strain, too.
These simple tips can help make your home office more productive, which can help you earn more. More importantly, these tips can help make your workspace at home healthier and safer for you.
Special thanks to Rentit.ca for information and images used in this article.