As the world grapples with the spread of the Covid-19 virus, rapid shifts are occurring in our societal patterns and behaviours. Companies and businesses throughout the world are telling employees to work from home in order to limit the spread of the virus, and this could easily become the new ‘normal’.
This transformation means many people are forced to work remotely from inadequate home offices for the foreseeable future. What were once spare bedrooms, media dens and unfinished basements only a few weeks ago are now important command centres for our new remote workforce.
If you find yourself working out of your house for the next few weeks or months, there are some easy ways you can improve your impromptu at home office space. The suggestions listed below will boost your productivity and may also help create a sense of separation between work and home which can be difficult to achieve.
This is one of the most important aspects of a functional work space. Natural light from windows and skylights is best for your circadian rhythms, eye strain, and mental well-being. Try to avoid working in a room lit purely through artificial lighting, especially fluorescent. If no windows are available, you could always purchase a full spectrum light to mimic the sun’s rays. If possible, try and position your work space near the source of natural light and supplement with some extra task lighting at your desk for reading and writing.
Speaking of your desk, you should orient it to face the window if possible. Not only will this give you something pleasant to look at when taking a break, but will limit the amount of glare and eye strain from light reflecting off your monitor if your desk were reversed and your back to the window.
If you have a large family and kids, this one is especially important. The ability to limit the amount of noise pollution from others in your home or loud vehicles and neighbours outside will improve your ability to focus and be productive. Introducing sound absorbing panels to the walls or soft furniture and materials around the room such as fabric curtains will immediately improve the acoustics of your new work space. Adding an area rug or carpet to the floor of your office is one of the fastest ways of upgrading your home office acoustics.
Having a source of white noise in the background can also be very beneficial to help disguise other acoustic distractions and promote deep, focused work. This could be as simple as adding a fan or soft music in the background. Music without vocals is usually best.
Adding some vegetation to your space is another easy way to improve the level of comfort and introduce a little nature. Living plants have a positive and calming effect on the brain which helps alleviate some work-related stress. They also provide fresh oxygen and certain varieties even scrub the indoor air of toxic impurities.
Speaking of air quality, you should check your home’s air filter to see if it needs replacing. Indoor air quality can often be worse than outdoor due to dust and pet dander. Homes with forced air furnaces will have air filters that need to be periodically replaced and breathing cleaner air is always a good thing.
Being physically comfortable is important to your productivity and temperature plays a vital role. Occupational health administrations recommend that office air temperature be in the range of 20-24 degrees Celsius which is 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit. I would recommend being on the cooler side to promote alertness and avoid the lethargy that comes with warmer temperatures.
Going beyond the aforementioned ideas for your office space, there are some more obvious workstation specific improvements that can also be made:
- An ergonomic chair and desk will improve your posture and physical well-being. Consider a standing or adjustable desk.
- Adding an extra monitor for your computer can easily double your screen area which can dramatically improve your workflow.
- Going vertical with bookshelves and bulletin boards will help optimize a small space and actually make it feel larger.
- Integrating mirrors to the room can improve the amount of reflected light for a brighter space, and again will make it feel bigger than it truly is.
Incorporating a few of these ideas will promote a healthy and productive home office that allows you to get your most important work done during these unprecedented times.
Stay safe out there,