Wondering how to create a healthy work-from-home office set up? You’re not alone! Working in the lounge room is the new normal in 2020 and this brings on a set of new challenges. I thought I’d put together a few ideas and tips for how to set a home office environment that doesn’t jeopardise your wellbeing (and sanity!). I will cover topics such as creating an inspiring space, healthy desk and chair ideas, work-from-home lunches and snacks, how to get in more movement, fresh air, office plants and more. This article was co-written with Alexandra Barone, my regular content contributor.
Perhaps now more than ever, people are working from home. At the beginning of 2020, this was a new daily routine for a lot of people who were otherwise accustomed to going to the office.
Working at home brings on some unique challenges – especially when you don’t have a dedicated space for an ‘office’. Now, depending on where you are in the world, the possibility of going back to the office is lower and lower as many companies are opting out of office rent and continuing with work-from-home scenario indefinitely.
Whether you’re looking for some quick fixes to increase productivity for the time being or you’re looking for tips to create the perfect home office, I have some great ideas for you to implement for optimal health, productivity, and good vibes.
1. Separate work and home environment
Separating work from the rest of your life is one of the most important factors when working from home. This is easier said than done, as you have to establish some solid boundaries.
If you have a lot of space – a spare bedroom maybe – you will have a much easier time with this as you have physical boundaries. A wall separating where you sleep and/or where you relax from your workspace is the most convincing reason to leave work at work.
However, you can still achieve these boundaries in a small space. Room dividers and other physical barriers can be set up in lieu of a wall. Some ideas include:
- a curtain
- a standing bookshelf
- a foldable room divider
- a few plants or a shelf with plants
But what if I don’t have extra space for an office?
You mini office can be a nook or a single chair. If you have a cupboard or a closet, there are some pretty creative ways to convert that space into a desk-and-shelves office (see pics below). If you want the simplest solution, create a more temporary office that can be cleaned up and put away at the end of the day. At the very least, keep your laptop shut and use your iPad or phone for the evening to avoid the temptation of checking emails.
Get simple storage solutions
If you’re just getting to know your personal work-from-home style, you should plan storage around your most-used items and the ones you don’t use as much. This way, you’ll know what’s smart and what keeps things easily accessible. Regardless, storage is super important for keeping clutter hidden and keeping your mind clear. It’s also an opportunity to bring in fun furniture and cute accessories – brighten up the mood! Even super inexpensive and small things like mesh baskets and plastic drawers can make a messy space functional again.
Lastly, don’t work all over your house. Laptops make it easy to stay in bed one day, set up on the couch when you’re feeling like it, or working in the kitchen to multitask making a meal. Instead, limit your work to one area in your house. No matter how tiny of a space you live in, this habit can make a huge difference.
2. Stick to your ‘office hours’
In conjunction with the first tip, leave your work at home. Set specific hours and be vocal about them to your colleagues – especially if you’re working with people in different time zones. Just because your work is at home doesn’t mean you’re available during all the hours you spend at home.
Equally so, set your lunch and break times and try to stick to those. If you have errands to run or housework to do, try to allocate those tasks to those planned breaks rather than interrupt your flow continuously throughout the day.
3. SET Digital boundaries
Working from home is an easy way to remain plugged in. Digital boundaries are important for optimal health and to prevent you from working when you’re technically off the clock. Turning off notifications past a certain time, not logging into your work email on personal devices, or leaving your devices out of sight and out of mind is a really important habit to get into. Don’t make it too easy to work when you’re doing something else and you’ll be less likely to succumb to the temptation.
4. Get dressed FOR PRODUCTIVITY & HEALTH
Just because nobody will see you from the waist down doesn’t mean you should forgo pants (at least not every day). Try to set the tone by dressing for the office or at least putting on some leggings with your cardigan. It can still be comfortable… but it shouldn’t be as comfortable as pyjamas.
One thing I often do is I wear active leisure wear as my ‘work from home’ outfit, with an option for something a little nicer to throw over the top for any online video chats. By wearing a comfortable sporty outfit, I also set myself up for taking active breaks throughout the day, whether it’s a lunchtime run or a quick yoga session.
Some nice ideas on My Kind Of Sweet blog here.
5. Access to good light
And not just for Zoom calls! Good lighting makes all the difference for video calls, but it also makes a huge difference to your mood and circadian rhythms.
When you wake up, your body wants natural light to help get the brain going. Throughout the day, this can make a huge difference in mood, stress levels, and overall contentment. A view doesn’t hurt either. If you don’t have great lighting or windows in your home, it may be worth investing in some sunshine-mimicking lighting and some bright but warm lighting to help lift the spirits and keep you awake – especially when that afternoon lull is creeping in the winter months. Check out this daylight lamp.
Speaking of light, remember to take out 15-20 minutes a day to go outside for fresh air and some sunlight exposure for that natural dose of Vitamin D.
6. Keep a tidy and professional background
One of the benefits of setting up a divider in your room for DIY office space is creating a clean and professional background. You can also simply use the wall behind you. This not only benefits the Zoom and video calls, but it boosts overall productivity and motivation. When we have an organised and tidy workspace, we create a far less distracting environment thus making us more productive.
7. Fresh air
Poorly ventilated indoor spaces typically don’t contain a balanced amount of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Do you have access to a great window that opens or a balcony? Setting up near some fresh air can make working so much more enjoyable and motivating. Keep bugs out with a screen and enjoy the airflow during warmer months.
Getting a few plants or an air purifier is another great idea if you don’t have access to fresh air or if it’s too cold outside.
8. HOME OFFICE Plants
Speaking of plants…now that you’re home all day, getting some house plants isn’t a bad idea since you’ll always remember to water them – right? Even if you think you don’t have a green thumb, it’s easier than ever to take care of plants with how trendy they are.
They really revitalise a space and make it look nice as well as improving air quality. Plus, it’s a great mood booster to be taking care of your plants and see new leaves sprouting up! Seeing them throughout the day will relax you and give you a much-needed nature break without having to leave the house.
9. GET MOVING
Sitting all day can be bad for your body and your brain. There are a few ways to add more movement to your day:
A standing desk is a great choice. You can buy a desk meant for standing, although the prices can be steep. You can also DIY it if you have some basic carpentry skills. Buying the materials alone will cost far less. Finally, you can add a riser to your regular desk to put your computer monitor on, making it easier to work standing up. This is another budget-friendly option under $100USD.
Exercise desk if you never have time to go for a walk or bike ride could be a good investment. If you have extra budget, something like an exercise bike work desk or a treadmill desk conversion are also great options.
DIY home gym or workout space is another great idea for quick access to a daily exercise session. It doesn’t have to take up much space and is really just about having a few bits and pieces on hand like a yoga mat, some resistance bands or hand weights. Doing quick exercises in 5-10 minute sessions throughout the day is a great way to sneak in quite a lot of movement into your daily working routine. Here is how to DIY a pegboard gym wall.
10. Upgrade your chair
Sitting in a chair all day will give you a new standard for chairs if you don’t have a solid desk chair at home. Finding something that reduces strain, provides back support, improves posture, and allows you to sit comfortably is a worthwhile investment.
For a pretty inexpensive option – especially combined with standing for portions of the day – you can get a Swiss ball (exercise ball, yoga ball). It forces you to engage your core to maintain posture, reduces pain in the lower back, and keeps you moving with minor position changes which will keep anyone part of the body from getting too stiff or cutting off circulation. In fact, it will improve blood flow overall.
11. Take regular (USEFUL) breaks
And make those breaks count! It is really easy to get caught up in household chores or errands when you’re not separating work from home. Keep this mentality in mind during your breaks and lunch hour.
Taking a walk during lunch can help boost energy which tends to dwindle right after lunch. You could even catch up with a friend or neighbour at the same time, or take the kids to the park and run around with a ball. You can really shoot for the stars and even squeeze in a full workout.
Moreover, you can use these breaks to make inspired and healthy quick meals to improve energy and focus. Another good use of those quick breaks is doing some healthy dinner meal prep ahead of time. This way, when you get to the end of the day and you’re lacking energy or motivation, half the work is already done so you won’t be tempted by pizza and frozen meal options.
Use short breaks to take deep breaths or reset with a mini-meditation. Stroll around your space and water the plants or put some essential oils in a diffuser for some aromatic inspiration. Make it tempting to utilise this time for taking care of yourself and investing in your body and mind!
12. HEALTHY Work-from-home LUNCHES
It may not be as easy to step out for takeaway or ordering out with the office crew for lunch, but it will still be tempting with more and more options for food delivery. Make your meals as you would if you were going to the office even though you’ll have access to your own kitchen. This will help you maintain a solid schedule, keep those boundaries you’ve set in place, and stay healthy. Balanced meals can do wonders for focus and clarity, so don’t skimp on the prep.
Some of my favourite go-to work-from-home lunches include big nutritious salad bowls, make-ahead tuna or salmon salad like this one (pic above), salad jars, quick healthy wraps, stuffed avocado, and fun bento lunchboxes. You can often make some of the ingredients or dishes ahead of time and enjoy them throughout the week. A quick smoothie or a granola yoghurt and berry bowl are my other favourites. If you’re doing paleo or Whole30, check out these inspiring lunchbox ideas.
13. Moderate snacking
Easy access to your pantry and fridge can result in excess calories without you even realising. Mindless snacking and procrastination go hand-in-hand so make sure to pay attention to when and on what you snack. Ask yourself, ‘Am I actually hungry? Oftentimes, you might just need a glass of water or herbal tea.
My trick to healthy snacking at home is to plan out what I will snack on should I need to. For example, I might set aside a green apple and a couple of tablespoons of nut butter, or a handful of almonds and dried apricots. I might get some prep done for a quick green smoothie or have a boiled egg or hummus and veggie sticks ready to go.
Below is a simple lunch or snack bento box of cashews and berries and ham, artichoke and spinach roll-ups with mustard; plus, some raw carrots for extra fibre.
14. Stay hydrated
Being at home reduces our need or desire for routine. It’s easy to fall out of healthy habits including drinking enough water. Make your own infusions, keep water cold, buy your favourite seltzers, and keep a water bottle handy. Use a big bottle with litre marks to help you keep track of where you’re at, or upgrade to a bigger bottle to keep your thirst quenched.
15. Avoid the temptation to relax too much
Being at home is relaxing for many of us and that’s super important! A home should inspire us to kick back, relax, and enjoy ourselves. The office needs to be a little more on top of things though. Avoid cosy sitting areas, throw blankets, pillows, books, televisions, and other “tune out” temptations in your home office area if you can. It can be a little too easy to take your laptop with you to the couch.
These are just a few tips for how to create a comfortable, bright, and motivating home office space during a time when more of us are working from home than ever. It can be challenging to adjust, especially if you are working with a small space, but it’s possible for everyone. Making sure you incorporate regular movement, stay hydrated, get fresh air and eat your lunch and snacks mindfully will help you stay fit and healthy while working from home.
Let me know in the comments what your tips and tricks are, or what your favourite mood-boosting home office decor is and some of your go-to lunches, workouts, snacks and so on.