For just over a year, working from home has become a part of everyday life for much of the UK’s working population. While we don’t all have home offices, we’ve been making do at the dining table or breakfast bar, or setting up a makeshift desk in a corner or alcove. Or maybe for some of us, our ‘go-to office’ has been the sofa or bed.
Space, or rather lack of, is one of the biggest issues when it comes to creating a suitable working area in the home, but it’s important that we carve out a space that helps us to be productive and to ensure we have the right furniture and equipment to work comfortably and efficiently.
In the words of sustainable design expert Oliver Heath: ‘It’s important to have a healthy, happy and productive space to work in. A height-adjustable chair with arms, and a sit/stand desk will keep you moving and ergonomically well catered for, while a range of storage options will ensure the space is functional, clean and tidy. Include easy-to-reach shelves or desk tidies for items you to use all the time, and long-term storage such as a cupboard or filing cabinets.’
Follow these expert tips to help you get the most out of your workspace.
• Connect with nature •
Being stuck indoors all day can help us feel far removed from all the things we love about nature and being outdoors. If you can, position your desk facing the window. ‘Studies have shown that views of greenery, even in your peripheral vision, can help you feel rested and rejuvenated, allowing you to focus for longer, so it’s a good idea to position your desk with a view through a window,’ says Oliver Heath.
Speaking of windows, bring in more natural light by keeping windows clear of obstructions – ensure they aren’t blocked by furniture such as bookcases, wardrobes or even high-backed chairs or sofas – as this will help to improve mental energy and enhance productivity.
‘Make the most of the lighter, brighter days by sitting near a window, even if only for a few hours a day. The importance of natural light for health and wellbeing is not to be underestimated,’ explains Catharina Björkman, Scandi lifestyle expert at Contura. ‘Numerous studies have shown that natural light in office spaces improves worker satisfaction and productivity, so why wouldn’t you want the same when working from home?
‘Exposure to natural light helps regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythms (sleep-wake schedules) so not only will you feel more awake during the day, but you’ll also sleep better come night-time.’
If you’re struggling for windows and natural light, you can always mimic daylight with full spectrum light bulbs. You can also bounce light around the room with reflective surfaces.
Bring nature indoors
Alternatively, bring nature indoors with an aquarium. With both practical and aesthetic benefits, the biOrb aquarium provides the ideal place to gaze within the comfort of your home, bringing you closer to nature whilst providing a calm and tranquil place for contemplation.
Bursting with vivid colour and life, aquarium fish are one of nature’s most interesting aquatic species, and watching them swim through the underwater world will certainly offer a refreshing break from the stresses of the working day. The biOrb aquarium requires only 15 minutes of maintenance per month – the aquarium will replicate the fish’s natural environment; allowing you to sit back and enjoy as nature does the work.
• Embrace plants •
Desk plants and flowers will offer a burst of greenery, livening up your working space as well as improving the air quality around you. But what plants to choose?
Catharina Björkman shares some suggestions: ‘Aloe Vera is not only easy to grow, but is also known for its air purifying qualities, removing common household toxins from the air. It also has antibacterial properties and its gel can be applied topically to help heal small cuts, grazes or burns.
‘Fragrant herbs such as basil, rosemary and mint are easy to grow and their natural scents will lift your workspace. They’ll also prove useful when cooking and baking. Fragrant plants such as lavender are known to lower heart rate and blood pressure and promote a more peaceful and restful night’s sleep – vital for a productive wfh routine.’
• Make a desk your permanent workspace •
We know how unproductive a makeshift office environment can be. Introducing an office desk into your 9-5 life offers a permanent, comfortable home for your laptop. Take time to find the right desk for your space (standing desk, folding desk, ladder desk etc.) and if you’re able to, choose a desk with a drawer so you can keep your notes, files and laptop locked away after the working day.
Depending on the type of work you do, you should also consider installing a second monitor to allow you to enjoy a dual screen; it’ll make accessing and viewing multiple documents simpler. ‘Doubling your display offering means you no longer have to go through the hassle of constantly moving back and forth between files, greatly improving productivity and working performance,’ explain the experts at video conference call provider PowWowNow.
If investing in a new desk isn’t an option at the moment, buy a laptop stand that you can place on your dining table. For example, the Twelve South Curve laptop stand means no more hunching over and tilting your head downwards towards a screen – simply elevate your laptop to a healthier, more comfortable height.
• Choose a chair that’s good for you •
Have you been sitting on a substandard chair from the kitchen or dining room? Or has it been your sofa or bed? The latter would be unsurprising, considering a recent survey commissioned by MADE revealed that one in four (26 per cent) worked from their sofa and nearly one in five (17 per cent) from their beds in 2020. After a year of working from home, now really is the time to invest in an office chair that’s good for you.
‘Don’t continue to sit cross legged on your sofa and work with your laptop on your lap, if you’re wondering why you have a sore back – this is why,’ says Michel Baumgart, design expert and BoConcept‘s Business & Contract Director. ‘It’s also incredibly hard to focus on work and the additional strain you’re putting on your body isn’t helping.’
The solution? An ergonomic office chair.
Chair experts Summit At Home have been making chairs for over 45 years for the NHS, schools and businesses, and now you can get one for your home – and you won’t even have to compromise on aesthetics.
Handmade in Wiltshire and delivered in 10 days, each chair offers a host of wellbeing features. Choose from eight designs then select your fabric colour (a choice of 15 from duck egg to coral), and customise with armrest, lumbar support, memory foam and base options.
Tried and tested, we can vouch for its comfort, style and all-round wellbeing benefits. Inflexion, Summit’s bestselling chair, boasts a deeply contoured back, an inbuilt inflatable lumbar support which you can inflate and deflate, and a deep cushioned memory foam seat pad to ensure no aches and pains after sitting for eight hours a day!
‘Ergonomics is the fancy term for looking at the space around you and ensuring the way you interact with it “makes sense”. We use this ethos when designing chairs. We create them with form and function in mind. Both need to work seamlessly together so the entire experience of sitting in the chair makes sense,’ says David Simpson, CEO & Design Director, Summit At Home.
‘For example, having the seat move with you – subtle but regular movement, is so important for great back care. As humans we haven’t evolved to sit for eight hours a day, we are designed to move. Our Dynamic Sitting function allows constant movement which makes sense to your body. We’re creating chairs to give you a healthier sitting experience.’
• Choose hues to improve your mood •
Depending on the setup of your workspace, use paint, wallpaper or styling items to inject colour in energising hues of yellow, green, orange or red. You could also add your favourite artwork or prints to the walls.
‘If you need to work from home, treat yourself to a space that fosters productivity and creativity. A simple and effective way to define and zone a space is through wallpaper or a striking mural,’ says Nina Tarnowski, Founder of Woodchip & Magnolia. ‘Don’t be afraid to play with pattern and larger designs; even within the smallest of rooms, it can give the illusion of a much larger space.’
• Divide and zone your space •
In busy households, small homes and open-plan spaces, it’s become harder to carve out personal space. Partitions and room dividers are key here – screen dividers can be moved when not in use and can fold away to save space.
If you’re working from your bedroom, strategically placing items to divide your workspace is paramount to creating a separation. You need to be able to switch off from your work environment and a visible separation will mentally help you to do just that.
• Keep on top of clutter •
Banish clutter and consider adopting a minimalist style for your home office space, as clutter can often become distracting.
‘A crowded space can add to your stress – ensure you’re space feels the best it can, take some time each night before logging off from work to tidy up your belongings and get rid of clutter and junk that no longer serves you so you maximise your working environment,’ suggests Michel Baumgart.
• Do a wellbeing check •
It goes without saying, regular screen-breaks will help to increase your focus and productivity as well as release tension across your back, neck, shoulders and arms. A walk outdoors in the fresh air will help to improve brain function, concentration levels and reduce stress levels. For shorter breaks, you could indulge in a five-minute meditation (try Headspace) or embrace the Swedish tradition Fika (a relaxing coffee and cake break).
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