It’s possible that working from home has been your modus operandi for some time now. Others may be recent converts because of our current world circumstances. Either way, we’ve collected a few ideas to make a home office productive and comfortable, and have some tips for how you may adapt it to a high-performance home.
1.) If you have the space, try to set up your home office in a room that you can designate specifically for that use. Maybe you have a currently unoccupied guest room or a sitting area. Being able to create a separate physical space for working as opposed to rooms you use for your other daily practices (eating, sleeping, etc.) goes a long way in creating differentiation between work time and life time. If you can’t fully separate yourself, try designing your workspace so that you face away from the action. You might not be as tempted to jump back into bed if you can’t see it.
High-performance tip: Your basement could be the ideal location to consider placing your office, even if you’ve elected to leave it unfinished. Reason; it’s treated like the rest of your first floor (and second floor) spaces, in that it’s well insulated, well ventilated, and there is not a drop of excess moisture to be found. It’s the prettiest basement you’ve probably ever set your eyes on (yes, even unfinished). Bonus, your basement is the perfect, distraction free escape when your tween picks a fight with your teen, your 5 year old decides that riding the dog like a horse is the best way to get around the house, and your partner (also working from home) decides that sticky notes are the new way to decorate all the surfaces of your kitchen.
2.) Choose a spot that is close to a window. Natural light and fresh air are essential to our health, so try building access to them directly into the place you’ll be sitting for several hours a day. Also while working on a computer, practice the 20-20-20 rule. After looking at the screen for 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. If you’re by a window, there’s plenty of places to gaze at outside. (We recommend keeping an eye out for bird and wildlife sightings.)
High-performance tip: We all want a window near our desk and chances are, if you live in a high-performance home, you have many locations throughout your home that have an abundance of natural light. Be aware when selecting the room and locating your desk within a space, that superabundant daylight can cause glare. Glare is created by too much direct light or excessive contrast, which can impact your visual comfort and lead to eyestrain. Without going too deep into the technical details, here is a suggestion to help mitigate it: Aim to situate yourself (especially along the south side) next to windows that are shaded by an exterior awning, or have interior shades intact that help provide bright but diffuse light to your space.
3.) Take some time to check into your personal ergonomics. Your computer should sit about an arm’s length from your body. Your wrists should be straight, with your hands either at, or slightly below, elbow level. Try to find a seated position that allows your feet to be flat with your knees level to your hips. If you don’t have a desk that moves up and down or a chair that allows for particular ergonomic features, never fear. Be creative with what you have in your house. A few books stacked up can help bring your computer to the right height. Make a bolster out of a rolled towel for your feet to rest on. The most important thing is to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.
High-performance tip: Did you know that your high-performance home is, in and of itself, an ergonomic success story? Well distributed fresh air, thick walls that mitigate sound transmission from outside and elsewhere in the house, and an open floor plan which keeps spaces well and evenly heated (passively or mechanically) all make for optimal working conditions.
4.) Give your space some personality. Do you have a plant you can move to be on your desk? A framed photo of your family or cat? (Yes, they might be physically nearby but creating the replication of an away-from-home work environment helps with that separation between house and office when they are the same.) If you are working at your kitchen table, even setting out a placemat or moving a cup with some pens in it nearby can help delineate the area as a workspace. Just to add some extra pizazz, fold a piece of paper in half and write “Too Busy to Talk to You” and place it on your desk where anyone in your house can see it. We can’t promise it’s a foolproof solution but there’s no harm in trying.
High-performance tip: If you choose to use your extra time at home taking on a home improvement project, why not choose to update your new office space with a new, vibrant wall color. What perfect use of the low-VOC paints you have left over from when you built. No off-gassing and a fresh place to feel inspired is a win-win. You are also likely have a solar array atop your south-facing roof, generating pure, clean electricity to power your entire house and then some. Feel free to use this as a humble brag if you need to, noting to your co-workers and neighbors that by working from home you’re actually using electricity that wouldn’t otherwise be so sustainably sourced. How’s that for high-performance home office pizzazz?
Have you recently set up a home office? Do you have any tips you can share? We’d love to see and hear about your creative solutions!