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How to Have a Healthier and More Productive Home Office

By:     Topics: Entrepreneurship

We’ve written in the past about some of most awesome company offices in the world. But is it possible that the ultimate office is right in your own home?

Working from home can be a dream come true: convenience, comfort, and complete control. Today, more people are working from home than ever before – whether they’re telecommuting to their job or just using the Internet to make their own income like me.

I’ve been working from a home office for two years now and in that time I’ve learned that working from home is a double-edged blade. Do it well and it’s the best work experience you’ll ever have – but do it wrong and it will bring down your work and home life simultaneously.

Here’s how to make sure your home office is a healthier and more productive one.

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Establish Your Home Office

messy home office

“The biggest problem home workers have is the loss of distinction between work life and home life.

Entrepreneur

Separating Life and Work

The first thing to do is to pick the area that you’ll be working in. Ideally, it’s a special room set aside specifically to work in. If you’re going to be taking appointments from clients, you’ll want to make sure the home office can be accessed without going through personal or communal spaces.

But separating life and work is about more than just physical separation. You also have to make a mental separation. This might mean setting very specific hours during which you’ll be “at work” and “at home” (even though they both have the same address). You may also want to wear different clothes to work so as to signal to yourself that you’re working and not at leisure.

If you don’t clearly separate your home and professional lives, you’ll find they bleed into one entity – and that entity isn’t particularly good for relaxing or for being productive.

Communicating with Your Co-Inhabitants

Chances are you don’t live alone. Whether you’ve got roommates or a family, the next step in working from home is sitting down and talking with the people you live with about where, when, and how you plan on working from home.

Establishing some ground rules from the onset will help avoid confusion and unpleasantness down the road.

Photo Credit: Fabio Bruna via Compfight cc

The All-Important Chair

id broken office chair

“Nature gave men two ends – one to sit on and one to think with. Ever since then man’s success or failure has been dependent on the one he used most.”

George R. Kirkpatrick

Quality Desk Chair

Good work starts with a good chair. The right chair will help you to have a better posture, more energy, and more focus. From there, you will be able to work more efficiently, happily, and for more hours at a time.

I could tell you to pick a chair with sufficient lumbar support and adjustable height so that it can match up with your desk but really the most important thing is how it feels to you when you sit in it. I recommend going to office supply or furniture store and test out their wares to see what’s most comfortable for you.

I recently invested in a new chair for my home office and my only regret is I wish I had done it sooner.

Exercise Ball Alternative

There’s a trend towards sitting on exercise balls instead of traditional office chairs. The idea is that you’ll get more exercise, have better posture, and be healthier while at work.

If you’re thinking this is a little far-fetched, you’re probably right. According to The New York Times, sitting on an exercise ball does help you burn more calories (about 4 more per hour) but “the evidence that it improves posture is lacking.”

Exercise balls aren’t very expensive and can be rolled into the corner pretty easily, so you may want to consider picking one up as a change of pace from your more traditional office chair.

Photo Credit: ~ wryonedwards ~ via Compfight cc

 

Get a Big Desk

l shaped desk

Why Size Matters for Desks

A desk isn’t anything too special. Essentially, it’s a glorified table.

But there is a big difference between a small desk and a spacious one. A larger desk will allow you to spread out, which is especially important if you’re brainstorming visual or relational ideas. It also leaves more room for extra equipment, like a second monitor (pictured above).

One way to have more desk space is to opt for an L-shaped, corner desk. This also gives you the possibility of having two separate work spaces for different parts of the same project.

Big Desks are Safer Too

Drinking water while you work is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and if you’re anything like me then you probably drink your fair share of coffee when you’re on the job too.

But liquids on a small desk can be dangerous, as you have no choice but to place them in spilling distance of your keyboard and other valuable electronics. This may seem like a fairly trivial point – but it wouldn’t feel so trivial if you lost an expensive piece of equipment due to a cramped work environment.

Standing and Working

There’s also been a lot of buzz lately about the health costs of sitting at a desk all day. If you’re looking for a change of pace that may help you work better and live longer, try standing up and working from a counter or another high surface. If you like it, you may want to invest in a stand-up desk as a healthier and more productive alternative to the traditional option.

Photo Credit: yprime via Compfight cc

Healthy Home Office Lighting

ID natural light home office

“To love beauty is to see light.”

Victor Hugo

Natural Light

If you want to be healthier, work in a room with a window.

A review from the Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory found that natural light in a workplace is linked to “general well-being,” “increased productivity”, and “better health.” The review also states that natural light “decreases the occurrence of headaches, SAD, and eyestrain.”

If natural light is simply impossible, then make sure you buy full-spectrum light bulbs. According to the review, “In buildings where daylighting is not or cannot be integrated, using full-spectrum bright lights has been shown to positively affect the workers in the buildings.”

Good Lighting for Video

Communicating with strangers across the globe is a big part of my job description – and I suspect the same is true for many of you. Because so much communication is non-verbal, video calls are a great way to build a more personal connection from afar.

But bad lighting in your home office will render your expressions unreadable and make you look unprofessional. If you’re going to be video chatting or video blogging, then you ought to take the time to create lighting that works well in your home office.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. The most important thing is to have a soft, diffuse light that’s hitting your face evenly. This can be as simple as a household lamp with shade, but you might want to try a few different approaches to see what’s best for your particular space.

The biggest problems that I see people have with lighting is (a) too much light in the background causing the foreground to be darkened in comparison and (b) a harsh light coming from the top or sides that’s casting long shadows across their face. If you can avoid these issues and get some soft, diffuse light shining across your face then you’ll be golden.

Task Lights

Consider getting an adjustable task light for your home office. You’ll be able to aim the light at whatever area of your desk your working on and it’s directional light will help you to focus on the task at hand.

Photo Credit: jnyemb via Compfight cc

Healthy Home Office Designhome office plants healthier

“To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Helen Keller

Planting Productivity

If you add just one accessory to your home office, make it a plant. Research shows that with plants around, “workers were more productive and had a 12 percent quicker reaction time. They were less stressed and had lower blood pressure.”

Plants that are dead or dying won’t be of much help at all, so when you get a plant for your home office you had better be ready to take good care of it – either that, or get a cactus.

Paint the Walls

One of the very simplest and least expensive ways that you can transform your work space is with a coat of paint. I recommend a neutral color or a shade of green, which is associated with harmony, balance, and refreshment.

Here’s what Colour Affect has to say about green:

“Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance – a more important concept than many people realise.”

Photo Credit: Chrismatos via Compfight cc

Get Out of Your House!

Even if you’ve done everything I’ve mentioned above and you’ve got an extremely healthy and productive home office, eventually you’re going to want to escape it.

Go for it.

One of the great perks of working from home is that you don’t actually have to work from home at all. Depending on your line of work, you can be anywhere – be it your front lawn or a nearby park. In fact, as I write this I’m sitting in a local coffee shop.

A change of scenery will be a nice change pace… and will help you to be more productive when you’re back in your healthy home office.

 

Post Image: blupics via Compfight cc

  • http://youronline.biz Darnell Jackson

    Gotta have natural light man if you want to sit inside a lab go back to your office cubicle.

    Whatever you do don’t take away YOUR office with a view.

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      It makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? That’s part of the reason why I love my home in wide-open Colorado.

  • Raiyan

    Nice post nick.. As u mentioned.. good lighting is the most important part

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      It definitely goes a long way. Good lighting means better focus and less strain on your eyes (mine are overworked enough as it is!).

  • Luis

    Hey Nick,

    Great article. Unfortunately I don’t have the good fortune of working from home. I do have a regular job and I’ve noticed that when I’m working at an office that looks visually appealing/modern I’m more productive.

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      That doesn’t surprise me. Hopefully one day you will be able to work from home. It’s definitely becoming more and more possible with every year.

  • http://starsunflowerstudio.blogspot.com Sü Smith

    Nice post! I finally got out and worked from a coffee shop today. :o)

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      How did you like it? I find that I’m a little bit less distracted when I know that I could have a stranger looking over my shoulder.

      • http://starsunflowerstudio.blogspot.com Sü Smith

        It was nice to get out but not as ergonomic as I would like. However, it was a good change of scenery. The coffee shop in this area has a nice music playlist.

      • http://www.chrisfarrellmembership.com Lita

        I love the, “No, I won’t fix your computer” tshirt.

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog/dan-kennedy-the-evolution-of-a-rich-business-owner/ Lewis LaLanne

    Separate room for work? Check.

    Chair? Meh. It’s not horrible but it’s not plush. But I’ve intentionally kept it that way to incentivize me to stand more during my workday. :)

    Big Desk? Check. The thing I need to do clear a bunch of the unnecessary stuff off of it to make more open and spacious.

    Natural Lighting? Check.

    Spot lighting? Nope. I want to look into that using what I learned from Eben Pagan about a kick butt lighting set up that consists primarily of $5 dollar task lights you can get at Home Depot.

    Plant? Check. I’ve kept mine alive for at least a year now and I look forward to getting more.

    Painted walls? Nope. I love the idea but I rent so I don’t know if the owner would be too excited about me painting so I do the next best thing – I keep inspiring and fun pictures and objects around me for psychological triggers.

    Getting out of my office to work? Not nearly enough. And what’s crazy is I’ve got an absolutely incredible place I would love to spend time at.

    Thanks for reminding me Nick of some modifications I can make here to make the days fly by smoother. :)

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      It sounds like you’ve got a great home office. But I’m glad that I’ve reminded you about the importance of getting out your home office often – no matter how nice it is.

  • Karen Mae Arcamo

    I agree with having a plant as an accessory in one’s home office, Nick. I have a vase of sunflowers and it brought a huge inspiration towards my work. Though it’s not real, still it made a difference with my productivity output. Thank you for your advice to have a Real Plant. I might get one someday! =)

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      I’m glad to hear that the sunflowers have inspired you to work harder, even though they aren’t real. I’m guessing that a vase of real plants will be even more helpful.

  • Jeffrey

    This post is what I’m looking for. Thanks for effort.

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      Of course – now, good luck putting together your home office.

  • Cheptiony Mutai

    Great article on Home office. I have been applying some of these strategies and as a result, my productivity have truly skyrocketed. Thanks for sharing with us more insights on how to make home office more convenient place.

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      Keep up the good work! I’m glad that you found my advice helpful.

  • Mona

    Hi
    Thats a very functionally oriented post,and i woul love to share part of my experience with ahome office.When you’re done just make sure that the illumination inside caters for natural as well as electric lighting,because you have to be prepared to work late hours.Even rainy,inclement days.finally please don’t forget good soft music in the background.

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      You’re right – both about having electrical lighting in case of working late and the importance of some nice music to help you work productively.

  • http://umreviews.com Umar

    Thank You Nick. It is a very good advice for some serious home business lover. Always Regards, Umar

    • http://nextlevelink.com Nick

      Thanks, Umar.

  • Josh Katherman

    AWESOME tips! I find the most helpful for me is to make sure that my desk has NOTHING on it besides exactly what I need to be productive. As things clutter, so does my head :)

  • Anthony

    nick great article thank you for advice

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