Working from home

Whether you have been working from home for as long as you can remember; or whether you have started working from home recently, there are many ways to create a space for yourself that gives you the peace and quiet that you need.  In today’s blog post, I want to look deeper into elements that you can either place inside your office, or use that are already there, to create a calm, yet productive home office space. 

The 2 most important items in your office are an ergonomic working surface and a good chair to sit on.  Ergonomics refers to the design factors in a workspace that intends to maximize productivity by minimizing fatigue and discomfort.  A good chair will not contribute to back, neck, shoulder strain or any other injuries.  It should be at a comfortable height (preferably one that can be adjusted), with a good back rest.  The desk and chair should either have a window on the side or in front (depending of course of the lighting) and you should be facing the door / entry way.  in Feng Shui this is known as the “seat of power.”  This positioning provides a sense of protection (as the wall is behind you), as well as a psychological safety and confidence.  A high-backed chair supports your back and on a psychological level the chair “anchors” you.  This is called “Black Warrior” in Feng Shui.

When we are sitting for long periods at a time, we tend to slouch when we become tired.  A ventilation-tray underneath your laptop, which you can lift up, is an easy way to not only lift your screen so that you can look straight ahead and type easier.  It also keeps your laptop cool.

A sit-stand desk is another good investment.  Working like this have been linked to better performance, better engagement and less fatigue and lower-back problems.  Not everybody will be able to work like this for long periods at a time, thus I would suggest to alternate between sitting down and standing.  Just make sure that your laptop is at eyelevel and not too low, otherwise you have to stand with a bent neck and this can create stress in your upper back, shoulders and neck-areas.  Standing or sitting with a bent neck also cuts off oxygen, so do make sure to keep a gap between your chin and your throat.  Stretching and taking short breaks during the day are great ways to get energy back, as well as undoing any tightness body, caused by sitting down or standing for long periods of time.

Making use of the biophilic design-concept in your workspace is another, easy way to create serenity.  This is a concept that is used in building design and interior decorating, in order to increase connectivity between yourself and the natural environment.  The idea is that you connect with nature (either directly by looking out into nature, or by bringing nature inside).  For example, using natural, chemical-free and low-toxic materials for walls, furnishings, flooring, are much healthier options. Pictures of nature on the walls are great ways to bring nature inside, as well as indoor plants.  Indoor plants not only make the space look more serene, but the plants also purify the air.  If it is possible use natural light and natural air; open the windows instead of using aircon all the time.  When it is cold and you need to use heating, make sure to put a bowl of water close to your radiator to help keep the air moist. 

Of course it is a bonus if you can look out at a beautiful view!  A pleasant view is not only something beautiful to look at, but it does wonders for the psyche as well.  In the 1980s Roger Ulrich did a research on hospital patients and found that, if they have a pleasant view, it reduces stress and aids in the healing process as well.  If you don’t have a beautiful view, make sure to put a flower box in your window.  If you don’t have a window, hang a beautiful nature-scene on your wall.  Ulrich has found that even pictures of nature can calm and relax a person.  Another easy way to connect with nature, is to get outside.  Whether you have your lunch-break outside in a park, or whether you just go for a walk; stretching your legs and taking a break is not just good for the body but also the mind and spirit.  Re-charging your batteries, so to speak, is a great way to get you through the afternoon.  If you tend to experience a slump in your energy-levels in the afternoon, make sure to drink water, and nibble on some nuts and/or fruit to give you the extra boost of energy (stay clear of crisps and sweets, as it creates a big dip in sugar levels).

As I have mentioned earlier, good ventilation and indoor plants are wonderful ways to keep oxygen circulating.  As we know, many synthetic chemicals like glue, paint, detergents, and so on, are not good to our bodies.  If you cannot open a window to let natural air come in, do make sure to place on / more indoor plants in your office.  Here are a few plants that is wonderful in cleaning the air and increase oxygen-levels inside your office:

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos / Golden Pothos) (Epipremnum aureum) fights off common household toxins, that grows easily in hanging baskets, water and pots. The toxins that this plant help to remove are Benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene;

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) are easy to grow and to look after.  Their leaves are a rich, glossy green colour.  All it needs is water once a week and fertilizer in springtime, when their beautiful white (sometimes green) flowers bloom. The toxins it removes is Formaldehyde;

Philodendron is a heart-shaped plant that are relatively easy to look after.  All that they need is a moderate amount of water and bright, indirect sunlight. Toxins removed are Formaldehyde and xylene;

Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifisciata) is a succulent plant that can grow up to 2 metres.  It is low maintenance that is hardy and thrives in a space that offers bright, even direct, light for a couple of hours a day.  Do be careful not to overwater this plant as it thrives in dry conditions. Toxins that is removed by this plant are Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene and xylene.

PS: Before you buy your plant, do make sure that it is not toxic to small children and pets.  The Philodendron and Spathiphyllum are mildly toxic to animals as well as small children.  The Spider plant is non-toxic.

There are many easy-to-follow tips that can change a dull, dark workspace into an inviting space.  You don’t have to break the bank to create a working space at home.  Even a lick of paint, a picture or a plant, a colourful cushion, can change the whole aesthetics of the room.  When a room – even your home office – is inviting, then you want to spend time there, you want to be productive and you most certainly would enjoy the space.  Happy workdays everybody!

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