Anna Fountain, Junior Physiologist at AXA PPP healthcare

Setting up a healthy work station at home

2 April 2020

If you’ve recently started working from home, or if it’s the norm for you, having a healthy work station set up is important, for your personal wellbeing and to maintain your productivity.

Anna Fountain, Junior Physiologist at AXA PPP healthcare shares her top tips on how to make your home workspace work for you and for your business.

Whether you’re new to working from home or you’re a remote worker and working from home is the norm, it’s important to have a healthy work station set up.

For many of us, the first thought you had when asked to work from home may have been that you can stay in your pyjamas all day and work from the sofa or your bed. While this may be enjoyable on the odd occasion, having a healthy home work station set up can boost your wellbeing as well as your productivity levels, and help you achieve a better work-life balance.

A poor home set up with an uncomfortable chair, messy desk and poor lighting can wear you down every day and leave you feeling low and unmotivated. Your workspace should uplift you and help you feel positive about your work.

So with that in mind, here are our top tips on setting up your workspace at home:

Have a separate place to work

It’s important that your designated work space is separate from other areas of the house where you do things such as sleeping, cooking and relaxing. You might be able to convert the guest room you only use a few times a year or another less-used room into a home office; it’s an added bonus if the room has a door, so you can reduce noise from the rest of the house and shut the door to your ‘office’ at the end of the day, to really help separate your work and home life. If you don’t have the option of using a separate room, try to keep your designated work space separate. For example, if you must work in your bedroom, have the bed on one side of the room and the desk on the other. Avoid using your bed as a desk. Keeping your workspace separate from your personal life is important to help maintain a good work-life balance.  Having a designated space also means that you can keep all work-related files, and supplies there. 

Depending on your role, it could be important to set up a skype friendly environment, meaning your background looks professional and pleasant for any video calls.

Consider the lighting 

The quality of lighting in your workspace can affect both your mood and your productivity. Poor lighting, whether it’s dim or harsh overhead artificial lighting, can lead to things such as eye strain, low energy levels and low mood, all of which can negatively impact your work and your wellbeing. It’s important to have a home workspace with plenty of light and, if possible, near a window. Natural light can help to improve sleep, decrease stress, and improve your mood and productivity. Sunlight also helps our bodies maintain our internal ‘body clocks’  (our circadian rhythm), so working in an area with natural light will help you feel alert throughout the day. Don’t forget the importance of vitamin D from sunlight. Your body can’t make vitamin D if you’re sitting indoors or by a sunny window, so if you have the opportunity to work in the garden or maybe take a phone call outside, give it a try. 

Declutter

Having extra papers and pens on your desk can delay your progress with work, so keep the things you use daily within reach. Store all other supplies you might need less frequently in desk drawers, and files you don’t need in a filing cabinet. Don’t declutter so much that you must leave your desk to find supplies or files that you regularly need as this wastes time and could lead to distractions.

Get comfortable 

An ergonomic chair can reduce physical discomfort, something which could distract from your ability to stay focused. If you’re working from your kitchen or dining room table and use a normal chair, consider using chair supports to reduce back pain. Raise your laptop using a stand or a stack of books, so that the top of your screen is in line with your eyebrow, as this stops you from dropping your neck or slouching over to view the screen. It’s also advised that you use a separate wireless keyboard, so you can rest your wrists on the desk.

Working from home gives you the added benefit of being able to control elements of your environment, such as the room temperature and ventilation, instead of being too cold or too hot in your office. So make the most of this and have some fresh air coming into the room if you can.

Have some house plants

A desk or floor plant is a great way to add a breath of fresh air into your workspace. Houseplants have also been found to increase productivity by up to 15% [1]. Some living plants even have air purifying properties, which would be an added bonus. If you worry about keeping up the maintenance of the plant, opt for something like a cactus or a snake plant, (making sure you don’t overwater them), or a fake plant if you want something with no maintenance at all!

You’ll know if you have a healthy work station by how energised you feel when working in your setup and the amount of work you can get done. If you find one location doesn’t work for you, try another area in your house or make a few changes to your desk set up.

Other healthy tips to follow when working from home 

  • Set boundaries with family members or housemates. Make sure they know not to disturb you when you’re working in your office space.
  • If you can, set up a wireless headset so you can stand up and walk around when on a call, reducing sedentary behaviour.
  • Make sure you take time away from work for lunch. It could be tempting to eat lunch at your desk, but just as it is at the office, it’s important to take a break.
  • Having smartphones easily accessible can reduce productivity as it’s easy to get distracted by notifications or spend time on it unrelated to work. To avoid this and make your home work space more productive, have a designated spot where you store your smartphone – a draw under the desk or maybe in another room to further reduce temptation. 

Working from home isn’t always easy, but setting up a healthy work space at home will help you to look after your wellbeing and boost your productivity.

 

References:

[1] Nieuwenhuis et al. The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Vol 20, 3. 2014.

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