In 2020, working from home has gone from being an occasional luxury to a full-on lifestyle thanks to the necessity of social distancing. And while some people have long been used to telecommuting—sharing #WFHvibes shots on Instagram and even running full-on empires from their home offices—there are many of us who are struggling to the adjustment of bringing your work home with you, literally.
“People [typically choose] to move their offices to home because they want to spend more time with loved ones or create a better quality of life, so it’s important to follow through with those intentions and get the environment right,” says Andi Lew, an Australia-based wellness expert and author of 7 Things Your Doctor Forgot to Tell You: A Guide for Optimal Health. “Having a healthy space for a home office allows you to feel more balanced, which in turn creates better productivity.”
But even though your couch-meets-desk situation is a whole lot more comfortable than your average cubicle, you still need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself while you work. Besides, there’s no doubt that working from your den can be more Zen than dealing with an actual office space, and with a few simple tweaks, it can be that much healthier, too.
Read on as Lew breaks down how to create the healthiest and most comfortable #WFH space ever.
Invest in a different kind of desk
Whether you’re using an adorable rose gold Macbook Air or a massive desktop, hunching over *any* kind of computer can lead to posture problems. Stand up desks (like this super chic Jarvis one) or a fit ball to sit on can help with better posture, but there are a few caveats. “Make sure your fit ball is the right size for you. Your legs need to be bent at a right angle with pelvis aligned with the rest of the spine,” she says.
While the verdict is still out on whether or not fit balls give you any real body benefits, the science behind standing desks is pretty impressive. Researchers found that people who use standing desks actually do burn more calories than those who don’t (admittedly not that many more: six hours of standing only equates to about 54 extra calories). Beyond these options, there are cycling desks, tread-desks and even elliptical attachments that can help you really work out while working.
Block the blue light
The whole “stay away from the blue light!” thing may sound straight out of a science fiction film, but it’s really no joke. “There’s a blue light emitted from tech that robs our brain of melatonin,” says Lew. “We need this hormone for quality sleep.” There’s also evidence that it can effect your mental health, strain your eyes, and mess with your skin, plus when your screen is dirty, staring at it for umpteen hours can cause eye strain.
Because ditching screens entirely can be challenging, especially in the middle of the work day, Lew suggests strapping on a pair of Baxter Blue blue-light blocking glasses which will protect your eyes. On the topic of light, Lew also suggests placing your desk near a window if possible so you can get a dose of sunshine while you work, which can help boost vitamin D levels.
Re-compute your computer configuration
The way you’re perched isn’t the only thing that might hurt your posture—the placement of your computer can really make a difference, too. “You must have the screen at eye level or above,” says Lew. “Keep the mouse from your whole arm as opposed to the elbow or the wrist and keep a light grip…If you’re using a keyboard, position it above your lap. Ensure you can type with your arms relaxed and close to your body, elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists level.” To help with this, invest in a laptop lift such as the Rain Design mStand, which happily come in rose gold finishes (as well as silver) to match your aforementioned laptop.
Make sure to sit in a straight-backed chair
Look, desk chairs aren’t exactly a designer’s dream, but from a posture standpoint, having a good chair for your work-from-home workspace is critical. “Working on a couch or a bed is the worst thing for your posture, because it’ll affect your low back and your neck, and your head will always fall into that rounded shoulder position,” chiropractor Jay Heller, DC, previously told Well+Good. He recommends getting an office chair or using a chair with a straight back to promote optimal posture—one where you can comfortably sit with your feet flat on the floor.
Try a productivity-boosting scent
One of the perks of working from home: being able to run your diffuser or spray your favorite scents without having to worry about the sensitivities of your fellow coworkers. Plus, having a good scent in a room increases its positive energy—always good from a Feng Shui standpoint. Dara Dubinet, intuitive astro-geographer and Feng Shui consultant, recommends lemon essential oil in particular. “This scent promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties that are helpful when you’re feeling angry, anxious, or run down,” she previously told Well+Good.
Hold the phone
There is nothing worse than coming up for air after a long conference call and realizing your neck is so cramped up you can barely move. To avoid these kind of kinks, Lew says it’s important to never cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder, and to use the speakerphone option as frequently as possible. To help prop your phone up on your desk, making it easier to speak into, try a Popsocket, which gets bonus points for making it easier to grip your phone while answering business emails on-the-go.
Beautify your organization solutions
No ugly office supplies here! Make your organization hacks pretty to improve the vibes of your workspace—while keeping your desk clutter-free. Try using your favorite vase or mug to hold your pens and pencils instead of a caddy from Office Depot; use washi tape to corral your various electronic cords; use dividers to clean up your desk drawers.
This story was originally published on April 19, 2018. It was updated on March 26, 2020.
Your physical health is only half the battle when it comes to creating the perfect home office space. To keep your environment stress free, try one of these easy decor hacks to trick out your Zen den. And while you’re at it, grab some office plants–they’re far less annoying than coworkers.
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