The Age of the Home Office

designing an office for maximum productivity

With companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook allowing their employees to work remotely for many more months, and Twitter giving their employees the option to work from home for forever once they start to open their offices back up in September [1], the need for a home workspace is on the rise.

We know working from home can be pretty miserable when you don’t have the proper space to work effectively, and it certainly doesn’t help that we didn’t choose to work from home. But there are ways to solve many of the issues surrounding home offices that might result in you wanting to work at home instead of going back to the office.

The Power of the Sun

One of the most important things to consider when making a home office is sunlight. Sunlight has been proven to increase our brain’s production of serotonin, a natural mood-enhancing chemical. Dr. Victoria Revell says that sunlight is an essential ingredient for our body’s health and wellbeing. Additionally, “ensuring that we receive adequate levels at the appropriate times of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep pattern and many aspects of our physiology” [4]. So, when deciding the perfect space or room for your home office, find somewhere that gets a lot of natural light throughout the day. Typically, south-facing windows will receive the most sunlight throughout the day, but if you prefer morning sunlight then you should find a north-facing window.

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Forest Bathing

Similarly, the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” has been proven to reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our bodies, as well as lowers our pulse rate and blood pressure, and increase our immune system’s ability to defend against disease [2]. So, if your home office has a window facing the woods or even a meadow or field, you’ll experience less stress during your workday. And it wouldn’t hurt to take a short break every now and then and meander through nature.

Forest Bathing

Clutter Free = Productivity

However, proper window light and scenery aren’t the only things to consider in your home office. Adequate space, and more specifically a clutter-free space, will also boost your productivity at home. Libby Sander did a study on the effects of clutter in the workplace and found that “our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making and relationships with other” [3]. Furthermore, Sander found that clutter negatively affects our stress and anxiety levels, our ability to focus, our eating choices, and our sleep. Some ways to decrease clutter in your workspace is to install floating shelves above your desk or table to reduce the amount of stuff on your desk. Additionally, using jars or cups for loose pens, pencils, scissors, etc. will help clear up a lot of space.

To Have a Desk or Not to Have a Desk

But one can’t have a clutter-free desk if one doesn’t have a desk. If you aren’t planning to work from home for ‘forever’ it may seem a little silly to buy a desk. Some alternatives to buying a desk are to use surfaces you already have at home—kitchen counter or island, dining room table, folding table, etc. If your office doesn’t require the use of a desktop computer and you’re comfortable working on your laptop or tablet, then you may consider a ‘mobile office’. What this means is that when you aren’t working you put all of your things in a basket or bag, and then when

you’re ready to start your workday you can choose where you want to work in your house and then just bring your work basket with you. However, most people like having a set place to work, and if that place is in a frequently used space like the kitchen or dining room, you can also use a basket or bag to store your work things when you aren’t using them. On the other hand, if you are planning on working from home for ‘forever’ then you may want to consider investing in a desk and some cubbies or shelves to help keep your space clean.

The Thing About Color

Moving on to the details, the colors you use in your office can also influence your productivity, creativity, and mood at work. Color expert Angela Wright explains that people’s reactions to color can be accurately predicted by combining the study of color harmony with the science of psychology [5]. For instance, if your job is particularly straining and requires a lot of focus then your office should incorporate blues; but, if your work is more creative, then you should have lots of yellow in your workspace. Green creates balance and is often found in medical offices, and orange creates a sense of comfort. But there are some colors to be cautious of, like purple and grey. Purple promotes “deep contemplation or luxury”, if there’s too much or you use the wrong tone it can have an opposite effect.

And, while a lot of offices are grey to make them look more modern, it also “suggests a lack of confidence and can stimulate a depressing mood” [5]. According to a CDI Spaces article “The Best Office Colors to Boost Creativity, Happiness, and Productivity”, the best colors for your office are blue, green, yellow, and orange; and you should stay away from purple and grey.

All in all, the perfect home office will have a desk on the wall of a south facing window that has a view of nature, it will have adequate storage, and will have colors that best suit your work. However, not everyone will be able to accomplish this. Some alternatives are to work in a room that gets plenty of natural light, that way you still get the benefit from the sunlight. Also, if you don’t live in an area that has views of the woods or a field, you can find some pictures or paintings of your favorite nature scenery and then add some house plants to help clean the air and provide extra oxygen. Check out my last post, Indoor Plants for How You Live, to find the perfect plant for your office. Ultimately, the perfect home office is whatever works best for you, so if you realize that having your desk near a window is too distracting than you should try another room, but do make sure to take a break now and then to go outside and enjoy the clean spring air.

References

  1. Christie, Jennifer. 2020. Keeping our employees and partners safe during #coronavirus. May 12. https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/keeping-our-employees-and-partners-safe-during-coronavirus.html.

  2. Livni, Ephrat. 2016. The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to improve your health. October 12. https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/.

  3. Sander, Libby. 2019. The Case for Finally Cleaning Your Desk. March 25. https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-case-for-finally-cleaning-your-desk.

  4. Unknown. 2018. How Letting More Light into Your Life Can Improve Mental Health and Wellbeing. July 26. https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/26/how-light-improves-mental-health/.

  5. Unknown. 2018. The Best Office Colors to Boost Creativity, Happiness, and Productivity. September 21. https://cdispaces.ca/blog/best-office-colors/.

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