Working from home offers many perks, but sitting in a windowless room, at a desk in your closet, or at your kitchen table (guilty!) day after day can grow tiresome, uninspiring, and frankly, depressing.
Countless studies show that your work environment affects your productivity, work satisfaction, and overall mental health, but work spaces often get neglected when we’re working from home, especially when we’re sharing that space with roommates, spouses, kids, and pets.
It’s time to move your home office up on the priority list. You deserve to work in a space you actually enjoy. You don’t need a large budget or physical space to make a significant and beneficial change to your workspace. Even the smallest details can make a dramatic difference in your productivity and emotional wellbeing.
We offer some easy-to-implement upgrades that can make a big difference. And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with your new-and-improved home office.
Brighten up the room with natural or decorative lighting
Every design expert can agree that natural light is ideal. If you have the option of moving your workspace to a sunlit room, do it. If you have a window, make sure you turn your desk toward that sunlight. If neither of these options are available to you—or if the sunlight disappears far too quickly—there are alternatives.
“Decorative lighting is a huge improvement from overhead lighting, which can be extremely harsh,” says Allison Thibault, principal designer at Kaleidoscope Design Studio. “The goal with lighting in a home office is to reduce glare, shadows, and eye strain as these things can cause fatigue, which negatively impacts both mood and productivity.”
Thibault recommends using different sources of lighting, such as floor lamps and table lamps. You can layer and easily adjust them in your space to ensure you get the ambience that works best for you.
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Add some color to your space
Thibault recommends hanging artwork that is meaningful to you, or filling your space with plants, which are both bright and beneficial for air quality.
Adding unique and personalized touches to your home office is always a good idea, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can find plants at The Home Depot, at a local flower shop, or online through The Sill or another plant delivery company. You can find fun art on Etsy or ebay, or you can take a free art class and try painting on your own.
“It could be as simple as putting up a piece of artwork from your kids—anything that can add to your space as a whole, make it cozy, and provide you with both motivation and inspiration,” says Thibault. You can also create an inviting atmosphere with paint.
“Vibrant colors can brighten up the space,” Thibault says. “Reds, blues, greens, and yellows all serve different purposes depending on the work you are doing. For a home office, however, I tend to recommend blues. It is considered a color that is soothing for the mind and can assist with wakefulness as well as concentration.”
Make your workspace private
“Being able to close the door for private conversations, noisy meetings, or just a minute to yourself can be a stress reliever,” says Darla DeMorrow, a Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of HeartWork Organizing.
Not everyone has a door, of course, DeMorrow acknowledges. But even so, it’s important to set your workspace in a separate location of your home, even if it’s in a corner of the bedroom or dining room. The goal is to be able to walk away from the work at the end of the work day.
“Even a simple curtain to divide your living space from your workspace can change the feel of both,” says DeMarrow.
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Organize your space
“Ensure you are taking the time to keep your home office free from clutter and anything that is not going to add value to your creative process or hinder you from focusing,” says Thibault.
You don’t have to buy anything to make your space more inviting, though filing folders and storage bins can certainly help. Simply re-organizing, moving items, or putting things away can make a huge difference.
You can also go big and restructure your entire room. Making physical space for your home office can be mentally beneficial, as it allows you to separate the work from other areas of your life. When you don’t have a commute or the benefit of physically walking in and out of a workspace, you must find ways to build that separation in.
Splurge on the chair, if you can
“If your chair is uncomfortable it can be a huge distraction and can negatively affect your mood as well as your overall wellbeing,” says Thibault.
Sarah Brown, a professional interior designer and the cofounder of Spruce Up, says, “A home office needs to strike the perfect balance between comfort and focus. Both of these can be enhanced by a great office chair. Look for height adjustability, lumbar support, and an adjustable backrest. While it's more than possible to style a home office on a budget, your chair is one item you shouldn't scrimp on.”
If you can’t afford a new chair, consider which seating option in your home is best. Find the most comfortable, but also the one that offers support to your body.
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Prioritize the sensory details
Bowen suggests aroma diffusers and essential oils, which can boost productivity, while also making your workspace more welcoming.
“Citrus scents can improve alertness, which can help you beat an afternoon slump,” she says.
Travis Killian, owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort, agrees. “Using essential oils in a diffuser can help create any mood that you need for the moment. If you're stressed, try some lavender or eucalyptus. Need a little energy boost? Go with orange or peppermint.”
Consider your own personal needs
“One of the most important things to take into consideration is how you actually feel when you're in your office,” says Killian.
He recommends asking yourself the following questions:
Are you relaxed?
Add little things that relax you and make you feel your best. Maybe you enjoy candles or flowers or a soft blanket. Fill your space with things you love—and this will help keep you in your chair longer. Just don’t forget about the midday mental health breaks, which everyone needs to be more productive and feel satisfied.
About our sources
Allison Thibault is the owner and principle designer at Kaleidoscope Design Studio, a residential design studio based in Toronto.
Darla DeMorrow is a certified professional organizer (CPO®), certified photo organizer, decorator, and speaker.
Sarah Brown is a professional interior designer and the cofounder of Spruce Up, an interior design blog for aspirational home renovators.
Travis Killian is the owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort, an upper echelon products brand that manufactures and delivers essential work-from-home goods.