How to: Long-Term Work-from-Home 'Office' | Increase Your Comfort and Productivity
The modern workplace has been shifting for several years now, with many businesses opting to allow employees to work from home. According to research from Fundera, roughly five million Americans work from home 50 percent of the time or more — and that was before COVID-19 forced businesses large and small to shutter their offices and workers to get their jobs done from their home offices.
To get an idea of how COVID-19 might change the workplace post pandemic, CORT surveyed nearly 1,000 people across a dozen industries. Eighty-seven percent of businesses were most concerned with the health and safety of their employees, which is why there's a big question mark over when companies will have workers come back into the office.
In the rush to pivot to working from home, many scrambled to set up a makeshift home office. But what worked in the short-term just won't hold up for months on end. For long-term success, it's important to prioritize small space design while paying particular attention to the details that support productivity.
Use Style to Support Productivity
When it comes to productivity, one of the unsung heroes in many small space design plans is comfort. Decades of research show that working in a comfortable environment increases workers' productivity by up to 25 percent. That underscores the importance of weaving your personal style along with a hefty dose of comfort into your small space design when planning a home office. Prioritize making it a space that feels good to spend time in.
How to best achieve that depends on your tastes, so figuring out what makes you happy in a work environment is a good place to start. Adding plants is an effective way to bring the outdoors in, which can reduce stress and feelings of being cooped up while supporting good air quality for overall health and wellness. Access to natural light decreases eye strain and headaches, but it's important to add some window treatments to the mix to decrease glare at certain times of day.
Understand Home Office Ergonomics
Back pain, headaches and eye strain — oh my! That's what you'll likely be signing yourself up for unless you work ergonomics into the design of your long-term home office. There's great power in investing in ergonomics, which circles back to supporting overall comfort in the home office. A supportive chair won't only reduce aches and pains, but it can also help increase focus while at work.
Just like the style depends on personal wants and needs, ergonomics are also very personal. But the basics include a chair with plenty of back support. Ideally, look for one with adjustable height for a custom fit. Experts agree that the general height for a work surface should be around 29 inches above the floor. The chair should allow workers to sit comfortably with feet on the floor and knees/hips at a 90-degree angle. Most importantly, make sure your furnishings and equipment allow you to work with your wrists parallel to the work surface to reduce stress injuries to your wrists. Protect your neck by sitting with your head and neck in a neutral position, which may require a larger computer screen or a shelf or stand to elevate your computer and eliminate any hunching over.
Sitting vs. Standing
We've all heard about the dangers of sitting for prolonged periods. It raises the risk of gaining weight and developing serious conditions like deep-vein thrombosis and cardiovascular disease. It's also rough on your joints and can increase overall pain and discomfort. For workers who tend to stay at their desks for long stretches, getting up and taking frequent breaks is essential, but it might not always be feasible.
That's what makes standing desks such a good option for the home office. Whether you invest in a convertible desk or both a traditional and a standing desk, you can reap benefits like:
- Burning more calories while working
- Reducing upper and lower back pain
- Lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Boosting mood and energy levels (so you get more done!)
Create a Dedicated Space
Distractions can cost anywhere from one to three hours of lost and wasted time during the work day. If someone else works from home too or if you have kids home in virtual school, getting the privacy you need to concentrate can seem impossible. Having a dedicated office space not only helps reduce distractions, but it also helps you mentally move out of "home" mode and get into the swing of "work" mode — something that can be a real challenge for anyone in a long-term work-from-home arrangement.
It can also pose a challenge for anyone without an extra room, necessitating some clever small space design tricks. Start by looking for any available nooks and crannies. You can set yourself up in a cozy corner, space under the stairs or even a closet.
Do you have a garden shed that you could convert? Or maybe space in the laundry room or on the porch. Don't be afraid to get creative. Wherever you decide to create your designated office, consider layering extra privacy into the space using curtains suspended from the ceiling, room dividers or bookcases to define the area and hide you from nearby eyes.
Incorporate Small Space Design Ideas
In a pinch, you can throw your laptop on the kitchen table or the coffee table in the living room to work from home at a moment's notice, which is how many people started out. But when you're making a long-term arrangement, it's important to attend to the finer details starting with good lighting. No matter if you have a separate room or a little corner that you've carved out for your home office, making sure you have a combination of overhead and task lighting is essential to preventing eye strain throughout the work day. The wattage and color of the bulbs you choose can have a huge impact on your mood and level of relaxation too.
In addition to personalizing your home office with cool artwork and a mirror or two to increase natural light and make the space look larger, consider giving yourself a smart upgrade. Smart assistants can help you stay more organized, keeping track of appointments and reminding you about important to-dos. Likewise, adding a sound system or a fountain can help provide background noise to drown out traffic and other people to make focusing easier.
Save Money and Stay Flexible
The biggest question that many people working from home have is when they'll be returning to the traditional office. CORT's 2020 survey results indicate that many companies are considering a staggered approach, with roughly half of the employees working onsite by September and half working from home. That percentage jumps up significantly to 82 percent of workers expected to return to the office by January 2021.
This data is the perfect example of why it's so important to create a flexible plan while still prioritizing comfort, style and productivity. One way to do that is to repurpose as many items that you already have as possible. Even better, ask your employer if they offer any help with home office setup. CORT's survey results revealed that 61 percent of businesses provided support to employees setting up a home office, including reimbursement for Internet, help with technology and assistance with ergonomic furnishings.
Even if your company doesn't offer assistance, you can take control of your home office while staying agile and flexible by renting your furniture. CORT has a full line of stylish, ergonomic and comfort-minded office furnishings to outfit your space. Best of all, the furniture gets delivered and set up for you after having been thoroughly sanitized. And when you're ready to return to the office, CORT will pick it all up for you for the ultimate convenience.