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How to engineer a mundane office into a healthy home workplace

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Workplaces have changed drastically since a few decades ago. A lot of work environments have shifted from office-based work to remote work from home or whilst traveling. While working from home may sound ideal, there are still some investments you need to make to ensure optimum productivity.

For example at an office, you get the benefits of having ergonomic equipment like chairs, computer monitors, etc. Even if you’re working from home, working long hours in uncomfortable furniture will still take a toll on your physical health. So, you still need to design a smart layout for your home office. 

Here is a list of things you can do to ensure a safe and comfortable home office:

It all starts with an ergonomic chair

If you have a job where you’re sitting down hours on end, ergonomic furniture can make or break your back – literally. You need a chair that encourages you to sit with a neutral spine and without hunching. 

Ergonomic chairs are important because chronic pain in the lower back can have permanent effects on your spine and posture, which will ultimately affect the way you walk. It can also negatively impact your digestion, incontinence, headaches, sleep, etc.

Lower back pain is so prevalent in western, industrialized nations, with over 80% of Americans affected. It leads to 264 million lost working days per year, costing $50 billion in healthcare costs in the US. Globally, it is one of the leading causes of disabilities for workers. So, it is important to invest in the right chair. 

The ideal ergonomic chair should have: 

  • Proper height adjustability
  • Adequate padding on the seat and backrest
  • Backrest angle adjustability 
  • Armrests. 

In terms of materials, the two most common types are leather and mesh office chairs. Leather is more soft to the touch, though mesh tends to be more breathable, which makes it more ideal in hotter climates.

Take advantage of natural lighting

The type of lighting you work under is very important because the light itself affects how you see and differentiate colors. Working under the wrong lighting for hours on end can have detrimental effects on your vision and eye health. 

Natural lighting is the ideal form of lighting for work. This is because it is made up of all the colors in the rainbow, which is also known as full-spectrum lighting. Most artificial lighting isn’t a full spectrum, so it is impossible to determine the true color of something.

Fortunately, this only affects you if you need to differentiate colors for your work, if you’re working in fashion or interior design, for example. So, if this is the case, then you should invest in getting as much natural lighting as possible for your workspace. Include as many windows as possible, even in the ceiling if possible. Lighter paint colors like white or light beige also work better.

While natural lighting is the best for your eye health, not everyone lives in sunny places. Some artificial lighting sources are better than others. LED lights, for example, are efficient but they have been linked to irreversible damage to the retina. 

When buying light bulbs, buy ones that emit ‘full spectrum’ lighting or incandescent warm light bulbs that mimic natural light the best. You should also angle your monitor to avoid glare and invest in a good desk lamp so that you don’t strain your eyes while working. 

Add lots of house plants

You’re probably wondering what house plants have to do with ergonomics. Well, it’s more than you think. Plants not only make stylish ornaments for your office, but they also improve air quality. 

Taking you back to 9th-grade biology, you would’ve learned that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Humans do the opposite, so this is a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of air quality!

Consider a standing desk

Standing desks are somewhat of a contentious issue for ergonomics experts. While some argue that it’s better than being seated for hours as it keeps your legs active, others don’t see any particular advantage. However, if you do feel pain while being seated, it doesn’t hurt to switch it up. 

Standing desks aim to reduce time sitting, which means less time spent hunching and ruining your spine. However, the key to standing desks is to keep your legs moving. When you’re standing, experts say you also burn 25-30% more calories than being seated. If you just stand there for a long time, blood can pool in your legs, leading to varicose veins. 

Get standing desks that are height adjustable and have platforms for your laptop or keyboards. You could also get a ‘sit-stand’ desk if you get a really high bar stool. That way you can stand while working and sit when you feel tired. 

If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can also try cycling or treadmill desks. They offer more health benefits than plain standing desks. It’s also a great way to work and workout without having to hit the gym!

Consider mobile furniture

Sometimes, working in the same spot every day can get boring, so you may want to move your workstation to a different spot. The solution to this is to invest in fixtures with wheels, so this goes for bookshelves, desks, chairs, etc. That way, everything is available in easy reach and you’re less likely to get bored.

Designing your healthy home office

At the end of the day, we all have different things that work for us. For some standing desks may be a nuisance, while for others, it improves productivity. The important thing is to evaluate what your true needs are for your particular line of work. If you work in an artistic field, then you need to pay more attention to lighting. If you work in a tech field, you need to pay more attention to gadgets and software in your office (e.g. how to place all the wires and cords). 


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