You know that feeling you get from spending too long in a beige room under fluorescent lighting? (I do.) Those of us who’ve worked corporate jobs are all too familiar with the negative effects of an office environment. But did you know your home office can also play a role in your mental health? Here’s how to design your home office for your mental health and work life balance.
How Your Home Office Affects Your Mental Health
There’s tons of research affirming the idea that your physical environment affects your mental health. Loud noises, pollution, clutter–these can all negatively impact your mental wellbeing and, in the case of your home office, your ability to work well.
And because your home office is–well–in your home, there’s the added complexity of maintaining your work life balance. Unlike someone working in a regular office, you don’t have a commute to help you gear up for and wind down from work. It’s unfortunately very easy to let your work spill over into your home life, especially when they share a physical space.
Because of this, it’s important to design a home office that’s welcoming while still creating a mental barrier between work and home.
What to Consider When Designing Your Home Office
As you’re designing your home office, take these factors into consideration.
Your Home Office Location
Obviously, if you have a spare room or designated office, that is the perfect space to create your home office. But if you don’t have a spare room, you might have to get creative with your home office location.
Since the start of COVID, tons of my friends have converted the unused space in their bedrooms into home offices. While it sometimes can’t be avoided, I do suggest finding a spot outside of your bedroom for your workspace. When you work and sleep in the same space, it’s hard to differentiate between work time and rest time. Even when you’re lying in bed at night, your brain is receiving cues from your desk to wake up and start thinking. No one wants that!
If you can help it, try to avoid spaces with too much foot traffic during the day. If you live alone, this isn’t a problem! But if you have a partner or roommate that often wanders through that room during the day, you might want to find a different spot or have a conversation with that person about your working hours.
Your Home Office Layout
To me, the most important aspect of my home office layout is what my desk is facing. I don’t like to face into an open room or at a door where someone might walk past, but I also don’t want to feel cooped up in a corner. I prefer facing a wall with decor or an open window.
If you prescribe to feng shui, take these tips into consideration:
- Make sure you can see the door from your desk without placing it directly in line with the door. If you have to, hang a mirror above your desk so you can see if anyone comes through the door.
- Incorporate the five elements–earth, fire, water, wood, and air–into your decor. You can do this with stones, houseplants, a desktop water feature, or photos that inspire you.
- Find the “wealth corner” of your office, and decorate it accordingly. Standing in the doorway, find the corner on the left side furthest from you. Decorate it with things that symbolize abundance to you, like a money tree, coins from your travels, or images of your dream home.
In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard insists that her desk is always facing a blank wall to minimize distractions. Other creators and business owners like to decorate their space with art that inspires them. And some prefer to face a big, open window while they work. Experiment with different layouts to find what works for you!
Your Home Office Decor
Your home office decor should inspire you without distracting you. Studies have shown that a cluttered space can increase cortisol levels, making you more stressed and less productive. Keep your decor simple and uplifting to avoid overwhelm, and declutter your home office every so often.
There’s also evidence that the colors you use in your space can affect your mood and outlook on life. Red is an energizing color, but it can also feel harsh to someone who’s already overwhelmed. Blue can have a calming effect, but it can also put you in such a peaceful state that you feel sleepy. And green, because of its association with nature, inspires peace and tranquility in a space. Take these into account when choosing your decor and paint colors.
For an added boost of inspiration, decorate your space with affirmations. You can find wall decor with affirming messages or write your own on canvases or sticky notes. Seeing these messages every day will subconsciously help you believe them.
Your Home Office Workspace
No matter what’s happening in the rest of the room, the real work happens at your desk. Make sure your actual workspace is clutter-free, comfortable, and inspiring.
- Choose a chair that’s comfortable enough for long work sessions but not so comfortable that it encourages you to slouch or doze off.
- Use a laptop stand to raise your screen to eye level and minimize neck strain.
- Try a standing desk to get your blood pumping and improve your posture.
You’ll probably have to arrange and re-arrange your desk a few times to find a layout that works for you. And whatever you do, don’t settle for working on your bed or the sofa. These are spaces for relaxation, not work.
Your Home Office Vibes
Now that you’ve arranged your home office, it’s time to set the mood! Your home office should be a space that feels comforting and inspiring. You should want to sit down at your desk every day (or almost every day).
To do this, create positive associations within the space. Light a candle you love, set some mood lighting, and play music that gets you in the working mood. At the end of the day, the best workspace is one that helps you get work done while maintaining a strong work life balance. That’s what matters most.
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