13 Small Home Office Ideas That Help With Mental Wellbeing
Remote work rapidly went from a niche practice that was only adopted by few pioneers in select industries, to a mainstream way of working that conquered the hearts and souls of a majority of employees who have access to it, and has now become a standard option in many roles, industries and locations.
Working from home, however, can have its issues. Isolation and the feeling of being confined between the same four walls both when on and off work can be a burden and have negative effects on productivity and mental health.This is especially true for those of us who live in small homes, or are having trouble carving out a space they can work in and call their own. With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to give you a few tips to help you get started with tailoring a home office that fits your tastes and needs. We listed what we feel are the three most important principles you should follow, and a few tips for each of these principles.
The core principles are:
- Create separation between your workspace and your personal life
- Make your workspace work for you.
- Don’t forget best practices
The first, and most important thing to keep in mind when setting up a home office space that will support your mental wellbeing is that you should be able to create some form of separation between your work environment and your living spaces. This approach is true in all cases, but becomes all the more important when space is limited.
Here are a few easy tips that will help you create separation between your workspace and the rest of your home.
- Take advantage of nooks, alcoves, separating walls, and corners. If your home already has some of these features built-in, turning them into a small, but professional space to work can be really easy. But don’t despair if your walls are straight and alcove free, our next tips will help you out!
- Use color and texture to make your workspace stand out. Colored paint, wallpaper, or paneling, can do a lot to help you create a separate space where there might not be one. Make sure you take a look at some interior design standards and best practices before you get to work, but once your office wall is painted in your favorite hue, creating your office space can be as simple as finding a matching desk and chair.
- Keep it hidden. Sometimes separation isn’t so much about drawing visible boundaries between your work and home life, as much as it is about the ability to easily revert the space you work in back to your personal living space. Being able to hide your workspace can be especially useful in very small living environments where dedicating a full room, or even a wall, to work might be a luxury you cannot take advantage of. There are many creative ways you can hide your home office: from setting it up in a closet or cupboard, to having a folding desk that can disappear at the end of the work day, to setting up a small shelf under a windowsill... The number of options are limited only by your creativity.
Make your workspace work for you
Once you have the right location, and a setup that works for you, it’s time to think about how to personalize your home office environment and make it into as comfortable a space as possible.
- The first and most obvious tips is to use plants. The benefits of plants for mental health are well documented and known. Greenery will add some color and personality to your workspace, but can also become a curtain that divides your work life from your private spaces. If you go for live plants, you will also benefit from watching them grow and change across seasons, but should lack a green thumb, or the time and focus to take care of real plants, artificial ones seem to have similar benefits for mental health as the real deal.
- Another important thing to consider is office design. No matter how small your workspace is, it affords you a great opportunity to let your inner designer run wild. If you thrive in minimalist spaces, make sure you declutter to your heart’s content, or maybe you enjoy having photos of your loved ones and mementos of your travels always next to you. Whatever the case, make sure your workspace reflects your personality and what makes you happy, it will make a big difference in your mood each morning when you sit down for work.
Don’t forget best practices
Much as we may like our remote work options, many of us were not prepared for how rapid, and unstructured, the transition was. Employees were often “stranded” on their couches and beds for months, often with little or no human contact (with the pandemic to blame for this) and without a clear understanding of what they could, or should, do to improve their working conditions, and their life in general.
As it turns out, bad habits have negative effects that impact mental well-being as well as physical health, and a couple of years of sitting on kitchen chairs with laptops perched on our knees, or having meeting calls from the bathroom to not bother loved ones, are starting to take a toll not only on our backs, but on our anxiety, depression and stress levels too.
When finalizing the design of your remote workspace, office decor will only be part of the considerations you should be making. Make sure you follow some best practices, both in setting up your workspace, and in making use of it, that will ensure your mental wellbeing is always a priority.
Some best practices that relate to your home working setup are:
- Good lighting is crucial to mental wellbeing, and nothing can substitute natural light. While there are many ways to get creative with spotlights, floor lamps and so on, make sure choose a spot with good natural light to work in.
- Make sure your home office has access to good ventilation and fresh air. Just as light, the health benefits of good air quality cannot be overstated.
- Consider using an ergonomic office chair, your back will thank you. While traditional office chairs can be rather bulky and unsightly in your small home office, there are more compact and design-friendly alternatives. Just don’t forgo this part of your setup.
- If possible, consider going for a standing desk. Spending a full workday in a small space can drain you of energy, no matter how comfortable and relaxing you designed it. Also, sitting for too long can have negative effects on your blood pressure and circulation. A desk that gives you the option to stand can easily solve these issues for you.
But there are also best practices that relate to your behavior more generally. These are:
- Make sure you take breaks. People skip breaks all the time in offices too, but just because a bad habit is widespread doesn’t mean you should take it home with you. Breaks are really important, more so in home office environments, and are even more crucial when living and working in a small home.
- Give your work-life balance priority. Even though you carve out a functional space to work in, it will all be for nothing if you don’t learn to set boundaries to your work. As with many things we are discussing today, this is already important in traditional work environements, but it becomes vital in small home offices, where the inability to disconnect means you will constantly feel the pressure of work on your shoulders.
- Go for a walk when possible. The benefits of walking are well known, and just a short walk every day has massive positive effects on your health. In a small home workspace, however, a lunch-break stroll has the added benefit of reconnecting you to the world around you, whether you live in a bustling metropolis, or in a quaint countryside paradise. Immerse yourself in the environment around you and take your mind, and eyes, off the screen for a short while every day, and you will go back to work more energised and focused.
- Find ways to interact with your colleagues that are not strictly work-related. Another unique challenge you will face working from home is that social interactions need to be actively pursued, as there is no coffee machine banter or hallway chatter in your home office. Luckily tools exist that facilitate interaction even in remote environments in fun and non-intrusive ways, so it should be fairly easy to keep in touch with your colleagues wherever you may be.
Now you should have a solid starting point that will help you make informed choices and build a home office that is efficient, beautiful, and fits in your home, no matter how small. Your mental and physical health will thank you!
Discover more about remote work, and tools that make it easy at Roots.