How to Design a Home Office that is Supportive, Healthy, Functional and Inspiring

Jun 1, 2023

A well-designed work area can improve your mental and physical health.  The change to working from home impacted many people’s mental health. Some saw it as a net positive, while others found that being home left them feeling overworked and isolated from their coworkers. There are many ways to design a home office space that is supportive, healthy, functional and inspiring. So, it’s important to make sure your home office works for you, not against you. Let’s take a look at a few ways your home office can help boost your mental health both during the workday and in your personal life.

A space can inspire us, it can make us feel productive, it can calm us, and it can enliven us. But a poorly designed space can make us feel confined, breathless, and bring feelings of anxiety and disorder. Working from home is already complex enough. It has been a challenge at times over these past few years designing some of my clients homes. Having too little space, insufficient technology and lots of family distractions can have an impact on productivity and motivation. In a perfect world, one would have a room that is dedicated just to work.

So creating a workspace requires a two fold approach. The first approach is locating that optimal space that will provide both efficiency and meaning in its design, The second is organization which gives us structure and clarity, so that we can feel certain in our environments and our style choices give us a sense of belonging.

Promote a Healthy Work Life Balance

When working from home, you need a barrier between your work life and home life, otherwise, they can permeate each other causing both to suffer.

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By creating a designated home office, you can minimize the distractions of your whole life and improve focus and productivity.

Below you can see a drapery that can be pulled to create some separation . Your home life has enough stress on its own, so by keeping your work life behind closed doors, this will provide you with a physical barrier, which in turn, will help you to maintain your mental one. Manage distractions by having a dedicated workspace, you can limit the distractions that pulls you away from work. Pets, family or roommates can all have their own demands during your workday, and while they are important, sometimes you need to focus. Having a door to close or a set workspace that communicates you are busy is essential to staying productive.

Create a Workspace for Mental Health – Ergonomics, Lighting , and Noise

Focusing on ergonomics, lighting, furniture and decor can all encourage your “work from home office “space to work for you …instead of the other way around. How your body feels affects how your mind feels.

Not only can poor Ergonomics affect your productivity , day to day , but chronic pain in the future from poor posture, or arthritis can impact your long term mental health . So having items like ergonomic chairs, specialty keyboards, and standing desks can all promote positive mental health.

Lighting is essential for productivity and wellbeing. Ideally, you want as much natural daylight and a view as possible. So, try and choose a location with natural light and a view if possible, to improve mood and energy. If no daylight is available, think about ambient and task lighting within your home working environment. I love salt lamps, as they evoke the inviting warmth of the environment, especially in the winter months. Salt lamps produce negative ions which help clean the air.

If your space is subject to environmental Noise consider installing acoustic panels or sound absorbing materials like brick to provide dedicated spaces that need a quiet space for challenging work. Headphones can be an option , in addition to portable screens that can be used as dividers for privacy. A home office environment should be a place where it reflects your personality and where you enjoy your work rather than a distraction.

Color, Nature, Sound and Temperature

Colors can make a huge difference in attitude and mood. Greens are known to be relaxing while blues are thought to encourage focus; yellows may be cherry and inspiring. Please avoid overly harsh and bright colors as these can be distracting or irritating

How you decorate your home office may seem trivial, but will change how you feel about, and consequently how you feel in your space. 

Including natural elements in your workspace can reduce symptoms of mental health disorders and improve job satisfaction. This could be having a window that faces green spaces instead of urban designs, or having plants in your office space. If you don’t have a green thumb, even fake plants can trick your brain into reaping the benefits of “natural” greenery.

Temperatures are crucial to comfort 

A comfortable temperature should be maintained to encourage productivity, extreme heat or cold can negatively affect health and concentration. You want to make sure your office is comfortable.

Playing a nature soundtrack very, very quietly as you work will help you feel mentally refreshed and boost your performance . Keep the volume low and tune into an online or other option that features the sorts of sounds that you might hear in a meadow on a lovely spring day such as bubbling brooks and gently rustling leaves or grass.  If you have one of those desktop water feature fountains, now is the time to dig it out of the back of your closet and set it up.

Decluttering Your Office – Making Your Brain Feel Comfortable in Your Surroundings

This does not imply creating a stark cube. Keep a few reminders of who you are and what’s important to you out on view, but tuck the rest out of sight in cabinets drawers without transparent sides. The goal here is a moderate amount of visual complexity in a space where you’re working. A good example to keep in mind as you add or remove visual elements is any residential space designed by Frank Loyd Wright. These spaces are right on target for their visual complexity.

The core to creating the ideal and most productive space lies in making your brain feel comfortable in its surroundings. The science of this has its roots in how we developed as a species thousands of years ago.

A feeling of closeness with nature promotes feelings of calm, because this is what “proto-humans” would have found calming too; different light sources help connect our brains to the temporal changes of the day, and so on. We are always scanning the world around us, because this is how our brains developed when we were young.  Because of this, designing a home office space that is minimal, but not bare, is key.

When there are more things around, clutter on desks or in rooms for example, that scanning is more challenging and the science shows that this leads to stress and tension. So while working from home in your kitchen might be unavoidable, arranging your countertop or tabletop with fewer objects is likely to make an impact on how comfortable your brain feels in that space.

Science tells us that there are many channels through which your physical environment can influence mood – and I care about mood because positive moods can help you think more broadly, make you better at problem solving and improve creative thinking

These changes have important payoffs when it comes to mood, productivity and motivation and the key is really to think in terms of what you can do with things at your disposal

Take Breaks for Self -Care

Make sure your space is sheltered from chaos, so you can focus and have peace of mind to do your best work ever.

Start your day out and end it on a tidy note. It is important to hydrate, stretch and take breaks when you are working, no matter what you do. It refreshes your body and mind so you can come back with new energy. Movement has a powerful impact on your body and the mind. Just a few minutes of movement can help recharge and reduce anxiety and stress.

Being able to step outside, feel the fresh air, and connect with nature can offer powerful benefits to our mood and overall well-being. Prioritizing your mental health is essential whether you are in an office everyday or have been working remotely.

A dedicated home office space that promotes mental well being can have a significant impact on how you feel about both your work and your home life.

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