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healthy home office

Guide to a Healthy Home Office

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Nov 2, 2020

This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the workday has changed for almost all of us. Many people have been able to switch to full-time work from home, and this trend may continue well into the future as businesses and individuals get accustomed to working remotely. Long before the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that almost one out of four Americans did some work from home. That number grew from 19% in 2003. For people employed in the management, business, and financial sector, that number grows to almost 40%. The rise of online e-commerce platforms and other online business ventures makes it more enticing than ever to add to the USA's over 38 million home-based businesses that generate total annual revenue of over 400 billion dollars. 

For people who work either part-time or full-time from their homes, creating a healthy, relaxing home office is essential to boost productivity. Below, we offer a few tips on designing and building a healthy home office that will keep you feeling professional while you are only a few steps away from your bed.

Working On Floor

What Is Office Ergonomics?

Office ergonomics is the study of efficiency in the workplace, and as almost all office workers know, the more comfortable you are, the more work you can get done during the day.

Large companies like Google spend millions of dollars on researching and designing ergonomics in the workplace so that their workers can perform at optimum levels. From different levels of desks to exercise and bike stations to mini-kitchens placed near the workstations, these giant tech companies have been recognized for boosting their employees' creativity through enhanced ergonomic office design. This year, amid the massive workplace changes, they have offered their employees $1,000 allowances to set up their home offices for maximum productivity.  

While you might not be able to build a slide into your home office, there are several ergonomically inspired design ideas to improve your home office environment's efficiency and health.

human solution uplift
Uplift Desk. Photo Credit: Human Solution

The Right Desk

After a couple of hours sitting in front of a computer, our bodies almost instinctively begin to hunch over. The muscles in our neck contract and stiffen up, and the spine sometimes curves into a hunchback position. The bones in our wrist might begin to ache, and perhaps a slight headache begins to pull our attention away from our work. A 2009 study found an increased likelihood of musculoskeletal disorders, problems with the peripheral nervous system or visual disturbances, and psychosocial stress for people who spent long hours in front of computers in an office environment. Opting for an ergonomic office desk is essential to avoid these problems.

What Is the Best Desk Height?

An ergonomic desk adjusts to your natural sitting position, depending on your height. This useful office ergonomics calculator allows you to discover the optimum height and distances for setting up an ergonomic office desk space, depending on your size.

Sit-stand desks are a unique ergonomic solution because they allow you to switch your "working position" throughout the day. If you are tired of sitting in front of the computer, this type of desk will allow you to raise the desk so you can continue working while on your feet.

The Uplift V2 sit-stand desk has a bamboo desktop finish that is UV-cured with absolutely no VOCs. This sit-stand desk allows you to quickly adjust the desk's height with over two feet of range. The one-inch thick bamboo top has a load capacity of well over 300 pounds for heavy computer equipment.

office star freeflex
FreeFlex Seat. Photo Credit: Amazon

Once you have an ergonomic office desk in place, you will also need an office chair that incorporates ergonomic design features.

How Do You Find a Good Ergonomic Chair?

The best ergonomic office chairs should have several different chair adjustments that allow you to "shape" the chair according to your particular body type and office/desk environment. Since our spinal cords have a natural inward curve at the lower part of the back, quality office chairs incorporate adjustable lumbar supports so that the support fits snugly with the lumbar curve of your own back. Also, adjustable armrests are necessary so that you can easily use your chair in different office environments.

The FreeFlex Seat offered by Office Star is a fantastically designed office chair that includes several ergonomic features, including adjustable armrests, lumbar support, and a breathable mesh backing (for those days in the home office when the air-conditioning goes out). Priced at around $200, it is also one of the most affordable ergonomic office chairs on the market.

Gesture Chairs
Gesture Chairs. Photo Credit: Steelcase

Steelcase's Gesture Chair is a well-known favorite for its ergonomic technology for a top-of-the-line, sustainably-minded alternative. It will cost you over $1,000, but it is durable and contains recycled materials, is recyclable, does not off-gas, and, depending on your region, materials might be sourced locally.


Workstation Alternatives

When designing your home office, it might be a good idea to develop several workstation alternatives. For example, while you might have your main computer at a desk, the phone or printer could be placed in another workstation with a standing desk. Creating different workstations at different heights forces you out of your office chair, where we often spend most of our time. Switching between standing and sitting time is vital for health in the home office.

Safe and Healthy Indoor Air Quality

According to the EPA, indoor environments can often have higher levels of pollutants than outside air. Of course, you want healthy air quality inside your entire home. Your home office is vital because you will be spending so much time there. Opting for office furniture that has low VOCs is essential. Consider locating your home office near a window that can be opened (in good weather). Taking this step will automatically improve the freshness and overall air quality of your office. Visual contact with the natural world (if you live in an area with natural surroundings) reduces stress and increases productivity.

healthy home office window

A Healthy Separation between Home and Office

Creating a separation between your home and your office (even though it is a "home office") is essential for your health and wellbeing. While there may be days when you want to snuggle up on the couch or even in bed to work for a few hours, this will most likely affect your productivity and perhaps even cause health problems.

Studies continually show that people need to establish and respect a proper work-life balance. For people who commute to an office, this is usually easier than workers whose home and work environment is the same. The temptation to interrupt family time for a quick email check can lead to increased levels of stress and mental health challenges in our lives. Add to that - an unhealthy work-life balance during our mid-life years can negatively affect our quality of life as we age.

Relaxed Home

The home office, then, ideally should be a place that offers separation from the rest of the home. So, consider placing the office in the corner of the house or screening it from other rooms with curtains or doors to disconnect it from the rest of your living space. This way, you can ensure that your home offers rest, relaxation, and time for family - and a break from work!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-19T15:03:20+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.