The Sydney Morning Herald: Creating a well environment for work… at home

In this article featured in The Sydney Morning Herald, Michelle offers her insight and advice on how to create a well environment for work, at home.

Ensuring you have a modern home office that meets all your wellness and workplace needs is as important to your lifestyle as eating well and breathing fresh air. From which desk to choose to how to make sure you’re keeping healthy, there’s so much to consider.

To work from home, you need a computer and access to the internet, at the very least. But to have a comfortable home office environment, you need a little more than that.

“The home work environment is increasingly important, particularly with the number of people working from home,” says Michelle Gibbings, a change leadership and career expert. “At a minimum, aim to work in a room that has natural light and windows, which you can open.”

Executive Brand Strategist Amanda Blesing agrees.

“I always feel far better about working from home if my environment includes natural lighting. It has a positive impact on my mood, but research also tells us that you will more likely sleep better with exposure to daylight. And we all know how important a good night’s sleep is to both our productivity and our health.”

Make sure that whatever the light source is, it’s adequate for working. You don’t want to deal with headaches and eye strain from squinting or using dim lighting that makes it hard to read.

Next, think about a chair that can be ergonomically adjusted so that it provides the right support, or even try out a sit-stand desk – these are affordable and may be better for your health in the long run. Researchers from Deakin University found that spending excessive amounts of time sitting at a desk was associated with serious diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It could also be a factor in reduced life expectancy.

Next, your work equipment. If you’re using a laptop and not a desktop you can also think about getting a stand to protect your neck. For printing documents and other paperwork needs, a multifunction printer with copying and scanning capabilities will probably be sufficient – they’re small enough to sit in any sized space.

An air purifier is advisable too, now that your room – and the equipment in it – is taking shape. Even though our homes are well-sealed, rather than shutting pollution out, we are actually shutting it in. Research shows that the average home may be up to five times more polluted than the air outside¹ So whether we are sleeping, cooking, cleaning, or working, during that time indoors we are breathing potentially dirty air. An air purifier like the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool purifying fan heater can capture around 99.95 per cent of those indoor allergens, pollutants and odours while keeping the room at an ideal temperature.

Next, consider how you can personalise your office so that it brings out your best. This may be colour, music, artwork, scent or plants. Research from Norway, in fact, indicates that office plants are a must have – they can reduce illness rates, including ailments such as a headaches, dry eyes and coughs, and can also reduce stress, increase alertness and attentiveness and improve creativity.

Time to think about storage: Where will you keep pens, paper, folders, business cards, and other supplies? Consider purchasing a bookcase or shelving. And think about paperwork that comes in on a day-to-day basis.

“You need somewhere to put things, and yes, that starts with the mail,” says Jo Carmichael, a leading organisational expert with All Sorted Out. “Grab yourself some magazine holders and label them – things to file, things to attend to, etc. Then everything has a place. That’s one of the first things I do when I go into someone’s home – get that workspace organised.”

Considering sustainability is also key. Keep the computer, your printer and other office equipment turned off when not in use. Activate the power-saving features on your computer, and when it’s time to upgrade, make sure your old equipment will be recycled.

So now you’re set, but however you’ve equipped your new home office there is one further piece of advice from Blesing. “As a consultant who works from home with few distractions it’s really easy to become so immersed in my work that I forget to take breaks or stand up,” she says. “Research tells us that standing and taking a break every hour is not just better for our health in the short term, but potentially adds seven to eight years to your life. Definitely worth investing in some sort of app that reminds you to take a break at least once an hour!”

¹Supported by data from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, 2009.