Much of the global population has made the shift to working from home and working longer hours as a result. With this in mind, we’ve distilled thirty years of experience and environment design expertise into practical applications for curating an inspirational and functional home office. The distractions of home and long hours are draining, but with a few small changes, you can make your new workspace one that energizes you and inspires you to do your best work. For many of us, we must also still present to colleagues and connect customers from home. To ensure you put your best face forward, we’ve layered in advice for how to make your home office into a home “studio” that sets the scene for seamless virtual engagement.
Let there be (natural) light
Light has the power to either boost your mood or drain your energy levels. Electrical light exists in longer wavelengths which can cause low-level sensory deprivation and leave you feeling less creative. The body’s circadian system responds with more serotonin and alertness to the short wavelengths of natural light, with studies showing up to 20-percent improvement in mental function, productivity, and memory recall when workers have access to a view of the outside.
To leverage the benefits of natural light, make sure your work station is close to a nearby window. If such a light source isn’t in the cards, we recommend researching what lamps or bulbs mimic natural light. Wirecutter has done extensive research and compiled suggestions here.
Presenting from home pro-tip: If your light is behind you, your camera will automatically focus on the source and leave you in the dark. Turn your station or light around so your face is illuminated from the front instead. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated studio-like setup, reach out to a partner who can help.
Silence is golden
Take the common laments of working in a busy office and add in children, partners, roommates, and pets and you’ve got a cacophony of loud distractions keeping you from getting anything done. Luckily, there are some simple design solutions you can implement whether you have your own office or not.
If you do have a separate space: Consider surrounding yourself with soft materials to dull outside noise. Since sound waves love to bounce off of hard, flat surfaces, adding window coverings, rugs, cushy furniture, and even plants can reduce noise transmittal and echo significantly. Add in a white noise machine and you’ve got yourself a regular soundproof room (not really).
If you don’t have a separate space: If your “home office” is the dining table, consider putting on some headphones but without the music which can be just as distracting. Instead, turn to white noise YouTube videos to get you closer to the silence you’re after. Our recommendation: This Youtube channel with lots of options for people with varying white noise preferences.
Presenting from home pro-tip: When there is too much sound in the background, it can make both you and your message hard to hear. If you’re presenting from home, we recommend skipping the built-in audio on your computer in favor of headphones. Headphones provide better audio quality and eliminate background noise all at once. When you present while wearing headphones, make sure to tie your hair back and refrain from wearing jewelry that may interfere with your microphone.
Setting up your workspace
Make it green: Studies show humans are hard-wired to feel more comfortable around plants. In fact, it’s the reason malls incorporate so many plants into retail designs. Even if they’re fake, adding plants to an area you can see will help you to feel calmer as you go about your daily routine. And the good news there is, when you feel calm, you feel more creative. It’s science.
As an added bonus, live plants are noise blockers. When plant shopping, look for wide leaves and large pots — all of which enhance the quieting effect.
Make it ergonomic: Your monitor should always be elevated so it’s angled at a flat line with your face to protect against common upper body aches and offer viewers a more engaging angle when you’re presenting. If you’re in the market for a chair, go read up on the ergonomic science behind chairs before picking out a new one. If you’re looking for a solution that’s a little more DIY, pop your laptop or monitor on top of a box or look for monitor stands on Amazon for a slightly more sophisticated alternative. Also, be sure to add pillows at the base of your spine for lumbar support if your seat is lacking support. Your back will thank you later.
Presenting from home pro-tip: Internet bandwidth can make or break any virtual interaction. To ensure all goes off without a glitch, close all internet browser tabs and programs before you jump on a video call. If you’re leading the meeting, we suggest taking it a step further and testing the connection to mitigate awkward on-call interruptions. Each platform has its own how-to guide on testing, but you can find the Microsoft Teams guide here and Zoom’s guide here.
The Art of Wellness
Wellness is a broad topic. When working from home, wellness means being mindful of your body and mind’s needs when logging long hours with many distractions. Simple, mindful acts like always having water and snacks close by make a big difference when you’re trying to maintain energy levels throughout the day. To take it a step further, implement the design and presenting tips featured above which were all curated with wellness in mind. What is good for the body is good for the mind, and what’s good for the mind will set the stage for your next creative, inspirational work.