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How To Set Up A Healthy Home Office

How do you set up a healthy home office for optimum productivity?

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s home to work we go.

Whether working from home is customary for you, conducive for raising your family, or part of a pivot your industry made to work around extenuating circumstances – like a worldwide pandemic – here’s how to set up a home office that nurtures comfort, creativity, productivity, and encourages good health.

Get Ergonomics Right

Back pain, muscle tension, and neck strain can trigger fatigue, Migraine, and lead to lack of focus and productivity. To set up your home office to support health, position your chair and work area so your head is vertical to your neck. Because the head is one of the weightier parts of our body, tipping forward too much is hard on the neck, upper back, and shoulders. 

Once the furniture is in place, for good ergonomic work posture, sit similar to the common position used when driving a car: feet flat, legs extended, and body leaning back slightly. When typing on a computer and reading from the monitor, keep arms comfortably flat on the table surface, with wrists in a neutral position. 

According to Mayo Clinic, this ideal position includes keeping knees level with your hips, the computer monitor at arm’s length from your face, shoulders relaxed, and hands at or below elbow level. 

Still feeling some back strain? Rest against a pillow or rolled towel. For those with shorter legs, use a footstool to support your lower body. A footstool offers opportunity for a satisfying stretch and improved blood flow for those with longer legs. 

Move It, Move It

Frequent but short breaks are necessary when working in a home office. Remind yourself to move like King Julian on Madagascar, by setting a timer. For a couple minutes every half hour, use antigravity movements to relieve those hardworking muscles that counterbalance the pull of gravity to maintain an upright posture. Simply squat or bend to touch the floor, and return upright with a spring into the air, arms reaching high. For sensitive knees and backs, bend low, then stand upright and swing your arms in a wide circle. Engage the lungs with a whoop at the same time. Do five of these starburst moves several times throughout the day.

Using a sit-stand desk? After eight minutes of standing, people tend to shift their weight and lean so punctuate your day with short standing sessions.

Give your body and brain frequent breaks. Even getting up to make a cup of coffee or tea, refill your water, and stretch relieve the stress of work-related tasks. 

The Eyes Have It

Controlling light is strategic to setting up a home office. 

  • Keep your computer monitor about an arm’s length distance, and directly in front 

of you. 

  • Position the screen at, or slightly below, eye level
  • Work the keyboard or mouse between yourself and the monitor 
  • Enlarge the text size on your device
  • Place your brightest light source to the side.
  • Avoid light that is too bright or too dim. Aim for a mid-lit setting
  • Bypass venetian or striped blinds, and fluorescent lights  
  • Keep computer screen and eye glasses clean

Computer glasses that block blue light from a screen and relieve eye strain can be purchased on Amazon. Theraspecs or Axon Optics offer glasses tinted with a special filter for those with light sensitivity. “Computer screens are an artificial, incandescent light source with a lot of emission in the blue part of the spectrum. That light can mess up your body’s normal day/night rhythm,” said Dr. Bradley Katz, neuro-opthamalogist and founder of Axon Optics, on a recent episode of the Migraine Again Podcast.

In addition to physical filters you can install on your home office screen, software called flux is available as a free download for Windows. According to their website, “f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time.” 

Ear Control

Cradling a phone between ear and shoulder can be a headache in process. Similarly, a cacophony of bird chirps, clanging pots and pans, and background sounds  irritates those with sound sensitivity and mottles online calls, causing listeners to strain to hear. 

To maintain healthy posture and protect sensitive ears, utilize your phone’s speaker function or a headset. For calls on the computer, a good set of headphones and muting your microphone when not talking filters distracting background noise. 

Get a Plant. Or Two.

Think biodiversity when setting up a home office. People respond to nature. When possible, work near a window, and cultivate plants close by. Humans and plants complement one another; plants breathe carbon dioxide and produce oxygen while humans breathe oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. 

Natural environments are restorative. Merging nature and city, Milan’s Bosco Vertical towers house 20,000 trees and perennials that convert 44,000 pounds of carbon each year for the nearly 500 residents who live and work in the multi-story buildings. The 90 plant species attract bird and insect species to the city, create shade, moderate building temperatures, filter noise, and block strong winds.

Bring nature in the form of plants into your workspace. Nature in the workplace makes workers happier and healthier.During morning, afternoon, and lunch breaks get outdoors. Even a few minutes outside each day has beneficial health dividends. Those who live in cooler temps remind us that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

With strategic attention to ergonomics, light, and sound you can set up a healthy home office environment. Add to your comfort, creativity, and productivity by taking frequent breaks, moving and flexing hardworking muscles, and getting outdoors. Working from home can be all the productivity with none of the commute.

For more information on establishing or running a business, see The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make by Pamela Farrel and PeggySue Wells.

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.