You’re building your new house from the ground up. There’s so much to think about — making your home energy efficient, making the living room livable, designing the bathroom of your dreams, furnishing this dream house, etc. The list goes on and on.
But if you’re one of the 4 million Americans that work from home, don’t forget about one of the most valuable parts of your home: the home office.
While working from home has its perks (no more sitting in traffic for hours every day!), it also has its downsides, like a lack of work-life balance and lack of focus.
But, just like any space or room, you can remedy those downsides with thoughtful design. Think about it: You’re not just designing a home office; you’re designing a haven of productivity and creativity. And most important, you’re doing it on your terms, so it doesn’t have to look like every other office in America.
Here are a few tips on how to create a home office that you’ll want to work in — even after hours:
Tackle Distractions with Design
Noise is the enemy of focus. Regular offices come with their own sounds — there’s always that co-worker that chews gum way too loudly — and so does your home. Except with a home office, it’s not your co-worker you have to worry about; your family (or that friend that always drops by unannounced) might distract you.
You don’t want to be in the middle of your work groove only to lose focus every 20 minutes. All that time adds up, too. It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for you to refocus on a task when you’ve been interrupted, according to a University of California study.
So, when you’re deciding where to put your home office, choose an area of the house that’s quiet, preferably away from high-traffic areas such as the living room or the kitchen.
Let Your Home’s Natural Light Shine
People hate cubicles because you’re stuck in a dark corner with nothing but overhead fluorescent light to help you see. So why would you stick your work desk in a dark corner of your spare bedroom?
Lack of access to natural light hampers your productivity. A Cornell study conducted by Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell, focused on how daylight affects the workplace. The study found that working in an office filled with natural light reduced eye strain, headaches and blurred vision by a whopping 84 percent.
In fact, one of the most impressive key findings of the study was that “workers sitting close to a window that optimized daylight exposure reported a 2-percent increase in productivity — the equivalent of an additional $100,000 per year of value for every 100 workers or around $2 million over the window’s lifetime.”
This means that if you run your business from home, making sure that your home office has as much natural light as possible could translate to increased income or revenue.
Bring Nature In
We already know that nature lower our stress levels, helping us be more mindful and focused. But did you know that even the simple act of just having a couple of houseplants in your office can improve your productivity by 15 percent?
Better yet, according to a study led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University in Chiba, Japan, even a 15-minute walk in the woods can dramatically affect your body by:
- Decreasing the amount of cortisol (a.k.a., the stress hormone) in your body by 16 percent,
- Decreasing your blood pressure by 2 percent and
- Dropping your heart rate by 4 percent.
Can you imagine what would happen if you used your lunch break to walk in the woods for an hour?
So, when you’re designing your home, it would really benefit you and your family if you made sure you had access to green spaces. Build on land that is within walking distance of parks, create a backyard garden or mini forest that you can walk in during your lunch break, and get a few houseplants for your home office.
You could take it one step further and create a separate entryway for your home office that gives you intimate access to said backyard garden so you’re always just one step away from nature.
I don’t have the data on this but, personally, even just looking at greenery helps me feel calmer and more focused. Wouldn’t it be great if your home office had its own view … of nature? Your career and health say yes.
Danielle Small is a freelance writer and strategist with a few awards under her belt (including a 2016 Min Online’s Editorial & Design Awards – Editorial Award for Opinion/Commentary).