There has been a major upward trend for remote workers in recent years, with a 44 percent growth in this trend over the past five years, according to an analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics.
Crises such as the current COVID-19 epidemic have only strengthened this phenomenon, with many businesses adapting to this work mode for the first time.
If you spend a significant percentage of your day working from home, it is important to ensure your space is conducive to good health. Aspects such as air quality, ergonomics, and view are vital when it comes to improving productivity and promoting long-term health and wellbeing.
1. Boosting the Indoor Air Quality in Your Remote Home Office
Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors but if you work remotely this percentage could be even higher. The EPA warns that the air quality in many homes is up to five times worse than it is outside.
Gases and volatile compounds released by pressed food furniture and soft furnishings containing flame retardants, dander, pollen, dust, and mold spores can all harm your air quality.
Replacing pressed wood with eco-friendly furniture like bamboo, using a HEPA filter to trap invisible volatile compounds, and cleaning regularly can all help improve air quality. To eliminate mold, you may need to take extra measures.
2. Preventing and Eliminating Toxic Mold
Mold spores are invisible to the naked eye but potentially harmful to human health. Toxic or black mold can cause complications such as respiratory problems, headaches, increased mucus production, dry/itchy eyes, and more.
To keep your workspace clear of mold, steam vacuum your home regularly, pulling furniture such as desks, sofas, and rugs out so you can give the entire room a good clean.
If you already have the symptoms mentioned, professional testing is key because mold may need to be microscopically inspected to determine if it is toxic.
Use a dehumidifier or exhaust/ventilation fan to keep humidity levels at 35 percent to 50 percent.
3. Include Plants in Your Home Office Design
If you want to be more productive and feel happier while you are working, boost the ‘green factor’ of your office with a few indoor plants.
A University of Exeter study found that greenery indoors improved workers’ perceptions of air quality, focus, and work satisfaction. It also improved productivity on a long-term basis.
Researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis said, “Simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 percent. This conclusion … identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable and a more profitable form of office-based working.”
4. Good Lighting is Key
If you have a garden or terrace, your home office should ideally be as close as possible to these natural entry points of light as possible — unless, of course, natural light floods various areas in your home.
Situating your home office close to the garden has a second bonus: green spaces have been found to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol and when remote working is accompanied by stressful timetables or situations as a whole. Therefore, simply gazing out at trees, water, or other natural landscapes can be of great help.
If you need to use artificial lighting, make sure your light is bright enough. Aim for around 500 lux, using a 1,000-lumen desk light. The immediate surroundings of your desk should be around 300 lux, using at least 600 lumens.
5. Ensure the Temperature is Right
The Helsinki University of Technology academics claims 71.6ºF is the ideal temperature for office spaces. Individual preferences obviously vary, and the ultimate test of whether or not your office is hot or cold enough is your comfort.
If in doubt, an HVAC professional can help zone different areas of your home so that your workspace has a different temperature (if necessary) to the rest of your home.
This might be the case, for instance, if you have equipment such as copiers or other machinery that can excessively heat up your immediate space.
6. Creating Remote Office Ergonomics at Home
Poor ergonomics (e.g. a desk that is too high or an uncomfortable chair) can cause neck pain, headaches, and back pain.
One of the most important pieces of equipment in your home office should be your computer monitor. It should be large enough so you can use various windows if you need to, and the lighting should be adjusted so it is not too bright or too dim (so as to avoid eye strain).
The monitor should be positioned at a distance of 18 to 30 inches from you so that you can focus well by using the back of your cheek and keeping your arms perpendicular to the torso. Your eyes should be level with the top of the screen to enhance neck posture.
7. More Important Remote Equipment
Your chair should offer optimal back support and be adjustable. Raise or lower it until your knees are at the same level (more or less) as your hips. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet resting comfortably on the floor or on a footrest.
You should not have to lean forward to use your keyboard. Instead, your wrists should rest on the desk and the keyboard should be within conveniently close reach.
8. Keep Moving
Sitting down for many hours (sedentarism) is a big health risk you should be particularly vigilant of if you work at home. This is because, in an office, the presence of others usually demands that you move more (to meetings, to speak with individual colleagues, and to meet outside for lunch or client visits). It isn’t enough to do half an hour of exercise a day.
You should also avoid sitting down for too long. Every hour or so, get up and stretch, go for a short walk around the house, or do a few floor exercises.
If your home office is large enough, aim to have a few key items stored in a corner of your space. These can include a sound system, yoga mat, a few free weights anything you need to get your circulation going while at work.
Remote work is becoming increasingly popular and current crises are proof that sometimes, it needs to be undertaken on a wide scale, in various parts of the country (and indeed the world) at once. To make it more appealing and healthy, regular cleaning and proper design are key.
Purchasing key equipment to ensure good ergonomics is also vital, considering how many hours you will be using this space when you work from home.
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Ali Nott is a writer who is interested in business and finance.