Creating healthy home offices
We spend most of our time indoors, even though we often feel better and happier outside in nature. The question then arises, why do we spend so much time indoors, and, more importantly, how can we feel better inside? The answer can be found in the old saying: “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain”; in other words, since we enjoy spending time outside, but, for modern reasons, we spend most of our time in closed spaces, we need to bring nature to us!
For those of us switching to home offices on short notice, creating an appropriate workspace hasn’t necessarily been easy. We don’t always have the space, ergonomic chairs or desk and other things that make an office comfortable. One way to improve comfort in our new workplaces is bringing nature indoors and arranging home offices in a healthy and ergonomic way.
Recent research of our colleagues and colleagues of the Institute InnoRenew CoE showed that incorporating nature into the built environment by using natural materials like wood, for example, improves how people view nature and motivates them to care about the environment (Burnard, Schwarzkopf, Kutnar, 2016). Moreover, recent research has shown that there are positive human health effects related to using natural materials indoors, like reduced stress levels and improved recovery from stress.
Tips and suggestions for home offices
- Work on a surface made of natural materials, such as wood;
- Upgrade your work room with elements from nature, such as plants or an aquarium;
- Listen to the sounds of nature, such as singing birds, flowing water, wind;
- Surround yourself with the pleasant scent of your favorite aromas;
- Position yourself so you can easily look out a window;
- Regularly ventilate your room to circulate fresh air; and
- Make sure your room is bright, with as much natural light as possible.
Our modern working environments are much more connected to sitting and screens, especially now! When working from home, we should take ten minutes and redesign our home office to provide good ergonomics. Here are some simple tips:
- Your feet should be entirely on the floor. If the chair or desk is too high, put a box under the table to support your feet.
- The depth of your seat should allow for a fist to fit between the front edge of the seat pan and the popliteal fossa (backside of the knee).
- Use your backrest regularly.
- The upper edge of your computer screen should be in vertical line with your eye level and located directly in front of you (avoid twisting your torso). If the screen is too low, lift it using books.
- When seated, straighten your arm. This should be the distance between you and your screen
If it is difficult to read from the screen, do not flex your neck but zoom in and increase your font size.
- Make sure your forearms are completely leaning on the desktop and your shoulders are relaxed. If your shoulders are raised, put your chair higher (if chair is not adjustable, use pillows).
It is important to avoid long periods of sitting as this can lead to musculoskeletal discomfort, pain and lower work productivity. Now that we are working from home (presumably dressed in comfortable clothes from morning until evening), it is even easier to stand up every hour and take at least two active breaks per day.
Active breaks are short bursts of physical activity performed during work. The purpose of an active break is to stretch muscle groups that are in a shortened position, activate muscle groups that are in a passive position and relax parts of the body that are under load.
For sedentary jobs, which are mostly spent in a seated position, it is generally recommended to:
- Stretch hip flexors, neck flexors and chest muscles;
- Activate hip extensors and scapula retractors;
- Relax lower back and eyes.
By implementing some or all of these tips and suggestions in our home offices, we can impact our general well-being significantly. Enjoy rearranging and stay safe!