Love it or loathe it, homeworking looks set to stay. But with no-one to help fix our tech problems, co-workers to banter with or office cleaners to sweep up our mess, home working brings fresh challenges. We ask interior stylist, Nick Snow, and health expert, Alex Bell, for tips on how we can make our homes happy, healthy places to work.
Creating a stylish workspace
Nick Snow, Interior Stylist & Designer, Nick Snow Design
“You don't need a spare room to set up an office”, says interior designer, Nick Snow. “A quiet corner or alcove can be the perfect work nook, and blend into the room if styled well.”
“When deciding where to set up office, avoid rooms made for unwinding, such as the bedroom or lounge. Kitchens and dining areas are better, though avoid letting them perform more than three functions, e.g. kitchen, dining and utility, or they’ll lose their identity. You also need to ensure the designated work space is big enough for your needs.
As a designer, I need a big desk for all my fabric swatches and samples. A job involving lots of paperwork will need a bigger desk too. Cable tidies and good storage are vital, as nothing will make your heart sink faster than the sight of a messy desk. A custom hideaway desk or pedestal style desk with roomy drawers, a filing drawer and cupboard large enough for your hard drive is a good way to keep clutter under control.”
“To create more intimacy, consider a freestanding floor screen or partition. A stylish cubed shelving unit with an assemblage of carefully curated objects can also make an attractive room divide. Soften the sharp lines of furniture with a few houseplants. Buying furniture in the same style as existing furniture will also help the workspace blend into the rest of the room.
Good task lighting is essential to well-being and performance. Where possible, position the work desk near a window. Natural light also helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, which improves sleep. Otherwise, consider a classic steel desk lamp with a nice metal clamp to avoid your desk lamp taking up too much space. Ikea do a great value version called Tertial. For other affordable office pieces, try Wayfair or Habitat.”
Creating a healthy workspace
Alex Bell, Occupational Physiotherapist, Back in Action UK
It’s a catch 22. “Prolonged sitting has many potential health implications”, says occupational physiotherapist, Alex Bell, “but it’s often needed for us to do our jobs”.
“Tempting as it may be to sit on the sofa or bed when you’re working from home, you end up in a very flexed (bent) position. This increases muscular and joint strain, which can lead to musculoskeletal ill-health and other problems over time.
Sitting correctly at a desk helps promote good posture, reducing the pressure and strain sitting puts on our spines, muscles and ligaments.
When positioning your computer, keep the monitor just below eye level, and place it about an arm’s length away from you. Avoid eye strain by looking away from your screen regularly. Good lighting will also help.
Adjust your chair height if the PC monitor is too high, and use a footstool if your feet don’t go flat on the floor. If the monitor is too low, big books can be used to raise the monitor to the correct height. Laptop users should use a laptop riser and separate keyboard and mouse to avoid that all too common hunched over look.
When it comes to chairs, they’re a bit like shoes. One style doesn’t fit everyone, so if you’re planning to buy a new chair, make sure it’s deep and wide enough, with an adjustable seat and back. Otherwise, it’s acceptable to pad out a kitchen or dining table chair with cushions or pillows to bring your seat up to the correct height.”
For more tips on setting up your workstation, watch the Back in Action video.