How to Create a Healthy Home Office
You can stay productive and healthy while working from home with the right tools. Learn how to set up a home office that works for you.
Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s home to work we go.
Whether working from home is customary for you or part of a pivot made to work around extenuating circumstances – like a worldwide pandemic – here’s how to set up a home office that nurtures comfort, creativity, and productivity.
5 Steps to Set up a Home Office that Works
Get Ergonomics Right.
Back pain, muscle tension, and neck strain can trigger headaches and Migraine attacks. To set up your home office to avoid unnecessary attacks, 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 (Everything You Need to Set Up an Ergonomic Office. PC Mag. 25 March 2020. ">1).
In the ideal position, according to the Mayo Clinic (Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide. ">2):
- your knees are level with your hips
- the computer monitor is arm’s length from your face
- your shoulders are relaxed
- your hands are 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 an 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 frequently by setting a timer.
For a couple of 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 important when you set up a home office, especially if you have Migraine. People with Migraine are more visually sensitive and prone to photophobia.
Some things to keep in mind to protect your eyes include:
- Keep your computer monitor about an arm’s length distance directly in front
- Position the screen at, or slightly below, eye level
- Place the keyboard or mouse between your 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 your computer screen and eyeglasses 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 Migraine light sensitivity. “Computer screens are an artificial, incandescent light source with a lot of emission in the blue part of the spectrum. That’s not only bad for migraines, but that light can also mess up your body’s normal day/night rhythm,” said Dr. Bradley Katz, neuro-ophthalmologist and founder of Axon Optics, during an interview on the Migraine Again Podcast.
In addition to physical filters you can install on your home office screen, software called f.lux 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.”
Cradling a phone between ear and shoulder can be a Migraine attack waiting to happen. Similarly, a cacophony of bird chirps, clanging pots and pans, and background sounds can irritate those with sound sensitivity. Background noise mottles Zoom calls, too, causing listeners to strain to hear.
To maintain a healthy posture and protect sensitive ears, use your phone’s speaker function or a headset. For calls on the computer, invest in a good set of headphones and mute your microphone when not talking to filter 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. Take inspiration from Milan’s Bosco Vertical towers where 20,000 trees and perennials convert 44,000 pounds of carbon each year for the nearly 500 residents who live and work in the multi-story buildings. The plants attract birds and insects 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, if you can. Even a few minutes outside each day can boost your physical and mental health. 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. With a little planning, you can avoid neck pain, back pain, and Migraine triggers in your home workplace.
Add to your comfort, creativity, and productivity by taking frequent breaks, moving and flexing hardworking muscles, and getting outdoors. Once you know to set up a home office that works for you, you can stay productive and healthy while working from home.