Due to the events of the last year, more of us than ever before are now working from home and, as a result, our home office spaces have taken on a new significance in our lives.
As such, curating a space in your home which encourages you to be your most productive self – a space which boosts your mood, motivation levels and feelings of alertness – has never been more crucial to making the most out of your working day.
From the color scheme you choose to decorate your home office, to your desk set-up and even the quality of the air in the space: every detail can impact how well you work, and the amount of motivation you have to keep pushing on, even if all you want to do is slip away to the living room and binge the newest Netflix series.
With this fact in mind, this post will detail everything you need to turn your home office space into a haven of productivity.
1. Color makes a difference.
When curating your productive space – most likely your home office – there’s nothing more fundamental to the ambience of the room than the color scheme you choose to decorate the space with, and studies have shown that different colors have varying effects on our mood, cognition and cognitive performance.
For example, blue is thought to support productivity, while green is a balancing color, which helps us to stay relaxed and calm, assumedly because of its association with nature. Additionally, small amounts of yellow help to boost positivity and creativity, while small amounts of warm colors – for example, pinks, reds, and oranges – can have a warm, comforting, encouraging effect.
On the other hand, overloading your home office with color may have a detrimental effect to your productivity, causing overstimulation, distraction and even stress, which are all cognitive productivity killers.
Furthermore, while minimalist monochrome spaces have become all the rage in recent years, this home office aesthetic can zap motivation and inspiration, drawing attention to the (potential) monotony of the tasks you need to complete. In the end, though, the choice is down to the individual, and if a monochromatic aesthetic helps you to focus, as you enjoy freedom from aesthetic distractions, then a majority grey and white color scheme may be the right fit for you.
In summary: choosing the color scheme for your home office is all about balance, avoiding monotony without overcompensating and making the space look busy with color.
Going with your gut is the best call, but if your gut has no idea what colors it enjoys, then it’s a good idea to start neutral when choosing the bare bones of your office – a.k.a. your desk and chair – to avoid distraction in your immediate workstation. Then, you can build up the color around the rest of the space until you’re satisfied.
2. Choosing your desk and chair.
The bread and butter of any productive space, your desk area makes up the heart (or, more relevantly, the head) of your home office. It’s where you’ll spend 99% of your time in the room and – as such – it’s important that your desk and chair set-up is comfortable and ergonomic.
While your choice of desk is completely up to you, there are a few factors which make some desks more conducive to productivity than others. For example, a solid hardwood desk won’t ever shake beneath you, unlike some flat pack desks, held together by screws and bolts. Moreover, if your desk is – and looks – to be of high quality, you’re more likely to want to sit at it, thus enticing you into your workplace from home.
An equally important component to your working area is the chair you sit on – after all, it’s unlikely that you’ll do your best work standing up for eight hours. To avoid the back pain that many desk-users suffer from, it’s best to purchase a chair with a slightly reclined position.
Moreover, it’s important to note that office chairs aren’t a one-size-fits-all item, so it’s a good idea to purchase a chair with an adjustable height, to ensure that your needs – based on your own height – are met.
Furthermore, if you choose chair which has a non-adjustable height – and your feet don’t touch the floor – its recommended by ergonomics experts to purchase a foot stool to allow your feet to lie flat on a surface.
3. Don’t shy away from personalization.
While you should keep the clutter to a minimum, personalizing your office space can help to increase your sense of inspiration, and boost motivation when it's running low.
When you have items or objects in your productivity space that ‘spark joy’ – to quote minimalism guru Marie Kondo – they can help to increase your positive associations with a space, making your home office a more enjoyable room to inhabit.
Moreover, when you look at these things, they can provide a jolt of inspiration – such as a framed family photo, or a coveted piece of wall art – when things start to feel a little monotonous, and you lose sight of why you are working so hard.
Studies have shown that having art in the workplace comes with a number of cognitive benefits, including reduced stress, lower levels of anger, and mental energy restoration – all of which contribute to better work performance.
In particular, people experienced the most cognitive benefits after viewing realistic nature artworks, which brings us to our next piece of home office guidance…
4. Bring nature indoors.
Though it fits within the theme of personalization, bringing nature into the workspace is such a productivity game-changer that it deserved its own section.
Though we’re accustomed to living in apartments and houses – and, often, these are in built-up cities with views pertaining to more infrastructure – humans are still a part of the natural, biological world. As such, being in nature has a ton of positive effects on the brain, helping to boost our mood, lower our anxiety, and increase our feelings of inspiration and motivation (to name just a few benefits).
Sadly, most of us do not have the luxury of having our home office slap bang in the middle of a forest or jungle. However, we can still benefit from some of these positive effects by transplanting a little of nature into our home offices, by adopting some houseplants.
In addition to relieving feelings of loneliness and isolation – after all, plants are alive just like pets are, though they don’t tend to meow or bark when they want feeding, making them less of a distraction – they also improve the quality of the air by filtering it as they photosynthesize, removing toxins.
Critically, though, for those who are working indoors, plants increase the concentration of oxygen in the room.
Studies have shown that the oxygen levels of the air around us can have a significant impact on our cognition. In fact, high oxygen levels have been found to enhance memory, problem solving and visuospatial cognition, among other aspects of cognitive function.
In short: a room with a higher level of oxygen is going to help you to focus harder, and work smarter, compared to a room with a depleted oxygen level.
While opening a window will also help you to achieve this effect, having your office window open in the middle of winter – or even in the height of summer, when bugs are most abundant and searching for any entrance to your home – can be unpleasant, and can likewise hinder your productivity.
On the other hand, if you do decide to install some plants in your workspace, then it might be a good idea to opt for some low maintenance greenery – like succulents and cacti, which need little attention and infrequent watering – as worrying about a potentially dying plant (and using its upkeep as a procrastination habit) is likely to distract you from the task at hand, thus reducing your productivity.
In addition to all of this, a 2010 study found that having plants in the workplace lead to a 37% decrease in tension/anxiety, a 58% decrease in feelings of depression/dejection, a 44% reduction in anger/hostility and a 38% reduction in fatigue.
So, having plants in your home office or workspace is really a no-brainer when it comes to boosting productivity.
5. Avoid clutter.
Having detailed the positives of bringing in non-essential – yet highly beneficial – items into your office space, it’s also equally important that you don’t overload your space with ‘stuff’.
While it’s unnecessary to go full minimalist (unless you want to, of course), ensuring that your home office space is free from clutter is crucial to maintaining a clear head. It is a well-known fact that a cluttered space equals a cluttered mind, and that clutter and mess can increase stress and anxiety levels.
Many, bizarrely, use their home office as overflow storage, or let the room become drowned in papers and files (and for this reason, it’s a great idea to implement a filing system in place as part of your workspace, to ensure that the space stays uncluttered).
Feeling like you’re in control of your surroundings is an easy way to feel more in control overall – in your work life, in your personal life, and in yourself – which is a great mindset to have when tackling work problems. So, out of all the rooms in your house, your home office is the space that should have the least clutter, not the most – as is often the case.
6. On your desk.
Bearing all of this in mind, your desk should strike a healthy balance between being uncluttered, yet not completely devoid of character.
For example, one plant and a framed photo of your family on your desk is likely to promote productivity. On the other hand, six plants, five photos and a collection of miniature horse statues are likely to have a comparatively detrimental effect to your focus and your productivity.
So, what should you have on your desk?
Most likely, you will have a laptop or computer, which you will use on your desk. Or, if your work is paper-oriented, maybe a notepad and pens (though these would be better kept in your desk drawer until you actually need to use them).
When it comes to using your computer, ergonomics experts suggest investing in an external keyboard/mouse, as this reduces strain on the wrists and arms.
And, if you do tend to work a lot with paper, then it might be worth investing in a desktop organizer, so that all your office supplies are just an extension of the arm away.
7. Temperature and humidity.
As much as your physical space – in terms of aesthetics and ergonomics – can help or hinder your productivity, factors in your environment – such as air quality, temperature, humidity and lighting – can also have a huge impact on how well you work.
In the past, studies pointed to 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit as the optimal temperature for workplace productivity. However, these studies neglected to include women, who thrive at a slightly higher temperature, of up to 77 degrees.
Since, in your home office, it’s only you that you need to worry about (unless you share the space with a partner, in which case you might need to come to a compromise) you can assume that your optimal working temperature falls somewhere in this range, so you can experiment with the temperature until you find the one that suits you best.
Top tip: if you notice the temperature while working – whether its cool or warm – it’s probably not your optimal working temperature.
Moreover, an environmental factor that is often overlooked as a productivity inhibitor is humidity.
If your workspace is too humid, you’re more likely to sweat and to feel fatigued more quickly. On the other hand, if the air is particularly dry it can make a room feel colder than it actually is and may cause your skin to become dry and potentially irritating, which can also be a distraction from your work.
An air humidity level of around 40% is a good compromise to avoid these symptoms. To check the humidity of your space, you can use a digital humidity reader, otherwise known as a hygrometer, which will allow you to decide whether you need to invest in a humidifier, a de-humidifier, or whether your office space is perfect as it is.
8. Lighting matters.
In any room, lighting plays a huge part in deciding the ambience and atmosphere of a space. However, in a home office, lighting can affect whether you experience fatigue, influence your mood and level of alertness and can even be the difference between suffering from eye problems or not.
While natural light is always the best option to boost both mood and alertness, as well as to reduce the risk of eye strain and fatigue, sometimes it isn’t an option (if it is, you should position your desk by the window, to make the best use of the natural light).
So, if you don’t have the luxury of a huge wall-to-wall window in your office – or you’re a night owl who works best in the evening – then you need to consider what kind of lighting will be most conducive to your productivity (and the health of your eyes).
For starters – although you may want the space to be bright – cool, bright white, fluorescent bulbs, which are commonplace in traditional office spaces, aren’t a good option as, among other problems, they significantly increase your risk of developing eye problems, including cataracts, due to the high level of harmful UV rays emitted from this type of bulb.
Warm light CFLs on the other hand – the energy efficient alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs, which are also easy on the eyes – are a great choice, as they emit fewer harmful UV rays.
LEDs are a good option for the same reason, although they don’t distribute light as evenly, so you’ll have to put some thought into their placement – most likely on your desk – to ensure your workspace is sufficiently well lit.
So, to make your home office a space that you look forward to working in and inhabiting – rather than a room you dread ever having to step into – follow the above tips to create a haven of productivity, to allow you to experience your most productive work-from-home sessions yet.
When it comes to simple interior design and adding art to your home décor, Doodl offers everyone the opportunity to buy affordable art online that suits their individual taste. Visit our online catalog to find abstract art, minimalist art, geometric art, line art, modern art, and so much more! To learn more about printing options and recommendations from Doodl, visit our FAQs page.