At the start of the conversion to remote learning, Interior Design Professor Shannon Leddy asked her students to share photos of their work spaces on Blackboard’s discussion board. They were thrilled to have a special view of each other’s personal spaces, says Prof. Leddy, who contributed photos of her work space as well. “It was wonderful to see the care they took to find that perfect surface or nook to work from where they would be happy and be set up for success,” says Prof. Leddy.
For the rest of us, Prof. Leddy has gone a step further. She has provided design ideas and suggestions for working from home in ways that will keep “mind, body and spirit healthy” throughout this temporary new norm.
Here are her suggestions:
Because we are living and working in the same place, sometimes even the same room, try to keep your work space area separate from your bedroom-sleep space. For those of you in small apartments, try to have a physical separation from work and play, or rest, even if it’s within the same room.
If any of you have worked from home previously for even a day or two, you know it can be hard to put work “to bed” so that you can be ready for bed.
You end up staying online for longer than the average day, and it cuts into your personal time.
Keeping computers on and close to you at night when winding down is tempting, distracting and overall unhealthy. In the morning, it is ideal to step away from the bed and into your now “home-office” so you can start your day right.
You need the separation to “turn off” and wind down. In this way, your bedroom remains your sanctuary. You will have a better night’s sleep and be refreshed in the morning.
As it became clear we were heading towards working remotely, furniture manufacturers saw an uptick in sales for ergonomic office chairs and sit-stand desks.
Now, warehouses are closed and many deliveries have been halted, so you may have to work with what you have. Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable chair with good lumbar (lower back) support.
Even adding a pillow back there can help. Sitting on backless stools at a kitchen counter or too much sofa time with laptops will wear on your body physically, especially on your back, neck and legs.
As you’ve probably read in many media articles, be aware of the height of your monitors and keyboards. Your screens should be straight ahead with the center at eye level so as not to develop neck strain. There are blue light glasses and monitor filters also available to make things easier on the eyes. Standard desk or table height can be too high for typing. Your wrists should be straight, parallel with your lap and supported if possible. Keyboard trays are ideal.
Aesthetically, it is important that your work space be functional and appealing. Working near a window might normally be distracting, but in these extraordinary times, a connection to the outside is essential.
Our bodies crave natural light and nature. Statistics show that we spend, on average, more than 90 percent of our time indoors (which includes transportation). Now, given stay-at-home orders, that percentage has no doubt increased.
If you do not have ample access to natural light, look through your supply drawer for daylight (5000 degrees K) bulbs or try and find images to print of beautiful natural scenes and motifs to transport you or conjure up a pleasant memory.
Plants can also play a part in improving your environment. They filter the air and make a bit of oxygen and can be lovely to look at.
Make sure your work space is organized and functional to meet your needs and to help you be productive. Have your supplies at the ready, but also make sure you consider personalization.
Move the objects you love into view so that when you take moments away from the screen, you see photos of loved ones, art you treasure, a special find from a trip or vintage shop, your favorite mug or bowl.
In reality, you should be comfortable in your work space. If that means you are nestled under a furry throw in bed, with your dog or cat, headphones on, twinkle lights sparkling with your computer atop a big pillow on your lap, then so be it! Just make sure you get up often for a stretch and a breath of fresh air often.
Oh, and make your bed!
Professor Shannon M. Leddy (Interior Design ’96, Sustainable Interior Environments ‘13) teaches Interior Design Studio and Professional Practice and also teaches in the Summer Live and Summer Middle School programs. She is Principal of Shannon M. Leddy Interior Design, which specializes in residential and commercial design.
All images used with permission.