Could it be that working from home is the new normal?
It’s true that after the events of 2020, many employees have enjoyed the benefits of working from home and would like to continue to do so. Likewise, many companies have spotted a new opportunity to lower costs stemming from leasing and powering office buildings.
Overall, we can count these changes as a net positive for our environment — and your wallet. After all, you’re driving less. This new routine means you’re releasing fewer carbon emissions and saving money on gas and maintenance.
So, is working from home really that easy?
Unfortunately there’s more to the story. People who have been working from home since the dawn of the internet know the importance of a designated workspace. When the bed is only a few feet away, it can still be tempting to take your conference calls lying down.
While working from home, it’s crucial to establish a workspace that fosters creativity. For many of us, it’s important that our space is also functional and sustainable.
Let’s strategize together step-by-step so you can build your optimal home workspace.
Pick Your Location Wisely
This is your first challenge: find a room, closet, nook or cranny that’s mostly devoid of visitors. That means that your workspace is not next to the kids’ playroom or near the refrigerator.
Instead, look for a private corner where you could feasibly set up your desk (without feeling trapped).
A 2018 study published by the Ergonomic International Journal suggests that offices with windows and natural light encourage productivity, well-being and alertness. But surely we don’t need research to tell us how nice and refreshing sunlight is. Just consider how much easier it is to wake up with curtains drawn!
While natural lighting also helps lower your carbon footprint, you might not have that option. That doesn’t mean you can’t design your lighting to be sustainable and enjoyable.
Use LED lights to conserve energy and add to the ambience. You can use low-energy string lights to make your workspace relaxing. Or simply switch out your lamp’s bulb for an eco-friendly version.
Warning: Your Bedroom Is Your Last Resort
No matter what, be sure your workspace is far enough away from your bed or couch (meaning, in another room). Having a designated space away from your bed helps your brain associate the desk as a workspace and the bed as a sleeping space.
In fact, working from your bed reduces your quality of sleep. You may start to feel like you’re always at work, even when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Or, you may feel like relaxing even though you should be working.
Don’t send your brain mixed signals. Set up your workspace away from your comfort zones.
Pick Your Furniture
Did you know that 17 billion pounds of discarded office furniture went to the landfill in 2017? On top of that waste, the manufacturing of new products, including office supplies, can contribute to air and water pollution.
Part of building a sustainable home workspace means living the refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle mantra.
Refuse to buy new office equipment. Instead, you could:
- Repurpose an old vanity
- Keep an eye out for curbed and discarded office furniture
- Salvage and reuse wood
- Get creative with found objects, like wooden pallets and milk crates
- Shop at the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity
- Buy office furniture made from recycled materials
- Opt for a standing desk and forgo a chair
Keep in mind that your home workspace may be small. We recommend building your desk up rather than out.
One way to do this is to reuse salvaged wood as simple, elegant floating shelves. You could also repurpose an old shower caddy as a hanging office supply organizer. Get creative and have fun designing your sustainable home workspace.
Arrange Your Space to Reduce Distractions
Nowadays, when we hear the word “distractions,” we may associate it with smartphones, video games, tablets and laptops. Yet most people who work from home rely on technology to do so.
There are other ways of reducing distractions in your workspace. Start by having as few electronics around as necessary. If your phone isn’t essential for the project you’re working on, charge it in another room. A 2017 study suggests that even the sight of your phone can reduce your cognitive availability.
With that fact in mind, go ahead and take off your smartwatch, too.
It’s all too easy to find excuses to get up and roam the house. Anticipate your needs by keeping items you might want to reach for close at hand.
This habit could include tissues, lip balm, snacks, wet wipes and lotion. You can find brands that support your eco-friendly goals. For example, Public Goods offers tree-free tissues, bamboo wet wipes, and refillable lotion dispensers in an effort to reduce waste.
What other basic comforts do you think you’ll need to stay at your desk?
If it’s cold, you can keep a blanket strewn over the back of your chair. Too hot? Keep reusable cups of ice cold water nearby. Always skip plastic water bottles!
Take care of basic comforts so you don’t get up unnecessarily.
Optimize to Your Workspace to Maximize Productivity
You’re now the proud owner of a home workspace! But it’s looking a little unappealing. What would inspire you to get down to business?
Here are a few ideas:
The Power of Aroma
Like a bee to a flower, keeping your home workspace smelling fresh will attract your rear end to your office chair. But did you know that essential oils do more than smell nice?
Research suggests that different aromas have unique impacts on our mood. Here are some recommendations depending on your desired workspace vibe.
Keep Necessities Close at Hand
So, what do we consider necessities? Coffee and tea, no doubt! Who isn’t attracted to a quick pick me up?
Keeping your caffeinated necessities near your workspace will ensure that when you get out of bed, you make it to your workstation.
Coffee mates, keep your coffee maker near or on your desk. We recommend tea lovers pick up an electronic hot water boiler.
Spruce It Up!
One of the best ways to add some life to your workspace is by literally adding life — in the form of houseplants.
A 2010 study revealed that the presence of nature increases mood, self-esteem and well-being. On top of those benefits, the addition of greenery into the workplace has both short and long-term positive effects.
In fact, your houseplant could have an even more tangible impact on your home workspace. Plants like aloe vera and ficus trees can cool a space up to 10 degrees, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
And NASA revealed that some indoor plants reduce up to 87% of air pollutants within 24 hours. Those pollutants include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene. Pot a Peace Lily or English Ivy for a low-maintenance, all natural air purifier.
Personalize Your Workspace
What motivates you to keep working?
For some, putting up pictures of loved ones reminds them why they’re working so hard. You could also create inspiration with a vision board. Whether it’s on a poster board or bulletin board, tack up symbols that motivate you to persevere day after day.
Awards or simple, thought-provoking artwork are also great options.
If you like to cozy up in your work nook, add blankets and accent pillows for an irresistibly comfy workspace.
Reduce Workplace Waste
Now that you don’t have an industrial printer misprinting reams of paper, you have more control over how you use paper products.
A helpful rule of thumb is: if you can digitize it, do so. That mindset means you don’t have to print invoices, estimates or graphs anymore. You can even backup your records digitally using the free service Google Drive instead of storing years of financial documentation in boxes around the house. You’ll also keep better track of pens, staplers and other supplies that always seem to “walk off” in office settings.
And did you know that up to 20% of household electricity is used by devices that are powered off? Save on energy with a smart power strip. These eco-friendly power strips allow you to choose which source needs energy and disconnects the power supply to other devices.
Talk About It
Share your tips with your friends. They may be surprised at the planet-loving, money-saving changes they can make. Together, we can make an impact.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.