How to Create a Sustainable and Productive Home Workspace - Public Goods Blog

How to Create a Sustainable and Productive Home Workspace

Could it be that working from home is the new normal?

macbook air on a table

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

computer, keyboard, mouse, pen on a desk

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

laptop, lamp, desk, books, chair, tree

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

laptop on a desk with flowers, mug, scissors, keyboard

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

laptop on a desk with mug, plant and cellphone

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.

Staying Seated

computer on a desk with pink mug, chair, pens and pencils in a container, flowers, basket, corkboard

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.

We also have a wide range of healthy snacks to beat hunger and keep you energized. Almonds are associated with weight loss, as they keep you full and energized longer.

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

computer on a desk with incest sticks in a vessel, scissors, pens

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.

The American College of Healthcare Sciences recommends rosemary, bergamot, geranium, lemon and clove for boosting productivity and focus in the workplace.

Is stress getting in the way of work? Lavender, jasmine, peppermint, chamomile and rose essential oils may reduce anxiety.

Invest in an essential oil diffuser or make your own non-toxic essential oil candles.

Keep Necessities Close at Hand

cup of coffee on a board, laptop on a table

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!

computer on a desk, laptop in a holder surrounded by plants

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

laptop on a desk with a stack of books, plant and sculpture

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

computer on a desk, portable hard drive, phone, bottle of club-mate

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

woman holding a tablet

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.

Comments (6)

  • While I found some helpful tips, I found the recommendation to place the workspace “away” from the children/playroom to be out of touch. That would presume that there is someone else taking care of the kids, or indicating that the writer presumed they were writing for a certain type of audience that has that luxury of working independently of what is going on in the family. I’ve been working from home since March and my best possible setup is having the desk in the room next to the playroom so I can hear my toddler and still focus on my work as much as possible.

    • Thanks so much for your feedback, I can totally understand. We always appreciate hearing from our readers because it helps us to widen our perspectives!

      If there’s anything you need, we have tons of household essentials that are all-natural and safe for your family. Give us a try with code BLOG15 for $15 off of your first order with us! 🤍

    • Hi Marie,

      If you enter your email in the boxes at the bottom of our blog posts or in the sidebar on the blog homepage, you should receive the e-book as a PDF in your inbox. If that method doesn’t work, please let us know by contacting our customer support. They’ll ping me, and I’ll send you the e-book. Remember that blog readers can save with the discount code, BLOG15.

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