With more people than ever working from home, getting the right home office setup is crucial. Many of us are currently making do with the equipment and room we already have, which might not be suitable for a productive day. However, there is still plenty you can do for a happy and healthy 9-5, including creating a calm environment, adjusting your desk and screen height, and staying active as you work.
We’ll also look at a great way to get your fix of sunlight if you’re working in a windowless room or are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder in the darker months. So read on now for our top tips to creating a healthy home office setup that will boost your mental wellbeing, productivity and physical health too.
How to create a healthy home office setup: The basics
If you spend many hours a day sitting in the same room when working, it’s crucial that everything is set up correctly for your body. This might involve moving your desk to be near the window so you get fresh air and enjoy natural daylight, which will help boost your circadian rhythm so that you sleep better at night.
If your home office doesn’t have a lot of natural daylight – maybe it’s windowless or you’re in a basement apartment – then the best light therapy lamps (opens in new tab) will be an essential healthy home office setup product for you. We’ll cover these in a little more detail below, and explain how they also have huge benefits outside of the office environment.
Another thing to consider is how your home computer (opens in new tab) is set up. This starts with making sure it’s at the right height and distance for your arm length and body height, so that you put less strain on your posture throughout the working day (if you’re hunching over, you aren’t sitting properly at your desk). As a bonus, this will also help you to avoid digital eye strain (opens in new tab) too.
Look after your posture with a sit-stand desk
Sitting in the same position for several hours can have a detrimental effect on not just your physical health, but your mental wellbeing too. If your desk or chair is at the wrong height then this can lead to aches and pains, but the best standing desks (opens in new tab) provide an instant solution to help you get the ideal desk height for you. Some people also like to stand at their desk, so they can stretch out their legs and give their productivity a boost when the dreaded afternoon slump hits.
Many electric models, such as the Uplift V2 (opens in new tab), have presets to program your preferred standing and sitting heights, meaning you can get the perfect setup for you at the touch of a button.
If one of these desks isn’t a viable option for you right now, you can instantly convert your existing home office desk with a non-electric desk riser, such as the Vivo Standing Desk Converter. This simply sits on your desktop, ready for you to adjust to your perfect standing height. If you're regularly experiencing a sore neck and back at the end of each day, read our how to get a better posture (opens in new tab) when home working feature for quick exercises and tips.
Make clean air in your home office a priority
When it comes to a healthy home office setup, the air you breathe can make all the difference to your long-term health and wellbeing. If you suffer from allergies or have some furry friends at home, these can be triggers for some bothersome allergy symptoms such as a cough, dripping nose and skin rashes.
Opening the windows in your home office (if you have any) is a fast and free way to tackle indoor air pollution – providing you aren’t living next to a busy, polluted road of course. Certain types of house plants are also good for cleaning the air.
Barberton Daisy plants are pretty and purifying, while Snake Plants, Spider Plants, Dragon Trees and Aloe Vera plants are well-known classics. If you have a pet at home, ensure all your plants are non-toxic before buying them.
For a very thorough approach to cleaner air at home, we would recommend considering one of the best air purifiers (opens in new tab), which are designed to constantly detect then remove toxins, allergens and other pollutants from the air. You can buy HEPA models for allergies, as well as smart models designed for easy app control.
These essential gadgets come in different sizes and won’t take up much room in your home office. Many can be operated on ‘night’ (quiet) mode too, so you won’t be disturbed when working.
Use artificial sunlight to brighten up dark offices
If, like thousands of Americans, you have been working from home in a makeshift office, chances are you haven’t been getting enough daylight. This, in turn, can really throw your sleep-wake cycle out of whack and affect your quality of shut-eye - regardless of whether you have a good mattress (opens in new tab) or not.
Whether you’re working in a converted closet or a basement room, the hours of daylight you would normally get on your commute into work, or in your company’s light-filled office, may be significantly reduced. Light therapy lamps (opens in new tab) are a real ally here, as they help simulate natural sunlight as you work.
That in turn supports your body’s circadian rhythm, meaning you will sleep better at night. These lamps can also boost your mood and help aid focus and concentration, though you should only use them for an hour each morning.
Use an activity tracker to remind you to move
The lack of a daily commute has been an added bonus for many people, saving us precious time at either end of the working day to concentrate on hobbies, spend time with family, or simply to relax. However, there are some big physical disadvantages, including less physical activity than you would normally get as you make your way to and from work.
It’s important to make sure you take regular breaks from your desk to stretch, move, or even do a mini workout (also called exercise snacking). According to the Mayo Clinic, (opens in new tab) sitting down for long stretches of time, day in and day out, can come with some very real health implications. These include increased blood pressure and risk of obesity, so it’s important to get moving in your home office.
The World Health Organization recommends adults aged 18-64 to get around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, and many of the best fitness trackers (opens in new tab), such as the Apple Watch and the Fitbit Versa 2, can help you hit this. They also come with built-in prompts to remind you to get up and walk around, so you aren’t permanently glued to your home office chair during work hours. For affordable devices, see our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day Fitbit deals (opens in new tab).
Invest in some home office cardio equipment
As we know from the past year, there are many ways to get a full body workout at home, starting with the best home gyms (opens in new tab) for proper weights and body strength training. Depending on the type you pick, these can be pretty bulky and will quickly take-over your home office space. Resistance bands are much more compact yet still highly effective, as are kettlebells.
Unless you’re taking part in endless Zoom calls with colleagues, you have a lot more privacy to workout in your home office throughout the day. You can try exercise snacking – a couple of minutes’ exercise at several points throughout your 9-5 – or invest in some nifty gear to help you move and work.
What are we talking about? Well, while normal exercise bikes (opens in new tab) are superb for spin class and endurance training, an under-desk bike can help you cycle as you tap away on your keyboard. These work particularly well with sit-stand desks, as you’ll have plenty of room underneath to place the machine.
Another great option is an under-desk walk-station, which has some of the benefits of the best treadmills (opens in new tab), enabling you to walk and work simultaneously. These are particularly good if you like to walk while talking on the phone or during a video call with a colleague, or when you’re working yet don’t have to type.
How to create a healthy home office setup: Wrapping it up
Creating a healthy home office setup is easy and fun, and even though we have suggested different types of products throughout this feature, you don’t need to spend much money or make drastic changes to enjoy a healthy way of home working. Positioning your desk near a window, so you can enjoy fresh air and sunlight, could be all the difference you need.
Stay hydrated by drinking enough water for your body weight and activity levels, move often throughout your working day, and don’t forget to take regular screen breaks.
On a mental wellbeing note, keep your to-do list reasonable to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload, and schedule in regular time each week to chat to your colleagues about non-work topics to help you stay socialized (even if it is digitally). All of these things will help you stay productive and feel refreshed, not drained, come clocking off time, so you can enjoy your evenings more.