With the sudden rise in working from home last year, I – like many others – began commandeering dining room chairs and dusting off old tables from the garage to set up a home office workstation.
As the months went on (and my back began to ache), I gradually started to address some of the deficiencies in my setup – and ended up spending a lot of time and thought designing the best workspace for me.
And now I’ve got a home office that is much more comfortable and pleasant than any normal office I’ve worked in.
I’ve also made it a more active space – so I naturally spend a lot less time sitting in one spot, which leaves me feeling a lot more motivated throughout the workday.
Now that we’ve all gradually adapted to this new way of working, there’s little excuse for still using your kid’s table or an ironing board as a desk, or conducting your meetings from the sofa.
In this post, I’m detailing how I overhauled our spare bedroom to make it my new favorite room in the house (and an office, too :).
Here are my top 7 ways to upgrade your office workspace, reverse the negative effects of sitting, and make it a healthier and more active place to spend your time!
1. Rethink Sitting: Get a Chair That Promotes Good Posture
The first thing to address with any home office setup is the chair.
For around 5 months, I used a dining table chair. By mid-afternoon, I’d feel my lower back complaining.
So rather than just jump online and buy a standard office chair, I did some research first.
I found QOR online – founded by Dr. Turner Osler, a trauma surgeon who supports the sentiment that “sitting is the new smoking” and decided to design a solution.
I opted for the Ariel active sitting chair; think of it like a comfortable swivel stool that sits on a rocker, meaning that it can tilt in any direction.
In other words, it’s constantly promoting active sitting by keeping the rocker balanced.
This might not sound that pleasant, but it’s actually super-comfortable and after a few days of adaptation I find I can sit in a neutral, upright position for hours on end.
No more slumping, no more disengaged core or back pain.
Just be careful when you have visitors around – if they don’t know about the rocker they are liable to fall off!
2. Don’t Sit All Day: Get a Height-Adjustable Desk
Even proponents of chairs like the QOR360 will tell you that you shouldn’t sit all day.
(Neither should you stand all day, actually. Much better to mix the two).
That’s why a height-adjustable desk is an essential purchase if you’re planning to work from home for the foreseeable future.
I find Im much more motivated and think better when working and standing, and get into less unproductive spells.
There are many options and ways to go with a height-adjustable desk. Amazon is loaded with different options, they’re practically a commodity product with no clear brand coming out on top.
Consider whether you want to go down the manual or electric desk route – I opted for an electric one, and although it was a little pricier and took a little bit more work to set up, it’s nice to have that touch-of-a-button feature.
One tip: you can often save money by getting the desktop and the frame separately; I got my desktop from IKEA, and then ordered the electric height adjustable frame separately from a supplier on Amazon, and screwed them together.
I saved around $125 by not buying the full setup from IKEA.
3. Sit and Exercise With An Under Desk Elliptical
In our household, my partner and I both work from home, and often talk about how sedentary we feel after a few hours at the desk – so a few weeks ago we decided we’d get an ‘under the desk pedal machine’ – or what’s properly known as an Under Desk Elliptical.
Our Cubii Jr is now the gizmo we fight over the most!
It comfortably sits under your desk and allows you to silently pedal away while you work or take calls.
We’ve both found it’s great for feeling active and actually lifts your mood – it must be something to do with the increased blood flow.
The Cubii Jr allows you to vary the resistance level, which is a great feature:
Sometimes I’ll crank it up high and force myself to sweat a little, other times I’ll dial it right down to 1 and just glide on it (often I forget Im even pedalling for 30-45 minutes).
If you occasionally feel that being glued to your desk is making you more sedentary, then get one of these – even when you’re not using it, it’s a comfortable ergonomic footrest!
Related Article: The Best Under Desk Treadmills To Keep You Active In The Office
4. Computer Ergonomics
Once you’ve got your seating (and standing) sorted, the next thing you want to address is your computer setup, and making sure it’s comfortable enough that you can work on it all day and isn’t causing any imbalances or RSI.
Many of us work from laptops these days, and often with two screens.
It’s important to remember a couple of ergonomics rules of thumbs:
- The top of your screen(s) should be at eye level when you’re sat upright
- Your keyboard and mouse / trackpad ought to be at a comfortable position so your arms rest gently on the desk in a natural position.
If you’re just sitting at a desk bashing away on a laptop, then you’re going to be hunched over.
The remedy for this is a good laptop stand (like the one pictured above). It elevates your laptop to be at eye level – make sure you get a height-adjustable stand so you can dial it in to your own eye level.
Now your laptop is up on a stand, you can’t use the keyboard or trackpad! So time to upgrade those too.
My recommendation is to keep things uncluttered and go Bluetooth. If you use a Mac, get yourself the Apple Magic Keyboard and either a Magic Mouse 2 or a Trackpad (for me moving from a mouse to the Magic Trackpad was a gamechanger).
5. Downtime Space
I lucked out moving my home office into the spare bedroom – there was already a big red sofabed in there for when we have guests round.
Now, whenever I feel I’ve been staring at a screen too long – or just need a quick break – I can stretch out on the sofa for 5 minutes.
It changes the character of the room – it’s no longer just a place to bash away at a keyboard, but a space to work and think.
If you’ve got the space for it, consider adding some comfortable seating or just somewhere you can step away from the screen and relax for a while!
6. Aesthetics Matter
This one took me a while to realise.
After a few months of working in my home office, I slowly realised that there was nothing actually nice in the room where I spent most of my waking hours.
I gradually corrected this, picking up a couple of plants and moving my guitar into the room.
Then I bought a bunch of old antique maps (prints and originals) on Etsy, and the room really started to have a bit more character.
I got a rustic-looking rug and a salt lamp, and – hey presto – the room feels like a relaxing space to think and spend time instead of an office.
When you think about lighting, there are three types to consider:
- Desk light. It’s essential that you’ve got a powerful light illuminating your workspace, so you can see clearly and stay focussed. I opted for this flexible LED floor lamp, which is plenty bright, adjustable, and tall enough that it’s effective when my desk is in ‘standing’ mode.
- Natural light. Plenty of exposure to natural light, especially if you start working early in the mornings, is important. Try to orientate your home office setup so the room gets as much natural light as possible without it being in your face or distracting.
- Ambient lighting. Some tasteful ambient lighting really helps set the mood and make the room feel more calming. I’ve got 2 BioLite AlpenGlows (pictured above) which have a variety of different soothing tones. They’re actually designed primarily as camping lights, but I’ve found them to be super effective at creating a good atmosphere when working in the early mornings or late evenings.
And that’s all I have for boosting your home workstation!
Got any tips for me, or ideas to share with our readers?
Let us know below!