Like many entrepreneurs, I work from home most days. Even before I transitioned into full-time self-employment, I worked remotely for several years. My husband also works from home since his company is based in San Francisco. All that to say, our home office is important to us.
I’m actually in the process of revamping one of our spare rooms into my own office so that I don’t have to share with my hubs or work from our bedroom anymore. 🙌
Starting with a blank canvas has been a lot of fun. It’s helped me be super intentional about every item going into my office space. Is mindful decorating a thing? I want my office to exude simplicity, wellness, and joy. Here’s what I mean:
Not only do I want to avoid spending a bunch of money on this project, but I also don’t want my office to feel cluttered. I don’t know about you, but clutter zaps my energy. Furniture-wise, I’m sticking with items I already had on hand: a basic desk and chair, a small filing cabinet, two bookshelves, and a standing lamp.
My mantra for most things in life -- food, clothes, cosmetics, relationships, is quality over quantity. And I’m applying this philosophy to my home office as well. I don’t need a bajillion pens in my desk drawer, just a few quality ones I like using. I don’t want my desk covered with inspirational quotes, knick knacks, and stress balls because blank space invites creativity.
A space of any kind has the power to nourish or deplete you. I spend a lot of time in my home office, so it’s important that it supports my wellbeing.
As I’m designing this space and carefully choosing items to bring into it, I’m thinking about what will nourish my body, my mind, my creativity, my mood, my energy. This could mean:
Hopefully I do Marie Kondo proud with this one. The idea of choosing items that “spark joy” is trendy, but it’s really an age-old concept that could do us all a little good.
I want to create an office space that I want to be in. I want function and form. For me, this means my home office will include personal momentos, colors I love, and touches that reflect bits of my personality and interests.
For example, I feel joy when I glance over to see my bookshelves filled with my favorite authors (hey there, J.K. Rowling! 👋), photos of family and friends, and a few treasures from our travels. I love having a space next to my desk for my cats to chill out. Succulents make me smile, too.
Now to be clear, I don’t see clients in my home office, although I do use it for virtual nutrition consults. It’s important to consider the purpose of your office when making decisions about design, seating, decor, etc. The purpose of my office is to have a quiet, organized space that supports my health and helps me stay focused and productive.
With all of this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my must-haves for a healthy home office. These may vary for you depending on the purpose and priorities of your office space. If one of your home office essentials isn’t on this list, let me know!
Slow and inefficient equipment is THE WORST. It’s also one of the most common blunders in a home office space. Nothing will dampen your productivity more than a choppy wifi connection so go ahead and make this your number one priority.
A reliable internet connection wasn’t always a given in certain parts of our house, including the room that is now my home office. For awhile we just pretended it would get better (bad choice), and of course it didn’t. Thankfully, we’ve resolved all of our wifi woes with this handy device.
Good lighting is a game changer. The quality of light has been shown to affect alertness and accuracy at work and poor lighting is associated with eye strain, headaches, fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Natural light signals your body to wake up, may improve mood, and suppresses melatonin production so you that your energy is sustained through the work day.
If you don’t have any natural light coming into your office space, definitely plan some short outdoor walks into your day. TBH, we probably all need to do this regardless of our office sitch.
I’m very lucky to have two windows in my office that bring in a ton of natural light, so most of the day I don’t need anything more than that. But I’ve also equipped my office with plenty of lighting options to keep me going and avoid eye strain in early mornings, late nights, stormy days, you name it. I have an overhead light/fan, but I more often just flip on a standing lamp with a bulb that gives off a soft, warm glow.
I also keep a natural salt lamp on my desk, mostly for extra ambiance but also because salt lamps (might be?) associated with air purification, EMF and blue light reduction, and allergy relief. Just make sure yours is legit if you want to reap these alleged benefits.
Obviously a desk is a must. But have you thought about your desk setup? Correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing, and good desk posture (i.e. ergonomics) are necessary for your well being. Nobody likes stiff joints, a strained neck, and carpal tunnel, right?
TBH, I am not the queen of good desk posture, but I have a laptop/monitor combo that keeps me accountable. My monitor is situated towards the back of my very basic desk on top of a stand that puts it at eye level. My chair is on wheels so I can easily adjust spacing as needed. I’m considering adding an exercise ball to my office to engage my core (and that pesky posture).
A standing desk is also a terrific option, which I may upgrade to at some point. I’ve had a standing desk in other offices I’ve worked at and really liked how I felt after using it intermittently throughout the day. My husband has this one in his home office, which I love because the height is electronically adjustable so you can easily pivot from sitting to standing whenever you want.
And while we’re talking about desks, let’s discuss cords. Do yourself a favor and take a minute to think about cord management. There are all kinds of cheap and simple solutions to keep your cords organized, in place, and out of sight. Pro tip: have a dedicated phone and laptop charger for your home office that can stay there all the time, neat and tidy.
I live by three basic storage rules: 1) Give everything its own place 2) Store similar items together 3) Get rid of things that aren’t used or enjoyed.
Like I mentioned, having everything piled on your desk, even in an organized fashion, isn’t ideal for creativity or productivity. I like to keep most things put away when I’m not using them. Because almost all my files are digitally stored, I don’t have much paper lying around, which makes things a whole lot simpler. But there are still plenty of business-related items that need a home in my office. Here’s how things look for me.
I only have one drawer in my desk and I’m very intentional about keeping it organized and functional, otherwise it’d probably just become a junk drawer. I keep my most frequently used office supplies in there -- pens, pencils, highlighters, post-its, stamps, paper clips, lip balm, headphones, snacks, supplements, my kindle -- and use little boxes to group similar items and keep things organized. Nothing fancy.
I also have a narrow cabinet next to my desk with a bunch of small-ish drawers for additional office supplies, charging chords, adaptors, clinical tools, notepads, stationary, etc. Because the drawers are small they stay pretty neat and make it easy to group similar items together. Since this cabinet is right next to my desk, it doubles as a perch for my cats to keep me company while I work. 😻
Then there’s my bookshelves which store my, well, books. Our house is full of built-in book shelving throughout the main floor, but I still like to keep books I use for reference, research, or professional development in my office for convenience. Plus, a few fun favorites thrown in for that joy factor. These shelves also display some photos and other personal mementos for some added whimsy. Function and form at its finest, IMO.
If you’re a health practitioner handling protected health information (PHI) you may also need to take a few extra steps to make sure your home office storage is HIPAA-compliant, such as locking up client files, shredding documents, and using HIPAA-compliant communication tools.
I won’t labor on about the benefits of blue-light blocking glasses, because it’s likely you know the gist about better sleep and all that jazz. I like my ANRRI glasses, which were about $25 and you can order them off Amazon. Score.
Plants not only add a lot of life to a space, but they can also improve your air quality. I don’t have the greatest track record as a plant lady, but one of my goals for my new office space is to incorporate some low-maintenance, air purifying plants. Some plants I’m considering are bamboo palms, broadleaf lady palms, gerbera daisies, dragon trees, pothos, and succulents (since I know I can keep a succulent alive). What should I choose?
If you’re really not into plants but care a lot about your air quality, I’ve heard terrific things about this air filter.
Some of my favorite oils to diffuse in my office are:
I also like lighting non-toxic, naturally scented candles for some extra hygge and aromatherapy when I don’t have my diffuser going. It can be tough to find quality candles in stores, so I buy these from Grove Collaborative.
If you work from home, you might not be able to control noise coming from family members, neighbors mowing their grass, the dog barking, whatever. In my case it’s a woodpecker who faithfully shows up every day to chisel away (loudly) at our house and trees. The solution: really great headphones. My husband swears by his AirPods but I love my comfy, over-ear headphones.
I don’t know about you, but I often grow weary of prolonged screen time. It’s a necessary (and rewarding) part of my work but sometimes I just need a break. Taking short breaks for walks or food help, but a white board is another way to get you up on your feet and away from your computer. I use mine to brainstorm content ideas, plan out workshops, map out complicated cases, organize keyword research, think through a problem, & more. We have this one.
I love my Spoonk Mat. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an acupressure mat covered in little spikes that increase circulation and help relax tense muscles. You can lie or stand on it. I find it to be energizing if I use it for a quick 5-10-ish minutes during the day and relaxing if I use it for a longer period right before bed. You can learn more about it here.
If you’re not interested in getting a Spoonk Mat, consider keeping a foam roller, yoga mat, or small free weights in your office to remind you to get in a little self care throughout your work day.
And there you have it, my list of essentials for a healthy home office.
Danielle Reynolds-Flatt is a nutritionist, entrepreneur, marketing nerd, and cat lady.
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