Whether you work from home, work remotely or just use your home office for paying bills, it’s probably a place you or someone in your house spend a decent amount of time. As part of our movement to make EVERY house the Healthy House on the Block, it’s time we took a deeper look at that home office.
Personally, I spend a lot of time in my home office. It was the most recently finished room in our house and I’m in love with it’s hardwood floors and light blue walls. I will admit it has a toy area for my kids, but overall it’s my space for creativity and uninterrupted, focused work time. WIth all the time I spend in the office, I want to make sure that it’s a healthy environment. I want it to be a space that helps me achieve the goals I set and that makes me more productive. That’s why I enlisted the help of Kim Bost from High Vibe Home to help give me some ideas, which I will share later in this post.
So how can you be sure your home office is a healthy environment to work in and play in? Here’s a few of the areas I checked out:
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS (EMFs)
EMFs are the invisible lines of force that are emitted from any electronic or wireless device. While there is a lot of research being done to prove what exactly EMFs do to our bodies, what we do know is it puts our bodies under stress. If you can protect yourself and avoid them when possible, you will be protecting your body’s health.
One way to do this is to keep cords and electrical outlets cleaned up. THe more wires and cords that are running over and near your feet, the more EMFs your body is coming in contact with. Keep them neat and organized, and if you can, keep them behind your desk or a cabinet.
It’s also a good practice not to have a laptop sitting directly on you. Try using a keyboard and mouse you can plug into your computer and set everything on a desk. Setting an electronic device on your body near your vital organs can cause stress to your body and harm your well being.
Using corded options rather than bluetooth and WIFI is another great habit to get into. Although it can be a difficult adjustment at first, in the long run it will be better for your body and keep your home office healthy.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
One of the most important things to consider in a home office is the location of the office in your home. If your family’s office is in the basement, there are certain factors you’ll need to consider to determine if it has high indoor air quality.
The first thing to consider if you’re assessing a basement home office is that Radon, a naturally occurring but carcinogenic gas, pools in basements. Radon is heavier than air and depending on how tightly your home is sealed and the geographic location of your home, you may want to consider a home Radon test to verify this is not an issue. The more time someone spends in an area with high Radon levels, the higher their risk of lung cancer is. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and there has certainly been a rise in that statistic in the recent years. You can purchase a Radon Test Kit on Amazon and get started right away. If you do find Radon, be sure to follow the steps in our 10 Step Radon Walk-Through Guide to ensure it is properly mitigated.
Moisture is another area you will want to check, especially if your home office is in the basement. A room that has higher humidity has a high impact on the air quality. The more humid the room, the lower the indoor air quality will be. Higher moisture levels tend to mean more dust mites as this climate is conducive to their breeding. It also means any mildew or mold spores that may find a home somewhere in the room or within the walls of the room are given a high likelihood that they will grow and spread. You can check the humidity in the room with a humidity monitor just like this one. It should read between 35% and 45%. If it’s too high, you can read more in this post about how to reduce moisture in a few easy steps.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can make sure you don’t have too many indoor plants in your office. The moisture from the plants and from watering them can increase the humidity very quickly. You'll also want to make sure the room is properly ventilated either with windows or the proper air returns and vents. Keep them open to allow maximum air flow throughout the room. And lastly, you can always invest in a dehumidifier, which isn’t a bad idea for any lower level of a home or particularly humid room. This is the one we typically recommend to our homeowners.
Regular old hardware paint has VOCs, toxins and carcinogens. Our respiratory systems can become greatly affected by breathing in the VOCs and toxins emitted by paint. Our skin also allows for these toxins to pass through into our bodies. Some standard paints use propane sulfone as a paint vehicle, which has been proven to be a powerful carcinogen even upon skin contact.
You want a paint that is ZERO VOC to ensure that the least amount of toxins will be released into the air of your home office. Low VOC on a paint label means it meets the EPA’s standards, but zero VOC is ideal.
Opting for a natural paint like this one will always be your best bet. There are more and more options coming onto the market all the time in this area, meaning there will be more color and finish choices as well. Another great option we’ve seen is Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint that you can mix yourself.
We’ve talked a lot about the physical environment of your home office, but there’s even more that goes into planning a healthy space in your home. If you do work from home or work from home part time, you want to make sure your home office is a place that makes you feel productive and makes you feel good. One way to accomplish this is by making sure there are plenty of opportunities in your space that allow you to move. It’s a very unsafe practice to be sedentary and immobile for long periods of time. Researchers have even found that regular exercise doesn’t necessarily combat the practice of sitting for long stretches as they once thought.
But there are many options to keep your home office as a healthy living space for you and your family. First, you can invest in a standing desk. This is a great way to ensure you won’t be sitting for long periods of times. Many standing desks are adjustable and you can lower them to sit when you need it. This is one of our favorites. You can also purchase a chair frame to fit an exercise ball which will help engage your muscles while you are sitting.
Some other ideas that won’t cost a thing to change would be to set an alarm either on your phone, or a manual timer that will remind you to get up and move around every so often. We’ve also seen homeowner put the files or things they need most often on the other side of their office so they are forced to get up and get them frequently, allowing their bodies’ to move.
DIFFUSER BLENDS FOR PRODUCTIVITY