'Upgrades' to Avoid for Your Home Office (and What to Do Instead)
Many homeowners decide to build a home office to promote productivity or make it easier to get things done while they are not at work. However, without the right design, a home office can be distracting instead of a haven of peaceful thought and focus. People may dive into the design without realizing they are setting themselves up for failure. By following these tips, homeowners can understand the best ways to get the most from their home offices without recreating the office environment at home.
Table of Contents
- Distracting Paint Colors
- Unergonomic Furniture
- Additional Resources
Distracting Paint Colors
When homeowners think about renovating their home offices, changing the paint color is a popular option. However, some paint color choices can create more problems than they solve. The following options may be worth re-thinking.
Yellow is a color that can evoke feelings in people, and not all of them are good. A pale, buttery yellow might conjure up thoughts of a grandmother's clean kitchen. A dingy yellow on office walls, on the other hand, connotes an aesthetic that reminds the viewer of decades past. The problem with yellow is that it can make a room look older or smaller than it is. A little too much dust or cobwebs on the wall promotes this perception. As such, homeowners should take care when choosing this color unless they are committed to maintaining it.
As a warm neutral tone, brown is a popular option for many interior rooms. As an accent or in a flooring choice, brown is ideal because it does not show dirt and can help to unify the room's theme. On the walls, however, brown is often problematic. It is too dark for small spaces and can make them feel uncomfortably cramped. Brown walls absorb light rather than reflect it, which may increase the lighting needs for the room. Ultimately, many design experts believe it looks dull and uncreative, which is the last thing homeowners want in a room dedicated to productivity.
Blue, as a choice for a home office, can be a toss-up. On the one hand, a light blue can encourage alertness. On the other hand, a bold blue painted with a heavy hand can feel like a child's bedroom. Loud primary colors tend not to do as well in the office because they encourage too much energy. With this choice, people may find they are overly energized and then burn out quickly or cannot gather the focus to function. Blue can also be calming, but the shade choice is crucial. A shade too bright may create additional problems.
Compared to blue, the color red is almost always a poor choice for walls. Like blue, red is a primary color often associated with children's designs. In a home office for adults, red may feel strikingly out of place. Red also encourages energy and alertness, often to an extreme. People who fill a room with too many examples of bold coloring may find they are regularly distracted by this visual clutter. It may be challenging to settle down to a task while the room is robed in red, not unlike a funhouse.
Although white seems like the most obvious choice for interior walls, homeowners may want to get a second opinion. White in the starkest shades appears sterile and clinical and may remind people of hospitals. White has the benefit of making a small room appear larger, but the shade is essential. Bright white reflects light and is more likely to show dirt or dust. It also highlights the texture, which can make walls and ceilings in an older home seem outdated. People who are unwilling to clean their walls at least once a month may end up with walls that look dingy or smudged.
Paint Colors to Use Instead
Design experts recommend homeowners consider light colors for walls. Homeowners may prefer to leave one wall open to darker shades as an accent wall or make all the walls the same. In this case, the rest of the walls should probably be relatively light in color. For example, someone who wants to use a dark forest green as an accent may prefer to choose a color that is several shades lighter in the same hue. Green can be an excellent choice for the home office because it helps people stay alert without making them feel frazzled or overtired.
Homeowners who do not want an overly complicated color scheme for the home office may consider common alternatives to white. Bright white shows everything, but softer hues might offer many benefits. For example, variations on cream can soften white walls without appearing aged, as a medium yellow can do. People should keep in mind that the lighting they select can highlight or mute the paint colors. Bright, excessive lighting may make cream-colored walls look whiter. Similarly, low lighting ages a look.
Like paint colors, the lighting of the home office can significantly affect a person's productivity. People need light to work with devices, read paperwork, and remain alert. These common lighting problems may be relatively easy to fix.
No one wants to live in a cave, but some home offices may make it seem like people are trying to re-create one. The truth is that lighting is an inexpensive way to change the look of a room dramatically. Skimping on the lighting can create several problems. It may be tempting to use lighting on the ceiling, but it is usually insufficient. If people invest the time and money, they may develop a combination that helps avoid eyestrain and headaches.
The problem with determining whether a room is too dim is that the assessment is subjective. Correct lighting depends on the task, as well as a specific person's preference. Someone who prefers less lighting in the room may function better than someone who loves to have multiple forms of light on at the same time.
A home office that is too bright can create other kinds of issues for homeowners. Most people know what it's like to enter a stadium for a sports game. Lighting tends to be excessive by necessity so the performers can see what they are doing. Stadium-level lighting, however, should not be necessary for most home office tasks.
People working with small parts, such as a person who performs watch repair or creates jewelry, may need more lighting. For someone who needs visual acuity when reading or writing, light bulbs that produce hundreds of lumens may not be helpful. Lighting that is too bright can cause glare on computers, which may contribute to headaches and make it difficult for people to focus on their work. People might want to rely on more than one lighting option to control brightness.
Ultimately, the best lighting solution is usually going to include multiple choices. Insufficient light sources, such as relying on a ceiling light, can create an effect that feels cave-like because all the light streams downward toward the desk or the floor. A combination of lighting that points down or up helps to balance the flow.
People who need focus lighting may want to install task lighting under shelves or on the ceiling to have additional bright lights pointing in the precise direction they need. Additionally, they may want to use:
- Natural lighting from a window
- A series of floor lamps
- Wall lamps
This will help to distribute the rest of the lighting throughout the room evenly. In a relatively small space, a combination of light bulbs that provide a few hundred lumens may be more than enough.
Unbalanced Color Temperature
When homeowners start to shop for light bulbs, they may notice an increased reference to the color temperature. Simply put, color temperature describes the hue of the light that people can see. Color temperature is an essential consideration because it can affect focus and alertness. In some cases, color temperature can affect how people feel as they look at the light.
Many homeowners are already aware of how blue light coming from a computer screen or smartphone can make people feel alert, even when they are trying to fall asleep. This light has a color temperature above 5,000K. By comparison, lighting with a color temperature of 2,700K is much warmer, even a little closer to yellow. Using too many light bulbs with the same color temperature can make a person feel tired or overstimulated, depending on which end of the spectrum they choose.
Best Home Office Lighting Strategies
In most cases, the most practical solution for office lighting emphasizes indirect light, with task lighting as needed. People do not need to install dozens of lights throughout the room, but they should consider using at least two or three. Larger rooms, or rooms located in the basement, may need more. For example, a series of wall lamps or floor lamps that point upward may be sufficient to illuminate the room. With that goal achieved, people can select additional lighting to increase visual acuity on complex tasks.
Homeowners must research the type of lighting they want and be willing to test out a few options to see what works best. Old-fashioned fluorescent tubes installed in an office ceiling are prone to flickering, which can cause tiredness or even trigger migraines. Newer, integrated LED bulbs, which are some of the least expensive lighting options on the market currently, may also cause flickering and create the same problems. People may want to explore different color temperatures throughout the room and combine them to create something that resembles the full spectrum of natural daylight.
Adding home office decor may be the last thing on a homeowner's mind — or it may be the thing they look forward to the most. Of course, the décor has the greatest potential to make it easier to work or make it impossible.
Too Many Things
To understand what creates productivity in a home office, people need to know how visual clutter can affect them. Visual clutter is a way of looking at décor or organization concerning a person's ability to focus on the task at hand. A desk piled high with old papers or files would be considered cluttered by almost anyone's definition. Similarly, a desk or bookshelves piled high with knickknacks may also qualify as visual clutter.
Evaluating and managing visual clutter is important because people may struggle to be productive in work pursuits while they are at home. It is too easy to do some cleaning in the kitchen or sit down to watch television. Ensuring the home office has what it needs in addition to the proper storage can help create a room that is well-supplied and easy to work in.
The presence of visual clutter in the home office can also create distractions people find difficult to avoid. In smaller houses, homeowners may try to create a multipurpose room out of their home office. In this case, people often end up keeping a variety of pieces of equipment in the same room, such as:
- Gaming consoles
- Musical instruments
- Hobby supplies
The problem is these extra items can make it hard for people to get work done. In comparison to other forms of clutter, these things may draw people's attention and time. Someone who isn't excited about their work responsibilities may prefer to sit and play on a gaming console or read a book instead. It is possible to use the same room for these activities, but homeowners may need to create discreet storage to keep the tools and devices out of view.
Bad Outlet Placement
One of the biggest problems homeowners face when converting a bedroom into a home office is the location of outlets. Decades ago, homebuilders had no idea how much people would become dependent on the use of devices. Today, homeowners often find they do not have enough outlets in the room. Insufficient outlets can be a serious safety hazard, especially if people turn to surge protectors and extension cables to solve the problem.
Putting too much of an electrical load on one circuit can cause the circuit to trip. In this case, homeowners may try to reset the circuit or upgrade the outlet themselves. However, working with the home's electrical system is something a trained expert should only do. Otherwise, homeowners put themselves at risk for electrocution or damaging the whole system.
When designing a home office, people may prefer to identify where they intend to put a desk and ensure an outlet is nearby. If there are not enough outlets in the room, they may want to schedule a consultation with an electrician to discuss adding outlets and possibly upgrading the circuit panel as needed.
Special Office Supplies
When people decide to set up a home office, they often invest in new office supplies. This expense is probably unnecessary. Most homeowners already have a variety of office supplies that may be perfectly suitable for their work tasks, including:
- Paper for writing and printing
- Pens and pencils
- Stationary and envelopes
- Printers and scanners
- Office computers and monitors
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on new supplies, people may want to go through their homes and retrieve the supplies they already have. A home office provides an excellent space to organize these supplies in one location.
Best Home Office Décor Additions & Setup
The best way to outfit and decorate a home office is to start with a plan. People may decide to draw a bird's-eye view of the room and estimate how much space they need for furniture and where they should put it. They might also want to go into the room and mark specific areas on the wall and floor using painter's tape. These approaches will give them a working idea of how much space they have and what types of equipment may be available to them in the office.
When determining how to use the space, homeowners should aim for efficiency and buy what they will use only. Installing large monitors on the wall, along with shelving or cabinets for supplies and books, minimizes the use of floor space. People who do not want to use a desk might consider a standing option for greater efficiency and comfort. Those who are unsure how they want to decorate their office may want to start with the basics and add house plants or wall hangings as they get a feel for the room.
Once people have paid for the home office basics, they may not want to spend extra on ergonomic furniture. However, this expense is a necessary one, particularly for people who work exclusively from home. Furniture not designed for workers can cause long-term health problems.
Home offices can be a haven of bad furniture choices that homeowners do not want to throw out. In many cases, people may try to use a chair that belongs in another part of the home, like the living room or dining room. Unfortunately, these chairs are not meant for long periods of sitting, especially not an entire workday.
The problem with this approach is that an uncomfortable chair does more than inhibit productivity. People who spend several hours a day sitting in a chair that does not provide proper support can end up with chronic pain, back problems, headaches, and more. Although almost any chair can pose a problem, older chairs with worn-out padding are more likely to make it worse. Chairs that will not keep their position or lean too far back due to wear need to be replaced.
Exercise Ball as Chair
Using an exercise ball as a home office chair may seem like an excellent, affordable choice, but it usually is not. Exercise balls target specific muscle and joint groups for development or rehabilitation. While people may use them for periods of time as part of an exercise or physical therapy regimen, they usually are not spending several hours a day sitting on the ball. Bouncing on an exercise ball for excessive amounts of time can put pressure on the spine and pelvis. Additionally, the way people have to sit on it to maintain balance means they are not receiving adequate back support. An exercise ball may help manage body distraction during the workday but should be used strategically. In most cases, it is not an appropriate replacement for a supportive office chair.
Even if people have an ergonomic office chair, a bad desk may render many of those benefits inapplicable. Desks should be an appropriate height, and for most people, that is 29 inches off the ground. People who are much taller or shorter should consider purchasing a desk that is custom-built for them. Additionally, desks should be large enough so the person sitting at them can rest their elbows on the desk while sitting straight, without straining to reach the keyboard. Putting pressure on the edge of the arm can cut off circulation and cause pain over time.
Best Furniture to Use in Home Office
Ultimately, the best furniture for people to use in a home office will include a combination of pieces that work well together. The ideal office chair is adjustable, providing support for the lower back. People must rest their feet flat on the floor as they use it and adjust the armrests to their elbows. The chair itself should not be rigid, but neither should it tip backward too easily.
Homeowners may want to shop around for a chair and desk at the same time to test them out simultaneously. A chair that is too large may not fit a smaller desk, forcing people to push away from the table. Ideally, people should be able to bring the armrests of the chair slightly under the table to keep a straight back while they type. Homeowners who need to install a large monitor for the home office should consider attaching it to the wall. Best placement usually involves positioning the monitor slightly higher but tipped slightly downward. This position allows people to keep a straight back and look gently upward without having to crane their necks to see the screen.
Building a home office is an excellent idea for a person who works full time or occasionally from home. Designing the office for productivity can be full of pitfalls, especially in unsuspecting ways like the paint color or décor. Unfortunately, homeowners may not realize how their design choices affect them until they try to work. By following a color scheme for efficiency and keeping the layout simple and functional, people can get more done. They can also avoid making the expense twice on a design they would otherwise have to fix or redo.
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