I’ve been working from home for three years now, and while I miss a few things about office life—especially the coworker camaraderie—the ability to have more control over my physical environment has probably been the best perk. I don’t have to deal with a crowded, stress-inducing daily commute. I can also avoid obnoxious overhead fluorescent lights and minimize distracting background sounds (and wear noise-canceling headphones without worrying I’ll be startled by someone popping by my desk). Over time, I’ve also been able to create a WFH space that feels, well, like home. As a result, I feel a bit calmer, less anxious, and more focused (on good days).
All that to say, your physical work environment can significantly influence how you feel on the job. “The space within us is definitely affected by the space around us,” Anita Yokota, LMFT, a therapist-turned-designer and author of the new book Home Therapy, tells SELF. “As a therapist, I would go into people’s homes and often find that their external surroundings echoed their internal struggles. Now, as a designer, I remind clients regularly that we can improve our mental state as well as the energy of a space by bringing structure to it.”
If your current WFH setup isn’t inspiring you to feel or do your best, here are Yokota’s tips for making it more functional, joyful, and supportive of your workday (and your post-work mental health).
Create a designated workspace.
Working from the bed, couch, or kitchen table was a necessary makeshift solution for many people who suddenly found themselves with remote jobs in the early days of the pandemic, but if you still don’t have a dedicated area to conduct your business, it’s worth carving one out, Yokota says. Not only can a separate workspace prevent you from hunching over your laptop and straining your body, but it can also ease your mind. “When we, as humans, have structure, we tend to feel safer and calmer,” she says. On the flip side, without those physical boundaries, working from home can easily feel chaotic and stressful, she adds.
If you have a home office, that’s great, but a separate work area doesn’t have to be a separate room. “When you give yourself the freedom to create a subset or a zone within a room, you can reimagine your space based on your needs,” Yokota says.
For your WFH space specifically, that freedom might look like adding a cabinet unit to your dining room that has a drop-down surface for your laptop and keyboard (which you can tuck away at dinner time), installing floating shelves with drawers that function as a desk in your bedroom or living room, or finding a space for some other type of wall desk. “That space now gets to work for you instead of against you, which is really what we want for our homes—a certain malleability that allows us to be flexible and open,” Yokota says.
Prioritize lighting and other elements that will boost your energy and focus.
Yokota also recommends adding features to your work zone that’ll help you, well, get in the zone. The biggie? Lighting. “I have a whole section on lighting in my book and for good reason: It has a huge impact on our bodies,” she says. “Getting plenty of light can help you feel more content, alert, and focused throughout your workday.”