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By Hannah Swierstra

5 ways to create a great workspace

Before starting my business last year, I’d always been in employment and someone else had decided the essence of my work environment. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I was in control of my own workspace & could create what I needed, within reason.

Ideally, I’d like some kind of shed-office with a wood burner and massive window with a great view, but that’s not going to happen in my garden.

I’ve moved my desk around 5 times – I didn’t know I had that many different places to move it to, but apparently, I have! Plus I’ve spent time on the dining room table which is great if I want to spread out.

Here are my 5 tips to create a comfortable, productive & stress-free workspace for yourself, whether you’re self-employed, remote working, or in the office.

1. Find the right place

Not easy as there are always limitations, particularly if you work from home. I work in our spare room, mainly because my husband ‘bagsied’ the office 8 years ago when we moved in, he’s worked form home for years plus he usually has 3 monitors up, so I can’t compete!

Fortunately, we have enough space in the spare room that meant, as I said above, I was able to move my desk 5 times! It’s amazing how inventive you can be to get it right. I now have a view out the window, without being directly in it, or the light and I have space around me to move. I’ve found that for zooms in particular I didn’t want the glare of the sun and I needed a plain background. As much as I love my flamingo wallpaper it often became the main topic of conversation!

I’m also far enough away from my husband’s office that we can close our doors and not have to listen to each other’s work calls, an absolute blessing.

As I said, if I feel the need to stretch out or have a lot of papers I’m working on, I’ll move downstairs to the dining room table, and I like to have a change of scenery from time to time!

2. Get the right equipment

If you’re like me & suffer from RSI, then you need the right equipment. I cannot work from a laptop for longer than an hour or two without getting niggles up my arm. If I’m working on my computer for an extended period of time (so every day), I need a laptop riser, separate keyboard & my favourite piece of equipment, a Bluetooth mouse. Wherever my laptop goes, my mouse follows!!

I bought a lovely bamboo riser which is not only functional, looks good & when/if it ever gets worn down, I can pop it on the compost heap!!

Future plans are to buy a standing desk, but we’re in the process of moving, so it seems a bit silly to buy more stuff just to move it somewhere else, I’ve enough to pack already! Check out this one at Helves:

3. Get the right furniture

Following on from the right equipment is the right furniture…I’m now wondering if a flatpack standing desk classes as equipment or furniture? 🤔

The sofa is not ideal, you’ll end up with backache which will add to feelings of fatigue, stress and overwhelm and it’s really not that productive.

If you can, get a decent chair, not a dining room chair but one that will support you. Your feet should be able to sit flat on the floor with your knees at a right angle – if you can’t you either need a new chair or try a foot riser. In my last job I needed a foot riser as my desk was high & when I raised my chair to reach it, they were on tiptoes on the floor 🤦‍♀️ – yep I am short!

You also need a desk that’s long enough to allow you to rest your forearms on it, so the kitchen counter ain’t ideal!

You’ll want to make sure you have adequate light, nothing worse than squinting at your screen on a dingy day. 💻

4. Decorate

Wherever you work, whatever the size or location, I advise you to decorate it, put up a picture or poster. You can keep it simple, maybe an inspiring quote, or a photo of your loved ones to make you smile. I now look at my flamingo wallpaper, which has a notice board with a few postcards & my feelings wheel, it’s something to brighten my day and make me smile. ☀

5. Keep it tidy

The most obvious.

The easiest.

And also the hardest!

I may not always have the tidiest desk during the day but at the end of the day, I close my laptop, I lower my laptop riser & put my keyboard & mouse on it.

I then put any papers I have & my notebook to one side, ready for the next day.

Lastly, I take my dirty cup & glass downstairs to put in the dishwasher.

That way when I come back to my desk in the morning, I am not scrabbling around trying to get my ‘shit in order’ – I’m ready to tackle the day and it only takes a couple of minutes.

If you’re working in a shared space, then I think this is really important, you are putting your work away for the day/weekend, if it’s all open with notes around the place can you ever really switch off?

I’d love to hear about your workspace, so please let me know or share pics on the social & don’t forget to tag me!

If you want more advice on how to create a safe & healthy workspace, check out the Display Screen Equipment checklist from the Health & Safety Executive. It assesses many many things like your furniture, equipment, light, glare etc. Working safely with display screen equipment: Workstations and assessment – HSE