Remote work the right way: 4 science-backed home office essentials

It feels like everyone wants to work from home nowadays. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough remote jobs to go around right now. New data from Ladders reports the average job seeker is now 40% less likely to land a partially remote position in 2024 compared to Q4 2023.1 All in all, the data tells us 89% of high-paying available positions are now fully on-site. That means only about 10% of all available six-figure opportunities are totally remote. 

If you’re fortunate enough to have recently landed a work from home position, chances are you’re overjoyed. No more commuting, late nights at the office, or awkward breakroom moments, right? While the benefits of remote work are fairly obvious to most workers, newly hired WFH employees shouldn’t assume they’ll be spending all day every day on the couch in their pajamas. You’re still going to have to be productive, present, and persistent while on the clock – and that means a superb home office is key for any remote worker.

Control is a commodity we’d all like more of in this world. Who doesn’t want to be in control of their own life? Working from home and putting together your own home workspace is a fantastic opportunity to take the reins on your career and sculpt the home office you’ve always wanted. No more bland cubicles or uncomfortable desk chairs. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied reports a 32% increase in productivity among workers who were permitted control over the layout of their workspace.2 Oh, and those same employees were also deemed happier and healthier. 

So, what should you keep in mind while designing your own home office? To start, a smooth-running computer goes without saying. You’re going to need to be able to answer an email or hop on a Zoom call without your tech freezing up on you or breaking down constantly. Surprisingly, many remote workers in recent years have failed to provide themselves with the proper equipment. One poll tells us two-thirds of WFH employees habitually feel like throwing their computers out the nearest window over performance issues.3

Besides a new computer, there are a number of less obvious additions you can make to your home workspace to help foster a healthier, more productive environment. Here are four science-backed home office essentials. 

An active workstation

Too much time spent in a seated position has long been linked to numerous health issues. But, while the notion of remaining active throughout the workday in pursuit of physical wellbeing probably isn’t a new one for many, new research just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests maintaining an active workstation can even help improve mental cognition on the job as well.4 

Now, an active workstation can be as simple as a standing desk or something a bit more intricate like a home office including a bike, walking pad, or stepper. Scientists from the Mayo Clinic observed workers’ reasoning skills improved while standing or actively moving at work compared to sitting down. 

Does all of this mean you should be breaking a sweat constantly? Probably not, but it’s also important to prioritize at least a little bit of movement throughout the day while working from home. Just because you can lounge on the couch for hours on end while making calls and sending emails doesn’t mean you should.

Go for green

A little bit of nature in your home office can make a big difference in terms of mental health and productivity. Some people have greener thumbs than others, but even if you aren’t a natural gardener, adding a potted plant or two to your desk is an easy way to help lower stress levels. A piece of research published in HortTechnology found a group of office workers’ anxiety levels declined significantly after small plants (san pedro cacti, bonsai plants, etc) were placed on their desks. 

Meanwhile another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied tells us a greener workspace is also conducive to getting more done. When an otherwise barren work area was adorned with plants, employees saw their productivity rise by 15%. Workers also reported feeling more satisfied and engaged with their jobs.5

Healthy snacks

There’s usually a vending machine or two within walking distance inside most office buildings, making it that much harder to stick to diet plans and healthier eating regimens for on-site employees. Working from home can serve as a great moment to break free from the chains of potato chips and candy bars in favor of healthier snacking throughout the workday. 

A relevant report published in Food, Culture & Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research details just how difficult it is for the average office employee to stick to a strict diet due to lack of control over all food items brought into the building.6 Who among us hasn’t grabbed a donut absentmindedly while walking back from the breakroom? 

While working from home, you can make sure there won’t be unhealthy snacks available to tempt you. Stocking up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains (all pillars of the vaunted Mediterranean diet) will ensure healthier snacking around the home office. Just in case you need extra motivation to eat well, following a Mediterranean diet is linked to improved memory, cognition, and a diminished risk of dementia.78

Let in the (natural) light

If possible, always set up your home office in a room with plenty of windows. A research initiative published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that employees exposed to regular daylight during working hours enjoyed better sleep, more physical activity, and an overall higher quality of life in comparison to those reporting to windowless workplaces.9 Now that you’re in control of where you work, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of the sun’s rays. 

Further research also suggests a sunnier home workspace promotes better health and improved productivity as well. Professionals working in offices filled with natural light reported far fewer instances of drowsiness, headaches, and eyestrain.10 

1. Ladders Quarterly High Paying Jobs | Q1 | 2024 – See the latest trends

2. The relative merits of lean, enriched, and empowered offices: An experimental examination of the impact of workspace management strategies on well-being and productivity.

3. Two-thirds of Americans working from home would trash their faulty work computers out of frustration

4. Effect of Active Workstations on Neurocognitive Performance and Typing Skills: A Randomized Clinical Trial

5. The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments.

6. Abundance, Control and Water! Water! Water!

7. A new study on the Mediterranean diet offers the strongest proof yet that it’s associated with healthy brain aging

8. Mediterranean diet may prevent memory loss and dementia, study finds

9. Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study

10. The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light