How to set up your home office or study space without blowing the budget

Your commute takes under a minute. You get up, put on a freshly ironed shirt and some tracksuit pants, sit at your dining table and open your laptop.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, technological advances were causing an upwards trend in New Zealanders choosing to work and learn from home. New Zealand’s most recent large-scale survey into working life revealed that over a third of those surveyed had completed at least some work from home in their main job.

The same is true in education, with an increasing number of learners choosing to take control of their study schedules and learn remotely. eCampus NZ saw a 35.27% growth in enrolments in 2019 and delivered a record 901 course occurrences to learners across Aotearoa.

With more of us working and learning from home than ever, it’s important to think carefully about your working environment, whether you’re working from your home office, kitchen, dining room or bedroom.

Here are 5 things you can do to set up a safe and sustainable workspace at home, without breaking the bank:

  1. Choose where you work wisely

We’d all love a separate home office, but not all of us have this luxury, particularly as so many of us are now sharing our space with other family members who work or learn from home. Even if you’ve been relegated to your bedroom or the garage, there are certain things you should think about before choosing where to study or work.

Firstly, get the lighting right. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to natural light has major health benefits and results in improved sleep and mental wellbeing. If you can’t find a workspace next to a window, there are other ways to get natural light. You can experiment with using mirrors to redirect sunlight to your study space. Failing that, you can make sure you’re getting a dose of vitamin D during breaks by eating your lunch outside or taking short walks throughout the day. Even a little natural light can make the world of difference.

Secondly, make sure that the temperature is comfortable, but not too comfortable. Trying to focus while you’re cold is difficult, while working in a hot room will make you sluggish and tired.

  1. Sit right

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, spending a lot of the day seated can lead to strains and injuries related to posture and repetitive movement. Incorrect chair and desk height lead to poor working posture, which can lead to injury.

If you invest in anything, invest in a comfortable, adjustable office chair. Using an adjustable chair will help you to maintain a safe working posture, wherever you are in the house. You can change the height of the chair to suit your dining table, desk, or outdoor table. Adjust your chair to ensure that your computer monitor or laptop is directly in front of you, with the top no higher than eye level. You may need to use a computer stand or even a pile of books. This will help you to avoid slouching, which can quickly lead to injury.

You don’t need to blow the budget buying the most expensive chair in town; you’ll find plenty of second-hand office equipment on auction websites and community pages.

  1. Use sound to create a sanctuary

While listening to loud music with lyrics can make learning more difficult, a little background noise can actually improve focus and concentration. If your house gets a little loud, try tuning in to myNoise and fill your study space with the sound of a crackling fireplace, rain hitting a tin roof, or an ambient soundscape.

Listening to ambient noise or classical music can improve your mood, help you focus, and turn any space into a sanctuary.

  1. Make the space your own.

You don’t need a large home or a separate home office to create a pleasant and productive workspace.

Making sure that your workspace is tidy and organised will decrease your stress levels. If you won’t be looking at that stack of papers today, put them away! Adding personal touches, such as photographs, favourite quotes and plants, will help you to approach working and learning with a positive mindset.

  1. Pack up or close the door

While it’s important to create a nice learning or work environment, it’s equally important to leave it at the end of the day! If your work or learning materials are always within your line of vision, you’ll find it difficult to switch off and unwind.

If you’re working in a space used for other purposes outside of working hours, pack up your workstation when you’ve finished. This will help you and your whānau make a clear distinction between working hours and leisure time. If you have a home office, only go in during the hours you have set aside for study or work.

Taking the time to create a pleasant and productive workspace can have a huge impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, ability to focus, and enjoyment of your study and work.

Explore our inspiring eCampus NZ student success stories for more advice on how to make working and learning from home work for you.

Important information for new learners

eCampus NZ as a business unit of Open Polytechnic, is now part of Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

From 1 January 2023, eCampus NZ will no longer enrol new learners into study plans delivered on the eCampus NZ learning platform.

However, all courses/programmes will still be available for online study through Open Polytechnic - Te Pūkenga.

The eCampus NZ team is here for you. If you are still experiencing ongoing issues related to Cyclone Gabrielle, please contact your advisor or facilitator so we can work with you to get you back on track.