Neuroscience-Based Home Office Design | Psychology Today


For many of us, work situations remain fluid and we continue to spend good amounts of time working from our home offices. Putting what neuroscientists have learned about effective office design to work in those at-home spaces is still time well spent.

To up your performance and well-being, without spending oodles of cash:

  • Bring in the natural light. Make sure as much glare-free natural light as possible flows into your office. Test things out and if you need to add a blind or curtain to eliminate onscreen (or other) glare, definitely do so.
  • If you have several view options when you orient your desk, pick the one with the most visible nature, whether that nature is the tops of plants in a window box or an expanse of plants and trees spreading out in front of your window.
  • Add a couple of green leafy plants (they’ll “work” even if they’re short but a couple of feet tall is great) or one or two images of nature (prints from your home printer of scenes you find online are fine) to your indoor view. If plants and you just don’t mix, you have too many allergies or too few horticultural skills, and so on, artificial plants work well in an office, as long as they’re “good fakes.” You’ll know them when you see them.
  • De-clutter your office, which doesn’t mean creating a stark cube. Keep a few reminders of who you are and what’s important to you out on view, but tuck the rest out of sight in cabinets, drawers, without transparent sides. The goal here is a moderate amount of visual “complexity” in the space where you’re working—a good example to keep in mind as you add or remove visual elements is a residential space designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. They are right on target, visual complexity-wise, for knowledge work.
  • If you have a wooden floor in your office, and you’ve covered it with a carpet, roll that carpet back a little if you can do so safely; seeing the wood grain de-stresses us, and who doesn’t need that from time to time as we work?
  • If the weather and architecture allow, open your windows when the time is right to work some fresh air and movement into your office.
  • Do what you can to work in a space where visual and audio distractions will be low—how well you can cut them out will depend on where you live and who you live with. Sometimes building a screen out of whatever you’ve got nearby can reduce visual distractions, while also signaling to others that you’re “at work.”
  • Adding a slight odor of lemon to your home office, maybe via a subtle air freshener, will keep your space smelling good and your brain performing well. The scent of lavender will help you relax and can also increase trust for others (which can be good or bad, depending).
  • Playing a nature soundtrack, very, very quietly as you work can help you feel mentally refreshed and boost your performance. Keep the volume low and tune into an online (or other) option that features the sorts of sounds you might hear in a meadow on a lovely Spring day, such as burbling brooks and gently rustling leaves or grasses. If you have one of those desktop water features-fountains, now’s the time to dig it out of the back of your closet and set it up.

Sure, there are additional things you can do to your home office if you have more time and money (if you’re painting, for instance, choose a light sage-y green to enhance your cognitive and creative performance)—but without too much effort you can apply neuroscience research in your home office to significantly boost your professional performance and well-being.