One major perk of working from home: It almost guarantees that you’re going to be happier than your office-bound counterparts. Truly. In its 2018 Global State of Remote Work report, video conferencing company OWL Labs found that people who work remotely at least once a month are 24 percent more likely to feel happier and more productive than those who don’t. And while a day you’re not obligated to deal with the general public is luxuriant enough, a few simple design tweaks can up your happiness quotient even more. Try these five simple styling tricks from work and organization experts to improve your work-from-home environment. Because, if you have to Slack with your coworkers continuously, you really should do it from a space that brings you joy.
1. Get a few plants, but skip the cacti
It’s well documented that indoor plants can not only make you happier, but they can also boost productivity, freshen up the air, make you feel less stressed, and improve concentration and productivity. Plus, they just make a space look better. Pick out a few that are low-maintenance: “You don’t want to feel guilty or like a failure if one dies,” half-jokes Liz Jenkins, a certified professional organizer and founder of A Fresh Space. “You also don’t want to create more work for yourself—unless caring for the plants brings you joy and doesn’t interfere with your productivity.”
Why no cacti? While they’re a low-maintenance go-to in lots of offices, they can actually induce stress. “Looking at sharp items compared to looking at curvy ones, generally makes us feel uncomfortable,” says Sally Augustin, Ph.D., an environmental/design psychologist and the principal at Design With Science. Point taken! (Pun intended!)
2. Print an inspirational mood board
Think of this as Pinterest IRL: Print and hang motivational quotes, scenic shots from a recent trip, dishes you want to cook, or something that evokes your favorite hobby. “Photos that signal things about you that you feel good about—for instance sailboats, if you’re a sailor—enhance your mood and interactions with people,” says Augustin. She also points out photos can be altered and printed in colors that influence desired moods, like lavender for relaxation, so try a filtering app before you print.
Of course, this means you’ll need a printer, which is where the HP Tango printer comes in. It’s about the size of a book (four inches high and eight inches deep) and it’s the first printer you won’t want to hide (though you can camouflage it on a shelf by wrapping it in the cover accessory). It makes it a breeze to print pics from your phone (even when you’re not at home) using the HP Smart App. It’s also voice activated, so you can simply command it to print using your voice assistant.
3. And don’t forget your favorite group selfies
Just like pictures of places or things can bring you happiness, so can pictures of people you love, Augustin points out. Got a super-large group of friends? You can print unlimited five-by-seven-inch photos from your phone for free when you sign up for HP’s Instant Ink subscription plan (which starts at $2.99 for 50 pages per month). Yep, nothing you print on mobile for your mood board or the frames you scored at HomeGoods counts toward those 50 pages.
4. Lighten things up a bit
There’s a reason darkness is associated with sadness. Conversely, studies suggest that natural light can increase serotonin levels and boost your mood. So open those shades and give your windows a good cleaning (a mix of one part white distilled vinegar to one part hot water should do the trick). The most common problem people have with letting natural light in—and the reason you may prefer to keep the curtains closed—is glare, which is a stressor that can cause distractions, Augustin says. Her solution: window sheers that will let the sun in and eliminate glare.
If you’re reading this and are thinking that it must be nice to have so much light that you’re complaining about glare, know that there’s still something you can do. “Even if you are stuck in a basement, you can simulate natural lighting with those new light bulbs that change color,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “I keep my office lights at about 6500k, which simulates midday sunlight. But don’t overdo it. Our circadian rhythm expects the light to change throughout the day. We can fool it for a while, but we can’t keep it up forever.”
5. Give yourself more than one place to work
Think about the last time you made the trek to an office. Maybe you had a meeting in a conference room at one point? And maybe you sat on some cool, futuristic chairs during a small team check-in an hour later? And then you might have hunkered down at a workstation by yourself to answer emails? Those spaces were all curated (wisely!) by your company.
“One of the things we’re learning is that we need different environments for the different tasks we perform,” says Lister. “If I want to hunker down and think, I go for a very different kind of environment than when I’m preparing a presentation.” Offices responded by creating varied kinds of settings for people to move to throughout the day, and you can do the same by giving yourself more than one happy place to work. Brainstorm on the couch, read spreadsheets at your desk, and have a video chat from your kitchen counter. The important thing is that you set yourself up to have the flexibility to move around.