Sophie uses her kitchen table and a Humanscale Diffrient World chair for her work station. The gouache painting in this picture is by NYC artist Dan Schmidt.

This is a guest post written by home design expert and author Sophie Donelson.

Who among us didn’t go through a journey on the way to creating a suitable work-from-home space? The goal for most of us was to match the same professional productivity we had at the office but without fully disrupting the comforts (or aesthetics) of home, so we tinkered and updated and optimized until it did the job. “No one wants to replicate their office in their home,” says Elizabeth Margles, chief marketing officer of Humanscale. “We want office comforts and features but in the context of home,” she says.

This massive shift comes at a moment when we’re thinking hard about what items enter our homes. The fast fashion reckoning has made its way to the decor sector and now we’re all being more intentional about our purchases. That circle of feel-good work habits, feel-good choices; of consumer responsibility and environmentalism are tightly interwoven—there’s never been a better time to talk about it.

To see how we might best capitalize on these twin movements, Humanscale rallied a few experts to share their thoughts—New York City architect Samantha Josaphat, founder and principal of Studio 397, and Elizabeth Margles, Chief Marketing Officer of Humanscale. Here’s the upshot:

Shift the Idea of Healthy

It used to be that purchasing earth-friendly products was enough. Now we know that indoor air quality is just as likely to be harmful as what’s outside the threshold.

— During the pandemic this became crystal clear: We can’t control what’s happening out there health-wise, but we can control factors that are contributing to or detracting from our health in here, i.e. at home. Construction materials, paints, chemicals used to treat rugs, and plastics that off-gas are among the offenders. This we can do something about! Look for the Declare label, a “nutrition label” for products to get a fuller understanding of what’s inside your future purchase.

Listen to your Body

— Adopt the 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away, for even as few as 20 seconds, says Margles. Eye strain is real and easily preventable. And less eye strain, less fatigue.

— Body check: From your fingertips to your toes, you want to be seated in a way that supports every body part. Set up your desk and then drop your shoulders, position your hands at the keyboard or mouse, and make sure everything feels steady, even your legs should be positioned firmly on the floor, supporting your core.

— We’re all striving to be more active — but that doesn’t mean burpees on repeat. Take one of your meetings outside, says architect Samantha Josephat. “There’s usually a call that doesn’t require showing your face, so turn the video off and go walk around outside,” she says. “You have to take those opportunities as they arise.”

Be Adaptable

Work from the office, from bed, from the sofa, from the breakfast table. Work happens everywhere…. but you don’t need to compromise your healthy habits.

— “Maybe you want to make a soup or a pasta at the same time as you’ve got a call,” says Humanscale’s Liz Margles. “Go ahead and move your good work chair and adjust it at the table; or let a foot rocker make up the difference and make you more comfortable. Pull over your light source.” The more you bring the comforts with you, the better you’ll be able to think and perform. A laptop holder and ergonomic mouse are easy add-ons too. “A lot of this stuff is designed to move with you,” says Margles.

Keep The Big Pic in Mind

Visiting a site, mid-construction recently, Josephat noticed that how clean and clear the air quality was. (Not the usual!) The building was meeting passive house standards and had thoughtful building practices, she says. “I immediately thought, I don’t want to compromise this by bringing in furniture that off-gasses or contains unhealthy plastics,” she recalls. “We detailed the building in a clean and healthy way; I didn’t want the furniture to be an after thought.”

— Designers, architects and passionate environmentalists: It’s not enough to create a sustainable building. To be truly intentional, you’ll want to consider a home for sustainable furniture, too. The mission doesn’t stop with the envelope! Can you try a little harder to meet that initial goal?

— Before making big purchases, people often want to hear about return on investment, says Josephat. “Take a classic ergonomic desk chair — consider this piece as contributing to your health, you’ll almost certainly be saving on a doctor or on a chiropractor. Look how those bills can accumulate and then compare that with an ergonomic seat. No brainer.”

— Think of the rippling impact. Humanscale is committed to developing products that give back to the earth — they’re the leader in utilizing ocean plastics (truly, recovered plastics such as fishing nets), repurposing it into its textiles. The company has the highest number of chairs in the industry that integrate ocean plastics materials.

It’s not a total overhaul, but micro-victories, again and again. “It’s about making one or two better choices a day,” says Margles. You’re here, so you’re well on your way.

This is a guest post written by home design expert and author Sophie Donelson.