The following is a guest post written by Melissa Thomas:
One of the benefits of being a freelance writer is that you can pick when and where you work. If the mood strikes you then you can fire up the computer at midnight or cram in a few hundred words on the bus. But despite this, many writers still agree that having a designated workspace is a good way to remain organized and keep themselves in ‘work mode’.
Your workspace could be a fully functioning home office, a desk in a spare room or even a nook in the local library. But if it is a place that you will be spending a lot of time writing then you should adapt it so that it is a healthy environment. It’s not without its faults, but overall writing is not generally considered as a high risk profession but it is a sedentary job that is often computer based and this does come with certain problems. Here are ways to make sure that your workspace is adhering to your own set of health and safety regulations.
Light and airy
Several studies have shown that working in environments with a lot of natural light can increase productivity by improving mood, reducing fatigue and managing stress levels. On a more practical level, a well lit room is also good for your eyes as it will reduce the glare from a bright monitor which can lead to eye strain. For these reasons you should try to work in a room or area with a large window for maximum natural light, but if this isn’t possible then consider using full spectrum lighting instead of fluorescent tubes/bulbs as this lighting is the closest form of artificial lighting to natural sunlight. A large window would also come in handy for keeping the room well ventilated and airy. Whilst many commercial office blocks in the United States suffer with poor air quality due to the number of inhabitants bringing in germs and dust, at least you can rest assured that you only have your own germs to contend with in your personal workspace. Nevertheless a hot, stuffy room is not a pleasant environment to work in and can lead to fatigue. Keep a window open where possible and think about investing in an air purifier to keep oxygen levels high and your brain alert. A more natural, and aesthetically pleasing, alternative would be to fill your office with green plants which have long been renowned as natures own air filters as they can clean pollution and create extra oxygen in the surrounding air.
Whether you are a copywriter, a content provider, an author or a journalist you will have your own individual way for recording your work. Perhaps you use a Dictaphone, a typewriter or good old fashioned pen and paper. However it is fair to say that in this day and age a computer is a fairly staple tool in the lives of most writers and will be present in their job role at least somewhere along the line. Your computer will become your most important and well used piece of equipment but it can also be one of the most detrimental to your health unless you adapt it accordingly. As previously mentioned looking at a bright monitor can cause eye strain, so reduce the brightness and increase the font size and resolution of your text. This will make it larger and clearer to prevent your from squinting. You should also invest in a padded keyboard/mouse mat to provide your wrists with support and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries from hours of typing motions. Commercial offices have strict regulations when it comes to ensuring that cables and wires from computers and other electronic equipment are properly secured so practice this in your own office. The last thing you need is to trip over your battery lead and face plant the desk first thing on a Monday morning.
A good quality chair can be expensive but it is an important and worthwhile investment for your workspace. Hours of sitting down to write can lead to back and shoulder pains, especially if you are slouching, stretching or straining to reach your computer. In order to keep a good posture you should sit upright in your chair with your feet flat to the floor in a position that allows your eyes to be level with the top of your monitor. A comfortable, adjustable chair with arm rests will help you to achieve and alter this posture accordingly.
One of the perils of working in an office like environment is the lack of exercise and the unhealthy habits you can pick up. When you become engrossed in the writing process it is easy to reach for an unhealthy snack, a fizzy drink or even a quick smoke without even really thinking about it because your mind is elsewhere. Make sure that your office is a temptation free zone and that you will need to leave it (and your work) in order to eat or drink. An alarming amount of ‘desk workers’ suffer from obesity and poor health in the U.S so don’t add to that with unnecessary snacking or other habitual nasties.
No matter how great your workspace is, the healthiest thing you can do is leave it now and then for regular breaks. A brisk walk outside will get your endorphins pumping and keep your body supple after hours of sitting down. It also gives you the chance to enjoy a healthy meal and have some interaction with the outside world. Writing can be an isolating and stressful profession and as hard as it is to leave a piece of work when your creative juices are flowing, regular breaks will help renew and revive you both mentally and physically.