• Sinem Günel is a writer, coach, and the founder of Personal Growth Base, a platform dedicated to helping people grow with resources, newsletters, and articles.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, Günel has been upgrading her home office to improve her productivity and health while working from home. 
  • From fighting wrist pain with rest pads to adding monitor stands for improved posture, she says these small improvements have boosted her happiness and significantly improved her workflow. 
  • Günel also believes joy is just as important to prioritize as ergonomics and health — that’s why she incorporates extras like bouquets of flowers and essential oils throughout her workspace. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my partner and I spent a little more than $700 to upgrade our home office.

We’ve already been working from home before the pandemic, so our daily working patterns didn’t change much. Yet, what changed during the lockdown is that we started working much more than we used to.

Sinem Günel

Sinem Günel.

Sinem Günel

Due to the travel bans and restrictions on social activities, we decided to make productive use of the time we had to spend at home.

Even though we’ve been used to working from home, we soon realized we could upgrade our home office (aka our living room) to further improve our productivity and health.

Looking back, I wish we made these little changes way earlier.

To fight wrist pain

Even though I don’t like calling myself a “full-time writer”, writing is 90% of what I’m doing almost every day. I’m usually typing 5,000+ words per day: blog posts, copy for my business, newsletters, emails, and tons of messages.

While my partner is the technical and “back-end” brain of our business, I’m the person writing and feeding our audiences with content.

And even though writing doesn’t sound like a health-damaging job, it can actually cause pain in your wrists and hands if you suddenly increase your workload.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it happened to me shortly after the pandemic started.

My right wrist hurt so much that I couldn’t type anymore and as I wasn’t sure whether that type of pain was typical, I went to see an orthopedist. Turned out it was normal and he recommended using a wrist rest.

Read more: An ergonomics specialist shares the best way to work comfortably and safely from home without spending a dime

Wrist rest pad

No sooner said than done — back at home, I ordered a set of ergonomic wrist rests.

I paid less than $16 and it was definitely worth the investment. I actually don’t use the small cushion at all; the big one serves its purpose and helped me to fight my wrist pain.

wrist pads

Computer wrist pads.

Sinem Günel

Mini foam roller

Additionally to my wrist pads, we ordered two mini foam rollers for $15 each.

I read that using them several times per day to relax the muscles around the wrist could also help to fight pain, so I gave it a try. I keep mine on my desk and use it whenever I feel like my hands need some relaxation.

However, I also do some basic stretching exercises on my hands, which are also useful in fighting muscle stiffness and pain in your hands. So, buying the mini foam roller isn’t really necessary to fight the pain — yet, by being on my desk all the time, it reminds me to actually do the exercises.

To improve productivity and posture

After fighting my wrist pain, the first decision we made was purchasing a monitor stand and screen riser. We paid around $40 each and bought nice desktop stands that help to sit up straight during work due to the elevated screen.

Additionally, we ordered a simple laptop stand, which also helps to improve posture because of the elevation of the screen. Yet, this upgrade is also a massive productivity booster as working with two screens side by side simplifies many tasks (e.g., writing articles and simultaneously doing research). The laptop stands cost us another $40 each and were definitely worth it.

current workstation

Günel’s current workstation.

Sinem Günel

Keyboard and mouse

Before buying the monitor and laptop stands, we’ve been doing all our work on our laptops. Now that our screens are heightened, we need to use a wireless keyboard and mouse.

As we’re Apple users, we decided to buy the Apple Magic Keyboard and invested $100 each. There are way pricier options for keyboards, but we love those and would surely repurchase it.

Additional screen

Before the lockdown, we only had one additional monitor. So we decided to buy one more and paid $150 to get one from BenQ.

Even though the one we had at home is pretty old and has a bad resolution, I decided to keep it and check out whether the BenQ monitor is good enough to order a second one.

So far, my partner used the new monitor and I stayed with the old one, but now that I’m convinced that the upgrade is worth it, I’ll soon order a second new monitor for myself.

Read more: CEOs and executives who’ve been managing remote teams for years share the tools they use to keep their employees motivated and happy

Seat cushions

One of the last adjustments we made was purchasing seat cushions to further improve our posture and to fight muscle stiffness.

As we didn’t have any experience and couldn’t decide between the many choices, we ordered two different cushions: an orthopedic seat cushion ($40) and a wobble cushion ($20).

seat cushions

Seat cushions.

Sinem Günel

A standing desk

We thought about ordering a standing desk when we purchased our monitor and laptop stands, yet opted against it due to the lack of space in our apartment.

Yet, we recently were gifted a cardboard standing desk of a new Austrian company.

They don’t ship globally yet, but there are tons of other standing desks to choose from.

We don’t have too much experience with this one yet, but I’m excited to give it a try as it can bring some variety into a casual workday. I actually believe it’ll not only be beneficial for my health and posture but also my productivity.

standing desk

A mini standing desk.

Sinem Günel

For more joy

A few weeks into the pandemic, I realized that my excitement and joy during work dropped. I felt like it was mainly because of the many hours I spent working combined with the lack of diversity in my daily life.

So I came up with two ideas to bring more joy and variety to my workplace:

A weekly bouquet of flowers:

I’ve never been a flower girl and don’t know much about plants, but what I’ve for a few weeks I’ve been buying a fresh bouquet of flowers on Mondays.

This barely costs me $10 per week but sparks up my soul every morning when I see the beautiful flowers on my desk.

Essential oils:

Additionally, I dived into understanding essential oils and started using a diffuser with natural oils to enhance my sense of smell during productive work hours.

I already had a simple diffuser at home, so all I needed to do was purchasing some high-quality oils. In fact, one scent would be enough, but my collection already grew to seven tiny bottles (around $10/bottle) from different local brands:

essential oils

Essential oils.

Sinem Günel

Next up, I’ll further improve the energy level at our home office with some lovely crystals and plants.

These tiny adjustments might not sound like a big deal, yet, they help me to start my workdays with much more excitement and pleasure.

Buying the flowers on Mondays is something I look forward to for the whole weekend and I also genuinely enjoy trying out different combinations of the oils.

Read more: Quora’s CEO announced the company will keep working remotely — even after the pandemic ends. Read his detailed reasoning behind the decision and the long term benefits he sees happening.

Final thoughts

Even though I’ve been working from home for more than a year, I didn’t think of all these little changes until the coronavirus pandemic forced me to stay at home way more than I was used to.

At first, I was skeptical whether these small adjustments could have any impact at all or if purchasing and setting it all up was just a waste of time, but admittedly, I’m surprised by the positive effects.

Thanks to the monitor and laptop stand, I could significantly improve my productivity.

The seat cushions helped me to get rid of muscle stiffness and lower back pain.

My little foam roller and wrist cushion save my hands and wrists from being overburdened.

And my flowers and essential oils boost my happiness and wellbeing during long workdays.

Oh, and I’ve also been gifted a nice little coffee machine during the pandemic, which, admittedly, also sparks up my days because …well, we all enjoy a nice cup of coffee during intense workdays, right?

Disclaimer: This post does NOT contain affiliate links.

Sinem Günel is a writer, coach, and the founder of Personal Growth Base — a website dedicated to helping people build a life they love.

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