Is It Possible To Have A Cute Home Office That Doesn’t Cause Pain?

stylish home office but terrible for body pain

This cute and healthy home office how-to is part of Street Smarts, FLEETSTREET’s series where we, with an unvarnished eye, explore the *who, what, where, when and why* of new products – from fitness gear to health gadgets to beauty creams.

My days need to contain “pretty.” Pre 2020, on my walks to the office, I would purposefully pass florists, pastry shops and even detour through the makeup floor of a department store. Then, the COVID lockdowns happened, and Canadians all had to work from home. I decided I was “made for this” new way of working – despite missing my daily walks that had me clocking 10,000 steps. During the lockdowns, I updated my leisurewear to luxurious sweats and cute elastic waist pants. Too soon I started getting neck pain, lower back pain, and even my knee would give out on me. In looking for home office gear that would improve my posture, I found it wasn’t pretty. A gamer chair, blocky keyboard, mushroom-shaped mouse, these all had me longing for a cute and pretty home office. But is it even possible?

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I went straight to the health and office experts to find out how to get rid of the working-from-home pain and enjoy my abode. I reached out to a chiropractor and an office trends expert. Before I make over my office, I learned I had to make over my posture. 

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We’ve all heard of sitting-disease (how desk jobs can increase risk for cardiovascular disease), but what about sitting injuries? “Feeling any pain, soreness, or strain can be a good indication that you’ve been sitting in a position for too long and you need to change it up,” says Julia Marshall, Doctor of Chiropractic, at One Academy in Toronto. 

How to sit up straight at a desk

Here are some good posture tips for sitting at a desk, direct from the Canadian Centre For Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). And they’re are all keepers.

  1. Keep joints – think hips, knees and ankles – at an angle of 90° or slightly higher
  2. Keep knees at or below your hips
  3. Keep ankles in front of the knees
  4. Keep a gap between the back of the knee joint and the front edge of the seat of about the the width of three fingers
  5. Keep feet flat on the floor or on a footrest (in case it’s not obvious, not pictured on model)
  6. Keep the upper body upright and straight (not twisted) 
  7. Keep upper arms between vertical and 20° forward
  8. Keep elbows at an angle around 90° and close to the body, and avoid lifting or dropping shoulders
  9. Keep the wrists straight and aligned with the forearms.
  10. Keep your computer in your eyeline, so it can be seen at an angle of 10° to 30° below the line of sight.
  11. Keep shoulders low and relaxed.
  12. Keep elbows tucked in at your sides.
  13. Keep changing your position but keep within the above recommended ranges
  14. Keep things balanced; if you do cross your legs, alternate the position of them.
  15. Keep your body forward; don’t twist or hike your hips.

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If you often find your body going into a hunched over position, Marshall says to move your screen. “You’ll want to make sure the top of your screen is at eye height and an arm’s length away.” And if you’re still unsure, Marshal says you can check with your chiropractor or physiotherapist for an “ergonomic assessment,” and give you pain- and tension-alleviating exercises, which she does at One Academy’s in-house wellness clinics.

As for those of us who work in the living room (me included): “If your workstation is higher than the level of your elbows, you’ll tend to shrug your shoulders and hunch over. A chair with full back support helps too. And, we know it’s cozy, but try to avoid working from the couch as much as you can.”

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The healthy body WFH office setup – home office trends

Now that I know how to sit up straight (and pain-free), I wanted to connect with Jennifer Blake, senior manager of category and solution development at Grand & Toy Canada, about how someone can have a home office space that feels good both visually and physically. 

Healthier desks

The number one trend in home offices, Blake tells me, is sit-stand desks and desk converters. Sleek and can even create a working space in an apartment or condo, these desks can be programmed for your sitting and/or standing posture much like you do with your car seat.  

Healthier chairs

But the biggest change in home offices in the past five years are office chairs. Canadians went from stylish to functional. But, I have to ask, why do we have to compromise both? If I can find high heels I can wear to a wedding (and, yes, dance in), surely I can find a preppy chair that doesn’t inflict pain? 

Canadians invested in office furniture that moves and adjusts, Blake tells me. And that includes desks and chairs that you can not only customize for your height and build, but also for how you move throughout the day. (Remember how CCOHS suggested to keep moving?)

“The worst thing you can do to your health is to sit down all day,” says Blake. “And people really needed to change from sitting out for six plus-hours a day. So, height adjustable tables have really been the trendiest items over the course of the last 12 to 18 months. That allows you, at any time of the day – whether you’re working on a spreadsheet or on a call – you can stand up and keep working while giving your body a chance to move around a bit and get your blood flowing.”

Stylish and cute office furniture

These desks can look modern and functional, sure. But what about the rest of the home office? I refuse to join a Zoom call looking like I’m on a gamer chair or anything like that. 

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Blake assures. “Home office furniture is heavily entrenched in the art and design community. So it will always play off the trends that are happening in furniture in general. And typically, colors usually mimic what’s happening in the fashion world.”

She points to the following trends in office furniture: White desks to match any home decor colours, electric standing desks (programmable for multiple users and positions), ergonomic chairs of leather or fabric, laptop risers, dual monitors, oversized screens, foot rests and ergonomic keyboards and mice. “The technology trend is changing, to make all of the tech products that you see on a desktop more aesthetically pleasing.”

Blake says that Canadians are paying more and more attention to how they feel, from eye strain to joint pain. In addition to furniture, move, say the experts. Give your eyes different distances to look at (yes, this is exercise), change positions (use that desk converter or programmed heights) and take breaks. 

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Pretty home office gear

The home office of the near future

Trend forecaster World Global Style Network (WGSN) reported in its Key Colours AW 25-26 Webinar that the home office and the office-office will both feel more like home. In the report, Urangoo Samba, head of colour at WGSN, interviews Jeanine Goddard, creative director of Newport based office furniture manufacturer Bisley.

Goddard called it a “homeification” of office space. Office accessories will introduce soft colours (lavender, lilac, coral, sunflower yellow and the palest pink) and plants into work areas. “The whole feel is more like [what you would see] in a home,” she says. For Samba, she notes that the “softer” look feels calming. 

“Obviously, in the home, people want to feel relaxed,” adds Goddard. People always buy black and white office furniture, but “we can definitely see that from our sales figures” people are open to colour. 

How can you take this info and use it for now? Make note of how you feel in your home office. Consider where you can add colour. Maybe that scalloped pink velvet chair isn’t quite good enough anymore, but you can use that colour on the walls or with art instead. 

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Designing a home office that feels good

Home offices are changing. “Over time, as people have put their health higher on the list of their priorities, things like office furniture have had to adapt,” says Blake. “And technology’s had to adapt to help people feel better doing the work they do.”

To be honest, even just being conscious of my posture, how my office makes me feel and how adding pretty elements can bring me joy have made significant changes. I’ve taken an empty Sloan tea canister to hold pens and my blue-light glasses, and pulled out the stationary I’d been saving for years to take quick notes. I swap between my white swivel chair and bosu ball. And I’m working less on the couch. (See Marshall, I’m listening!)