How to create a virtual workspace that’s right for you

By Percy Mohn 

Elm Staff Writer 

The switch to online learning has been difficult for many students, especially with the loss of special study spaces like the library or the in-person classroom. However, one benefit of online learning is the option to completely personalize your learning space. Your classroom can be just as unique as you. 

Before you decorate your learning space, there are several important aspects that you should consider. First, you must make sure your learning space is practical. Are you near an outlet should you need to charge your laptop or other devices? Do you have enough room in your space to work? Are you in a space with minimal disruptions? 

Then you must consider some more intangible questions about your study space. Are you comfortable, but not so comfortable you end up falling asleep? Do your surroundings make you happy?

Maria Airth from recommends that your space let in a lot of natural light if possible, as dimly lit spaces can worsen eye strain and contribute to stress. She says to “set up a small desk or table near a window, that would allow for natural light to filter onto you during your study time. Natural light is healthy for you physically and emotionally. With a forced isolation period, you will want to maintain your morale as much as your mind.” 

Your posture and sitting position should also be considered when choosing your study space. While slouching on the couch or lying in bed are comfortable options, you may be hindering your ability to focus properly and causing yourself neck and back pain. According to John Herrman from The New York Times, “Your hands should be on your keyboard, with your forearms basically flat and elbows bent at a right angle. Your back should be supported…and slightly reclined — around 15 degrees from straight. Your feet should be resting on the ground, with your knees bent as close to 90 degrees as possible.” 

If you have the money and ability to do so, decorations in your study space can help increase your mood and morale while online learning. Personally, I keep a couple posters of my favorite TV shows near my desk as well as some of my figurines to keep my study space from feeling too boring. If you need ideas for decorations, Pinterest is a great resource for finding cute yet simple ideas for your own study space. There is absolutely no reason to say that your study space cannot be cute as well. 

Other options for decorations are houseplants. According to a study in the late ’80s by NASA and a more recent study in 2009 published by the American Society for Horticultural Science, houseplants can help cleanse the air in your home. So, not only are houseplants nice to look at, they are helpful in improving the air quality in your home. Julie Knapp from Treehugger recommends both aloe and spider plants for beginners as they are “easy-to-grow” and require little maintenance. If you have the resources, consider buying yourself a nice houseplant for your study space. 

One important thing to remember about your study space is that this is just your place to do work. When your classes are finished and your work is completed, you should find somewhere else to relax and unwind. If you do not keep your relaxing separate from your study space, you may have trouble switching into a working mindset and vice versa. 

If your workspace is in your bedroom, or a space you typically relax in, Deanna deBara from The Muse suggests that you “create some physical separation with a screen or a well-placed bookshelf. And if that’s not an option either, just cleaning up your ongoing work can help you avoid the pull of your desk.” Not only will this help with productivity, but you can also avoid burnout by leaving your workspace occasionally. 

While online learning can be difficult, you can lessen the stress by improving your study space to be practical, comfortable, and engaging. Of course, everyone has different learning styles and home situations, meaning these tips are not for everyone. The important thing is that you find what makes your learning space the best for you.

Featured Photo caption: When considering your own virtual learning space, make sure to find a place that best suits you, your personality, and learning style. Photo by Percy Mohn.

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