Working in a Basement



Author’s note: this is an updated post from a piece I wrote almost two years ago. I’ll post something new this week once I recover from this cold.

My home office is in a basement and (as Brad Pitt will tell you) that’s not always ideal. The main thing I struggle with is the lack of sunlight.

The new normal

It’s been over a year since I’ve worked from home and I don’t have any intention of returning to the office until sometime in 2022 2023. My attitude towards working from home has changed dramatically and it doesn’t appear like I’m alone.

Slack did a survey of 3,000 knowledge workers – which they defined as “anyone who holds an office position and/or works with data, analyzes information or thinks creatively in a typical workweek”. Here’s the main takeaway from their findings:

The vast majority (83%) of those currently working from home do not expect to go back to the office in the next three months. What’s more, we see little evidence that a migration back to the office is even desirable, with only 12% saying they would like to always work at the office and over half of all knowledge workers (72%) expressing a preference for a hybrid remote-office model.

2023 Update: a recent post that appeared on hacker news shows that remote work might be more harmful to folks who are earlier in their career.

Impacts of lack of sunlight

The rest of this post is less related to work-from-home and more focused on work-from-basement (or poorly lit attic, closet, etc).

It should come at no surprise that a lack of sunlight has a negative impact on mental health. There’s a reason that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing. Conversely, studies have shown that increases in sun time were associated with decreased emotional distress. One great solution is to look into getting a SAD lamp. But what else can you do?

Creative Solutions

The first few things interior design sites will tell you to do is paint the walls lighter colors, use lots of different lights, and add some plants. However one tip that jumped out to me is: add in some mirrors. It made me think of the scene in The Mummy where an entire tomb was lit with a tiny bit of sunlight and a few mirrors.

And while it might sound outlandish, I did learn of a town in the mountains in Norway that installed giant mirrors so that the town could get sunlight. Maybe I just need to rig an elaborate mirror arrangement in my basement!