Pandemics are nothing new in human history. COVID-19 has directly, unashamedly, attacked us physically, but it also has zero empathy for you, the economy, and of course, your working life. Welcome to the new way of working, whatever your industry.
This has been a testing time for everyone, but the bills have still got to be paid. Amongst the influx of responsibilities recently thrust upon you, working from home has most likely been one of the most challenging. Getting your home office setup correct is imperative in promoting efficiency within your work and maximising productivity, whilst supporting your physical and mental health.
Change is just another term for growth. Everyone has been guilty at one time or another, lying in bed with the laptop on their chest, neck strained, an important assignment due in a few hours. You’re consumed by a lethargy you think is never going to go away, glutes deteriorating by the second and a lower back pain that keeps you rooted in the cycle. But look how far you’ve come. Recent circumstances may have been out of your hands, but you still have the power to set up your home office in a way that is ergonomically friendly, and for the long term.
Firstly, let’s go over the basics of how to set up a home office...
At the bare minimum, this needs to be a separate part of the house that you consciously associate with work. Adopt a space that is going to serve you as your work station, along with the essentials relative to you for an efficient workspace.
What you should avoid are the bed and the sofa. Not only is this terrible for your body, but it’s likely there are technological devices in the not so far away vicinity. Try to remember you are still going to be at work and the mindset this requires, whilst contemplating how destructive sitting on the couch with the laptop on the chair arm would be. The aim of your home office setup is to breed professionalism, just like at work.
You may even choose to work outside in the garden if you have the facilities. With a suitable shed or garage, and nature as your backdrop, your drive will only be accelerated.
The key is the elimination of distraction. If you are unable to create a dedicated space from the rest of the house, try to stay out of the way of others as much as possible in your own area, whilst always keeping your physical and mental well-being in mind.
From confusing size options to finding the right shape for your room, choosing your ideal desk doesn’t have to end up causing you a headache.
To make sure you can use your desk comfortably and productively, it’s essential to choose a desk that gives you the workspace you need and that suits the work you do or your hobbies.
Key considerations you need to make when choosing your desk:
Although the benefits of a standing working day are endless, some of you may require a chair for your work. This should always be one that provides as much support as possible, especially for the neck and lower back areas. Always go for one on wheels and with an adjustable tilt. For something you are likely to spend the same amount of time in as your bed, the same level of deliberation is required when choosing a chair. Consider your posture the key element when trying one out.
Dining chairs are a no go area. These will wreck your back when used for long periods, are not at the correct height and will leave you with all sorts of aches and pains. The best approach to work from a physical aspect is using a standing desk.
Standing all day, at first, can be an extremely difficult practice to integrate. You may want to initially break this up, but once you feel those niggles subside, it’ll only serve as an encouragement to stand longer.
Your legs are your biggest muscle. Historically, the human race has never used them less before now. The unnatural posture of sitting all day has become normal, with a plethora of health defects the outcome. This can include putting on weight, joint pain, inflammation, and can even lead to issues like depression. According to the Harvard Health Blog, it is better to partially ease into a standing practice, starting at 30-60 minutes and then gradually increasing it.
You’ll need a keyboard and a mouse or touchpad, of course. If you’re using an external monitor, your laptop is likely folded shut or off to the side in a position that would be awkward to reach to for using the built-in keyboard and trackpad.
Any keyboard and mouse or touchpad/trackpad are fine as long as they are responsive to the touch and not the wrong size for your hands or the wrong height for your posture. Wireless ones save you cable mess but require recharging or battery replacement.
Many people hardly use paper any longer, so you may not need a printer. Even though, it's still recommend getting a multifunction printer/copier/scanner for your home office.
The worst thing you can do is work in the dark with your computer screen.
Natural light is known to stimulate the brain, and also may improve focus and productivity. Be mindful when you are establishing your home office setup and try to avoid setting up adjacent to an open window, or anywhere where the light can compromise the light from the screen.
This will create glare, which can lead to all sorts of medical issues, including headaches. If working during the day, you should always aim for a partially shaded room, where you can reap the rewards without the consequences.
A common cause of eye problems (which some of you may have found out the hard way with your smartphones) is the problem of the brightness setting being too dim or too bright. It is a paradox that not everyone is aware of, with the common response to any retina pain to automatically turn it down to the lowest setting. This is also bad for the eyes, with any venture into excess on either spectrum going to severely affect your sleep.
Your monitor lighting should be of primary consideration, your own preference being king. Try to use the measure of the natural light coming into the room as a guide, making your screen ever so slightly brighter for reading purposes.
If you need to use a lamp, be selective in your positioning. The same problem of glare can occur with the monitor if it’s too close, or directly in your vision.
This could be anything. Inspirational quotes around the desk. An image of family or friends. Some bright artwork to keep your spirits up. Or, plenty of plants! The goal is not to just recycle your office setup, but to actually grasp the opportunity and implement an ergonomic workspace that is going to aid you.
If your budget allows you to go a bit further, it is always a good idea to make your workspace aesthetically pleasing. Colour can go a long way if you are planning a whole new office design, with bold colours like purple and yellow being linked to reducing stress, creativity and improving your mood.
Nothing boosts your capacity to work efficiently like being organised. This can start from something simple like keeping your stationery neat and tidy.
Google Calendar has become an industry-standard on the basis of collectively being able to communicate work schedules with others. It is always good, however, to stay traditional with a physical work diary. There is no substitute for the link between the written word and cognition, and it will help you stay organised in a way that is suitable for you.
A further step you might wish to take is purchasing a whiteboard. This is great for scheduling, charts, setting goals and bringing that added office vibe to the home.
Finally, keep your gadgets at a distance. Research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that workers with access to their smartphone were less productive. Without your boss to manage you, there’s a risk you might be tempted to use it, even more, the irony is they will still be inspecting your work.
Through the progressive modification of your setup and approach, so you will be liberated with a new awareness and routine. In the action of setting up a home office, you are indirectly being passed the responsibility for creating your working environment. In turn, you are responsible for your working culture. Think of these new circumstances in a positive light and embrace the independence they grant you.
Now is the time to forget any feelings of despondency the recent month's struggles may have brought you. These are your conditions. Create them with the health of your mind, body and soul and see how far you go.