Updated: Jun 2, 2020
The Coronavirus lockdown has meant more people are working from home than ever before. Now, this might sound like fun; no commute, no need to put a suit on, no need to listen to that irritating guy in the office next door, but as is often the way of things, it's not all wine and roses. Working from home can have real challenges. It can be hard to establish that work-life balance. How do you switch off when there's no office to leave? If you live alone like me, how do you deal with the isolation? How do you stop gaining weight when your fridge (stuffed with the things you like) is in the next room?
The set up: Now, not everybody has a home office or the room for a desk so selecting the right place to set up your new home workstation is important.
When it comes to WFH, comfort is key. As far as you can, take the time to set up an ergonomic workspace. Time taken to get this right will pay big dividends in the days to come. It will help you avoid some of those annoying neck, shoulder and back issues that many of us suffer from when we spend long periods working on our laptops.
Here are 10 tips to help work from home more successfully:
1. Light It Up
Photo by Alexey Suslyakovon Unsplash
Select a spot where natural light is your primary light source. Research indicates our sleep cycles and even our hormones are positively affected by this. If your setup is near a window where you can let the fresh air circulate—even better!
Photo by Michael Soledadon Unsplash
2. Police Your Posture
Remember that bad posture is still a problem even if you're working from home. How you sit today will affect how you feel tomorrow. It’s important to choose a chair that supports your body. A recent study by Herman Miller and Texas A&M shows how the right chair can influence cognition and your body’s ability to handle stress. Get a chair that is going to support you. Ideally, the chair should be able to move up and down, to allow you to position yourself correctly at your table /desk. If you've got a bad back, like me, then you could try using a Swiss exercise ball as your desk chair. My osteopath swears by it.
3. Get a Move On
Keep your body moving! Research from the University of Waterloo advises that for each hour worked, we should spend 30 minutes standing. If you can afford it invest in a standing desk. This will help alleviate lower back or hip pain and promote better health. I don't have a standing desk at home but on occasion, I do work off the top of an IKEA storage unit. I find it the perfect height. I am 6ft 7inches so I'm not suggesting that it will work for everyone, but you get the idea. Working standing up can be a good thing. This doesn’t mean you should just stand all day. Move around your house and I'm not just talking about trips to the fridge. If you find yourself sitting for long periods push your shoulders back to ensure that you are sitting with good posture. Move around and use different locations throughout your home to inspire creativity.
4. Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule, and stick to it...most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps you maintain your work-life balance.
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
5. Create a Morning Routine
Deciding you'll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine delineates the start of work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed (wearing pyjama pants to work is a perk for some, but a bad strategy for others). Create a morning routine that ends with you starting work.
6. Set Ground Rules With the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with people in your home. If you have children, who are at home, you'll need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during the time that you're working.
Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels
Additionally, just because you're home and can answer the door or take care of pets doesn't mean other family members should assume you will always do it. If that's how you choose to divide the domestic tasks, that's OK, but if you simply take it all on by default, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.
7. Schedule Breaks
Give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seem to be the standard for most people. Take breaks in their entirety. Don't short-change yourself during breaks, especially your lunch hour. If you return to your desk after only 40 minutes, walk away for another 20.
8. Leave Home
Try to leave your home regularly. I know with the coronavirus still very much a factor in our lives this is not always easy to do, but it is important. Leave the building at least once a day. Your body needs to move. Plus, the fresh air and natural light will do you good. Take a walk. Go to the shops. Weed the garden. You get the picture.
9. Maintain a Separate Work Phone Number
Set up a phone number that you only use for calls with colleagues and clients. It doesn't have to be a landline, second mobile phone, or even a SIM card. It can be a free VoIP service, such as Google Voice. Similar to some of the other tips, having a separate phone number helps you manage your work-life balance.
10. End Your Day With a Routine
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business messaging apps, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. yoga class. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favourite podcast. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.