Our homes have never had more demands placed upon them. They’ve become our office, our classrooms, our gym, and so much more. There’s been so much change so quickly that most of us are still trying to adjust to this new way of life.
For those of us now working from home full-time, here are a few suggestions to help stay focused, connected, productive, collaborative, energised and sane without the usual office environment and facilities.
Replicate your daily routine
Working from home has some definite advantages. Most notably there’s no commute and you are in charge of your own time. But working from home also has its challenges. The boundaries between work and life disappear making it hard to distinguish between work time and home time, and distractions are everywhere. The temptation to catch up on household chores or get a head start on meal prep for the week might mean you find yourself catching up on your work late into the night when everyone else has gone to bed.
Make sure you stick to a regular routine like you would when you had to leave the house to go to work. Get up at the same time each day and dress the same as you would for work. Just as you would in an office, be clear about what your working hours are and stick to them. Set an alarm for when you’re going to finish up for the day.
If you normally walk to work or take a stroll at lunchtime, factor this into your day too. Getting out during the day has a positive impact on your productivity and a change of scenery can be good for enhancing your mood.
Make sure you’re well connected
Good connection to wifi is a must as you need to be sure you can work efficiently; an unreliable wifi is going to slow you down. Boosters are a great idea if your connection is poor.
The same goes for mobile phone signal. Not all network providers have equal signal so do your research and make sure your supplier has a good signal strength in your area. If signal is a problem, you can purchase a mobile phone signal booster which will greatly reduce the number of dropped calls.
WhatsApp calls are also great where signal is an issue. Video chat such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or even FaceTime are ideal solutions to replace in-person meetings.
Make sure you stay connected with your work colleagues. Working from home can be isolating if you allow it, so interacting with others during the day is really important. Set up a team WhatsApp group or try a virtual lunch date over Google Hangouts or FaceTime with your usual lunch buddies. Encourage your teammates to share tips and ideas for how they are making working from home work for them.
Create a designated workspace
Physically leaving the house to go to work means you have a clear boundary between work and home. It also means you are more likely to be energised and ready for what the day has to offer. Working from home can make it harder to feel motivated so it’s vital you create some kind of boundary even if it’s only psychological. Be it a desk in the spare room or the luxury of your own office, have somewhere to call your own. Mentally this helps you get into work mode when you sit down.
Try to avoid working at your kitchen table; I must admit I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s much better to create a space specifically for work. There are a couple of reasons for this. Not only will your space be more organised but you will also be less likely to slowly chip away at work all day long. By separating your workspace, you will create a natural boundary, making it easier to be more disciplined.
Also, try to avoid working from places you choose to unwind in, like the living room or your bedroom. If these spaces are your only option for a workspace, it’s important you can create a way of concealing your workspace when it comes to winding down. Bespoke joinery works really well in these situations – a storage unit with an integrated desk that can be closed off when not in use, for example, is ideal. Otherwise, the presence of a desk or laptop will act as a constant reminder of what you’re not getting done, making it virtually impossible to switch off.
Take your personality type into account
It’s important to take your personal work style and preferences into account when deciding where you set up your workspace at home. Everyone’s tolerance for distractions is different. Are you the type of person who needs to work in complete silence or do you prefer to feel part of what’s going on around you? It really is a matter of personal preference.
If you’re the kind of person who can turn a blind eye to unfinished chores and don’t mind the sound of the TV while you’re trying to work, a central space like a kitchen or living room might work for you. If, on the other hand, a sink full of dirty dishes or a pile of ironing in plain sight is likely to cause you stress, a spare room or separate home office with peace and quiet might be a better choice.
There is nothing more stressful than clutter, so having an organised space is essential, especially where the space needs to multitask. For example, a desk area in an open-plan space that blends in with the kitchen and can be closed off when not in use would be ideal. By having a designated space, you can store everything you need in one place. Otherwise, you risk wasting time trying to remember where you left something or arguing with family members over essential items not being where you left them. A place for everything and everything in its place is the key to a stress-free and calm working environment.
Invest in good furniture
Another reason your kitchen table isn’t ideal is that the chair and height of your work surface will not be ergonomically correct, meaning over time you may find yourself with new aches and pains.
There are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to posture and ergonomics. Your chair should provide adequate back support to allow you to keep your back and shoulders straight. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree bend and align with your hands on the keyboard. Your eyes should level with the top third of the screen, and don’t forget to take occasional breaks.
Invest in the best chair you can afford, one with proper lumbar support and armrests is best. Also, make sure you can adjust the height of the seat to ensure all of the criteria above are fulfilled. If you don’t have a good chair at home, could you borrow your chair from work? Making sure that your workspace is comfortable and suited to your needs will help to ensure you avoid injuries.
Ikea has closed its stores to the public, however, you can purchase online or through the app, and have its products delivered directly to you with its contact-free delivery service.
Enjoy the space
Your workspace should be both inspiring as well as functional.
Have fun choosing colours and decorating the space to create the kind of environment you find pleasant to work in. If you like your workspace to feel energising and inspiring, brighter colours work well. If you prefer a calmer and more relaxing space, opt for softer warmer shades and a more neutral palette.
There’s nothing more uninspiring than staring at a blank wall. Hang some art or, if the space is lacking in natural light, use mirrors to reflect light and make the room feel more spacious. Finally, bring in some plants. There’s nothing like a bit of greenery to bring a space to life.
Plan your lighting carefully
When it comes to lighting your space, there are two things to keep in mind. Good task lighting is vital; you need to be able to see what you’re doing so a good table lamp is a priority. After that, it’s about ambience. It’s critical your working environment is pleasant to be in, so choose bulbs with warm colour temperature and put overhead lighting on a dimmer if possible so you can control the lighting levels.