With government guidelines suggesting we should, where possible, continue to work from home, perhaps you’ve had enough of the U-turns and uncertainty and have decided to make this a permanent thing?
By now, most of us are well versed in the pitfalls and the potential of such a move, from the danger of having the fridge within arm’s reach to the convenience of, erm, having the kettle so close. In all seriousness, if you’re going to make working from home work for you in the long run, then it’s best to take your setup seriously, and invest some time and energy in to making your home office space and routines as efficient and streamlined as possible. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL tips on how to prepare if you’re planning to work from home permanently.
A DEVOTED, DEDICATED SPACE
Regardless of how big or small your home is, you need to dedicate a space that is exclusively for your work. This place will be set up in such a way that draws strict distinctions, both physical and metaphorical, between you and your living space, putting you in a focused working mood as soon as you sit down at your desk.
It can be a whole room or even a cordoned-off corner, but the important thing is that the space is free from distraction. It really does pay to go that extra mile here, to ensure that your concentration is prioritised. This could mean soundproofing your room, or placing a divider between your desk and the rest of the room and wearing noise-cancelling headphones while you work.
Most certainly avoid using spaces which are usually dedicated to other activities as your desk. Most importantly, don’t work from your bed; it’s definitely not good for your back, your productivity or your sleep, once the laptop is slammed shut. This blurring of lines between the fun and functional, and your work and home life, ends up affecting both negatively.
On the flipside, it’s definitely worth investing in ergonomic furniture if you’re in this thing for the long haul. Consider an ergonomic chair and desk so that you’re sitting properly and not risking back, neck or shoulder strain. You could even get a standing desk and alternate between that and the chair so that you’re not in one position for too long. Indeed, experts believe that doing so decreases some of the risks presented by an overly-sedentary life, such as obesity and diabetes.
That said, it’s an even better idea, for your physical health and for your focus, to take regular breaks and get a little exercise throughout your day. As such, it’s a seriously smart move to invest in a treadmill or a stationary bike in your working space (or close by, like in the garage). Doing so will keep you active and, whisper it, even entertained during the long, sometime monotonous slog of home working.
Anyway, that’s enough exercise, for now; back to your desk! Having the right desk setup will help you stay focused and increase productivity. Ensure the mechanics of typing, taking notes and making phone calls is as comfortable as possible by investing in a laptop stand, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. This helps you position your arms, elbows and wrist at the correct angle (elbows open at between 90 and 110 degrees, and arms close to your sides, if you’re asking) to ensure comfort and avoid injury.
It’s important that your workstation is always organised, and not filled with overspill from your domestic duties. So, remove those shirts you’re halfway through folding, stop chopping carrots for dinner at your desk, and perhaps you only need one cup of tea at a time?
Joking aside, some simple tools of organisation go a long way to helping you optimise your output in your home office setting. ‘’A tidy desk equals a tidy mind’’, as they say, so invest in a filing cabinet, desk tidy, stapler, paperclips and all the other small items you used to steal from your central office’s stationery cupboard. And if all of your work takes place online these days, then virtual organisation apps also make a worthwhile investment. We’ve found Wunderlist, Evernote, QuickBooks and Cloze to be particularly useful.
SEPARATE WORK & LIFE STRICTLY
We already mentioned the physical aspects of separating work and life at home, but it’s also important to plot a strict schedule for the running of your day to ensure both aspects of life are given the attention they deserve, when they deserve.
Get into a regular, reliable waking up pattern, and factor an activity into your timetable between waking up and sitting down to work, so that you’re not just rolling out of bed, bleary eyed and straight onto your computer. This could be a brief yoga session, a jog, or even a walk around the block in lieu of a daily commute. Doing so focuses the mind and draws a distinction between downtime and deadline meeting.
Do the same at the end of the day. Be rigorous about what time you shut up shop each day, and do so ceremoniously, even if all that means is switching on your ‘out of office’ auto reply or shutting down your laptop and putting it in its case until tomorrow. This will help you enter ‘home’ mode most succinctly.
Make it a point to set up your workspace close to windows because you want to bring in as much natural light as you can; for the soul and for seeing what you’re doing! Put up a sheer curtain so that the light coming in isn’t too stark and distracting. For the evenings, try to stay away from depending on an overhead, central ceiling light. It’s better to get several lamps and lighting placed at the corners of the room so that you’re able to have control over the intensity of light at any given time. It doesn’t hurt to have dimmers, either.
Whilst we’re on the subject of aesthetics, add a touch of greenery by placing a succulent or an indoor plant in your line of vision, perfect for picking up the mood. Check out these useful tips on bringing the outdoors in during winter for some guidance on how to choose the best indoor plants and how to care for them, too.