Working from home has become the norm for many people over the past year. However, for most people it was not a choice, it was a necessity born out of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, little thought was given as ton “office” set up, routines and how these things affect working from home. In The Ultimate Guide to Working from Home, Grace Paul sets out how to create a productive and healthy working from home environment.
The book is split into 5 parts which tackle creating a good space and routine, creating boundaries, working when others are home – particularly kids who require your attention, and communication with a boss and colleagues. It was published in early 2020 and not as a result of the lockdowns that saw most people working from home. Thus, it makes no mention of Covid-19, but nonetheless, it is a timely book and provides many tools and tips throughout its 71 pages.
Below I’m sharing some takeaways from Part 2 which speaks about creating a space and routine. The tips gleaned in the book are interwoven with my own tips which I’ve picked up, as well as things that have helped me to create a better at home working environment.
Setting Up a Working Space
1. Invest in Ergonomic Furniture
Ergonomic furniture allows you to work without causing your body discomfort or permanent damage. A bad set up, according to chiropractor Mathew Devoe, can lead to ‘tech neck’, which consists of headaches and spasms caused by haunching over your desk for long hours.
From experience, a chair is the most important piece of furniture to invest in, as that is where you’ll spend most of your time and a bad chair can cause almost immediate back pain. Below are the chairs we use. They are not only pretty but incredibly comfortable. Alternatively, choose office chairs that are specifically ergonomic.
If you want the option of switching between standing and sitting, a standing desk is a great option. We love the Desk Stand which is easy to assemble and packs away neatly when not in use.
Other things that can help with comfort are laptop stands as well as standing mats.
2. Set up Smartly
In the Ultimate Guide to Working from Home, Grace Paul lists three things to do to avoid ending up with tech neck.
- Your keyboard, mouse and keypad should be level with or below your elbows.
- Elevate your laptop so the screen is at eye level. Use a separate monitor or keyboard if need be.
- Rest both feet on the floor or on a footrest.
3. Make a dedicated workspace
Ideally you want a separate room dedicated to work to allow for better work-home boundaries, but Paul suggests that if that is not possible, having a dedicated corner works too. If you only have one table, she suggests using it differently during working hours – by facing chairs in different directions and packing up your work supplies at the end of the day so you can switch off.
4. Lighting Matters
Paul explains that good lighting can help boost productivity, help you remain alert and reduce eye strain. You don’t want excessive light that causes you to squint, but you don’t want dull lighting that makes it hard to see. If your working space gets too much sun, filter blinds can block the sun while still allowing light to filter through. Lamps can also help bring in softer light. Light also comes from your screen, she suggests adjusting brightness to the lowest level where you can still see clearly. Screens should also be at least 51cm away from your eyes as the closest they are the harder your eyes have to work to focus.
Creating a Working from Home Routine
Having a routine is a key part of productivity and getting things done. In the book, Grace Paul offers some advice on creating a routine which includes
1. Set a schedule
Decide on your working days and hours and communicate those hours to those you work with. Having a set schedule helps get things done, creates boundaries between work time and personal time and assists with better time management.
2. To do lists are your friend
Knowing what you need to do helps keep you focused, and it also ensures that you don’t forget tasks. When it comes to prioritising tasks, I like to prioritise 3 tasks that if I get nothing else done that day, would make me feel like I’ve accomplished what I needed to – these tasks are the most urgent ones. Those are the ones I start with and once they’re done, I can move onto others. When motivation is lacking, I push myself to do an easy small task – you’ll often find once you do something small and tick it off, you can keep going. I use the Alexa Lilly to-do list booklet along with the weekly edit.
3. Have proper Breaks
Break between tasks, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. When working on a big project or on long tasks make sure to get up and move every 30 minutes – even if it is just to stretch. As Noa Belling shared, movement is linked to creativity, energy, and happiness. Make sure meals are enjoyed away from your desk and give yourself time to enjoy your food. If you’re able to, try to spend breaks outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
4. Stay Connected
When working from home, it is easy to get stuck inside a bubble with little or no human interaction. Make a point of staying connected with friends, family, or work colleagues. Having an accountability partner that you can check in with to make sure you both get what needs to be done, done can also help productivity.
5. Mark the end of your day
When you work from an office, your commute marks the end of the day. When that commute is walking down the passage or getting up from the dining room table, it’s much harder to properly unplug. Physical actions like packing up work supplies, shutting a door, going for a walk, doing yoga, or having a drink and sitting on the couch or in the garden help mark the end of the day, helps you unplug and prevents the feeling of working 24/7.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.