Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of us have been required to work from home, with more and more companies implementing this as a permanent change. Although it has its benefits — zero commuting, a flexible schedule, and more time with loved ones — to name a few, working from home can not only hamper productivity, but can also affect your health (headaches, neck and back strain, and bad posture are just some of the impacts). To help overcome this, a good work from home set up is essential.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to navigate working in a domestic environment, and some of the ways in which you can build that perfect office setup for maximum productivity.
The equipment you have can make or break your home office setup. To help you remain productive, we’ve compiled a checklist with some of our top recommendations.
Lots of us will have a work laptop already, but for those people required to purchase their own — freelancers, or those doing part-time work, for example — it’s worth doing your research to find a good fit for your requirements. It needs to be reliable, robust, and ideally, portable (long battery life is another bonus if you’re moving around a lot). Depending on your field, you may also need a model that reproduces colours accurately, minimises eye strain, and handles graphically-intensive apps without breaking a sweat.
We recommend: Apple MacBook Pro 16"
If you’re working solely off of a laptop, a monitor can be the helping hand you need for a healthy home office setup. Anyone who spends their days staring at a computer for hours will find it far easier to work off of a larger screen (less squinting to read the small text) and will likely improve their posture in the process. Again, the best monitor for you will depend on your industry, with those in creative jobs such as design or marketing, for example, valuing qualities like colour and image accuracy over anything else.
We recommend: Viewsonic VP2458 23.8" Full HD WLED LCD Monitor
If we’re not scrolling on our phones, we’re typing or clicking on our computers — all things that impact our posture and health. Some people find using a mouse can improve wrist and shoulder pain, although this varies from person to person. A trackpad (the default option for laptop users) may be preferable to others. The main questions to ask yourself when choosing a mouse are whether it should be wired or wireless, and, of course, how much you want to spend.
We recommend: Apple Magic Mouse 2
One of the most important parts of a productive work from home setup is a good desk. From standing desks to multi-level desks, there are plenty of options — some larger than others — so look at the space you have before rushing into purchasing something. Standing desks, in particular, are great for improving posture, but they can be pricey. If your budget is limited, there are platforms you can purchase that go on top of a regular desk or table, like our suggestion below.
We recommend: Bellavia Corner Height Adjustable Standing Desk
Research shows that good posture can increase productivity, making an ergonomic office chair a great work from home investment. A study published and conducted by UpRight and Ernst & Young found that 71 percent of the employees having a good posture who were surveyed emitted a higher level of confidence. The study also showed that those people who experienced good posture were up to 75 percent more productive at work.
We recommend: Ergonomic Mesh Executive Chair
As well as helping you type faster and more accurately, an ergonomic keyboard is proven to reduce repetitive strain injury (RSI) — a common condition caused by typing which can damage your muscles, tendons, and nerves. The best ergonomic keyboard will once again depend on the person using it, so you may need to shop around, but for a healthy work from home setup, they are well worth the investment.
We recommend: Microsoft Ergonomic Desktop
If you need to block out the neighbour’s barking dog, or you’re tired of your housemates blasting music, noise-canceling headphones are the ideal solution. Some even have Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in, helping you to further cancel out your surroundings with songs, playlists, and other sounds. Studies show that a blend of soft music combined with the soothing sounds of nature (think waterfalls, raindrops, and ocean waves) actually activates the calming part of your brain, which not only helps you concentrate but lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, too.
We recommend: Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II
It may seem like a simple feat, but with so many options out there, finding a desk lamp that illuminates your workspace can be tricky. The best desk lamp for you all depends on your priorities. Do you want something versatile, or are you more about elegance and aesthetics? Perhaps you’re looking for a model with built-in LEDs, or need something with adjustable height and angle settings? Before you make your choice, we suggest getting the rest of your setup sorted first.
We recommend: TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp
When we’re sitting at our desks all day, it’s easy to get stiff and sore. Yoga is a great way to relieve this pain, as well as being a good way to take a break when working from home. Keeping a yoga mat by your desk will remind you to get up and stretch — a much-needed activity to give those aching muscles a rest from constant tension. There are lots of videos available on YouTube, with popular channels including Yoga With Tim and Yoga With Adriene.
We recommend: Eco Yoga Mat
If you can, it’s important to make time to go outside each day you’re working from home, but we know there are some days when time just runs away. At the very least, make sure your space has lots of natural light. As well as boosting productivity, natural light also makes us feel happier. And when you consider that we spend 80 to 90 percent of our time indoors, we need as much as we can get!
We recommend: A good window
When you’re not used to working from home, it can take some adjusting — particularly when you know you’re going to be doing it for an extended period of time. Everyone has a different way of working; some people are early birds, while others prefer to knuckle down in the evening, for example. Loud music could motivate you to do your best work, or completely cloud your brain. Regardless of your working style, there are certain things that can help you to maximise your productivity while at home. Here are some of our top tips.
As tempting as it may be to sleep in and lounge around in your pajamas all day, we would advise against it. Rule number one: set clear boundaries for when you start and stop working. Speak to any freelancer and they will tell you how easy it is to get swallowed up by a heavy workload. The result? Burn out. To avoid this, stick to a regular schedule (map it out in a notebook or planner if you need to) and keep your work at arm’s length after hours. Close any work-related tabs, or turn off your computer altogether, and, if you can stomach it, disable notifications. Keeping work out of sight will help you relax and recharge your batteries.
If you’re sharing your space with others, it’s easy to get distracted. To keep concentration up (as well as ensuring your job doesn’t intrude into the lives of other household members) aim to have a space that you designate as your specific work area. Even if you don’t have a separate room, try to find an area that you can make a zone of solitude. Treat it as though it’s an office outside your home, and ask members of your household to consider it as such. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but if you feel comfortable, make clear that you need to limit interruptions and don’t want to be disturbed during work hours. If possible, only go to your designated space when you need to work.
When you’re used to working in a sociable office where your day is broken up by lunch breaks and chats over coffee with colleagues, it’s worryingly easy to work for long periods without taking a breather. But research shows that working in short bursts actually makes us more productive. As well as helping you to break up the day, working for say, 45 minutes chunks, can do wonders in maintaining your concentration levels. To help you stay on track and remember to take breaks, we recommend the Pomodoro Technique — a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, separated by short breaks.
In an office environment, everyone is working to the same schedule, so although distractions happen, you can largely stay focused on your workload. When everyone in your household is on different schedules, however, managing distractions becomes more of a challenge. Try to proactively manage things that might interrupt your focus, for example, keeping your phone and other electronics out of reach, and only doing household chores outside of your work schedule as you normally would. Chocolate cake in the fridge? Instead of using it as yet another reason to avoid an overflowing inbox, keep it there as a reward for overcoming that hurdle.
Regular socialising may be out of the question currently, but working from home shouldn’t mean you completely isolate yourself. If you rely on email or Slack to communicate with your colleagues, try phoning them instead. Using video communication tools such as Zoom is also a good way to stay connected with team members. Plus, seeing a friendly face can be a great mood booster when you’re feeling a bit lonely. To avoid cabin fever, it’s also important to get outside as much as possible — even if that just means walking around the block or doing a bit of gardening at lunchtime. After all, it’s a proven fact that spending time in nature lowers stress, helps us to relax, and clears the mind.
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by Emma Gibbins | 30 Mar 21
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