Even after COVID is consigned to the history books and the world returns to ‘normal,’ it’s likely that the way we work – and where we do it – has changed forever.
The move from spending the working day in an office surrounded by colleagues to one spent at the kitchen table surrounded by all the distractions home life brings hasn’t been an easy one.
But there are some things you can do to make home working more effective, productive, enjoyable and – above all – safe. Check out some of our top tips for working from home during and after the COVID pandemic.
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Get into the working day mindset
Offices have a huge range of subtle cues and associations that get us into a productive frame of mind. On the contrary, your remote working space at home is in a location you (hopefully!) associate with relaxation and fun.
To make sure you’re up for a day’s work, not a day snuggled on the couch with Netflix, try to develop a homeworking routine. Equally, a lack of structure can lead to overworking and forgetting those all-important breaks away from your screen.
Get dressed for success
There’s no need to don a suit for a day of remote work (of course, if that does the trick for you, we won’t argue) but make sure you wear something that makes you feel energised and capable. Jump in the shower first thing and put on something that makes you feel ready for a day of work rather than just a normal day around the house.
Get the right equipment
One of the major – and most important – differences between home working and a ‘normal’ office is the equipment. Everything in a modern office, from the seating to the desks to the lighting, is designed to help create a healthy, safe and sustainable working environment.
While you may work at a height-adjustable desk in the office, at home you could be relegated to the dining room table. The office’s well-lit spaces might have been traded in for the rather dull corners of the spare bedroom. The ergonomic chair you perch on at work may have been swapped for a breakfast bar stool at home.
As you can imagine, all of those changes aren’t good for your physical or mental health. While it may seem comfortable to sprawl out on your couch or bed with your laptop, sitting or laying in these positions for an extended period of time can lead to awkward posture and injurie including everything from carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis to muscle strains, spasms, and low back problems.
One of the biggest differences you can make to your home working setup is to use proper equipment wherever possible. Sit at a table or desk, in a firm chair with back support and preferably without armrests. Elevate your laptop 6-12 inches to get the top of your screen in line with or just below eye level. You should also angle your monitor so that the screen is positioned roughly 20-30 inches from your eyes or an arm’s length away from you.
Think 90 degree angles at the elbows, hips and knees. First, adjust the height of your chair so that your elbows are bent at about 90 degrees with your fingers hovering over your keyboard. Then make sure that your feet are resting comfortably flat on the floor. If not, use a footrest, shoebox or stack of books. You want your chair to be at a height where your thigh is 90 degrees from your lower leg.
Consider using an ergonomic office chair if available. The more adjustable in terms of chair height and depth, recline, and lumbar support the better. Sit all the way back in the chair, recline slightly if possible and make sure that you can fit a fist between the back of your knees and the front edge of the chair.
Change positions and move around throughout the day. For example, take calls standing, kneeling, or perching. Variability is key. Change it up regularly and avoid static prolonged postures, whether sitting or standing. Rotating through a variety of positions will prevent strain on your back, neck, and shoulders and will keep your blood flowing throughout the body.
Keep work behind an office door
Even if your new office is the kitchen, try to create a dedicated office space, with a door that you open after your commute and close behind you at the end of the day. This physical barrier between you and your to-do list acts as a psychological barrier to your ‘business brain’ and hopefully makes it easier to switch off work mode after a long day.
If you are sharing your home with others, creating a space where you can remote work is even more valuable. The door to your ‘office’ indicates the start of a professional space and it needs to be treated as such – and reminds them that despite being a remote worker you are still doing a ‘proper’ job!
Make time for proper breaks
And before you ask, no – stopping to put another load of washing on doesn’t count as rest, nor does grabbing food from the fridge and taking it back to your desk!
Countless studies have shown that marathon working sessions are actually less productive than short, sharp bursts. If you do find it hard to take breaks, set an alarm clock to go off every two hours in the room farthest from your desk. Use these alarms as opportunities to get up and take a break.
Ditch the distractions
Making effective use of your time is another major part of knowing how to work from home. The only issue is that you’re up against a home full of potential distractions, and you’re on your own with the challenge. Daunting? Maybe. Doable? 100% – when you have the right tools and techniques at hand.
First things first – ditch the mobile. On average, we touch our phones more than 2,500 times a day, so it’s easy to see how the habit can eat into your work time. It might sound obvious but placing devices out of your reach can reduce their power to lure you away from your desk. Try throwing your phone in a drawer or leaving it in another room for a set period while you’re concentrating on a task.
If you’re reluctant to be parted from your phone, for example because you need it to check facts or make calls as you work from home, you can reduce its tendency to ‘ping!’ at the wrong moment. Set up your smartphone’s ‘do not disturb’ mode so you only get essential work-related notifications during working hours.
Deal with your new ‘co-workers’
Also known as pets and children. Yes, they’re adorable but there’s no denying that they can also be demanding. Although there’s no off-switch, you can try enlisting the help of friends and relatives to take pets and small people off your hands for a few hours and prioritise your most brain-taxing work tasks for times when they’re not around.
If you’re part of a family or shared household, it can help to establish rules about distracting you during the working day – that earlier tip about having an office door could come in handy here.
Make your money go further
If you’ve worked from home for ever one day during the pandemic, you can claim tax relief for the whole year – worth £60 or £125.
Check out the guide to what you’re entitled to – and how to claim it – on MoneySavingExpert.com.
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