Working from home

Man at computer

How are you managing working from home? It’s been a year now and many of us have had to adapt with living spaces becoming temporary offices, some well set up and others less than ideal. Lack of space, sharing working space with other household occupants or family members plus other challenges may have led to working on beds, sofas or having lap tops perched on chairs. Potentially feeling uncomfortable.

It may not be possible to create the perfect ergonomic set up but here are a few easy tips and reminders that make working from home more comfortable and perhaps increase productivity too. It’s difficult to feel motivated if our bodies are stressed and in pain because of awkward postures.

    • Even in a small or shared space try to designate a work area with everything you need in one place, within easy reach to avoid repetitive stretching and twisting. Shut the door if you can, creating space away people and other distractions including the kitchen if resisting snacks is difficult.
    • While it might be tempting to sit on the sofa, it's much better to sit at a desk or table, if you don’t have office furniture like an adjustable chair, try using things like cushions to support you in your chair, rolling up a towel and placing this behind your lower back will reduce the risk of slumping. A box or pile of books as a footrest is helpful, being short this makes a huge difference to my hips and lower back, also it stops me crossing my legs.
    • Set and stick to a routine, without steady schedules, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred and stressful. Follow your normal sleep and work patterns if you can, getting up at the same time, eating breakfast, taking a lunch break and getting out of your pyjamas!
    • Try scheduling in your "commute time" and spend it exercising, reading or listening to music before logging on. To my normally inactive partner replacing commuting with a bike ride has helped immensely, both physically and mentally
    • Making time for breaks can help manage feelings of stress and giving yourself the opportunity to move is great for your body including your eyes. Just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity and focus. If possible, at some point in the day set your alarm and a time to go for a walk, run or bike ride for some fresh air and immune boosting vitamin D.
    • A combination of sitting and standing throughout the working day adding more variety to your working routine can boost physical wellbeing and productivity. It may not be possible to get a sitting / standing desk but using books you can set up an equivalent on a countertop lifting your laptop into your line of sight.
    • Setting boundaries with other members of your household is key to mental wellbeing while working at home. Similarly, set boundaries with work, when your workday stops, stop working. It's easier to stay logged on when your home is your office, but try to switch off when the work day is over.
    • Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you might not be as productive as you usually would be. Be realistic about what you can achieve given the circumstances, and relax when your work is done.
    • If you haven’t the time to leave your work space stretching in your chair is so helpful for your neck, shoulders, wrists and back as well as general wellness. See stretching and other ideas in this article on healthy computer tips.

Working at home can make us feel like we have to be available all the time but one of the benefits is you can be more flexible, however it can also be difficult if there are other distractions to deal with, such as children at home, who may think you are on holiday and want to spend time with you. Have a discussion about your needs, especially with family or whoever you share with, reminding them that you still have work to do and need quiet time to do it, sharing your schedule may help.

If you want to more on how working from home is affecting both the physical and mental wellbeing of UK homeworkers. An Institute of employment studies (IES) Working at Home Wellbeing Survey conducted during the first two weeks of ‘lockdown’ has been analysed to produce a preliminary picture. It has shown that there has been a significant increase in musculoskeletal pain, healthy diets and exercise have decreased, poor sleep and increased risk of exhaustion are also cause for concern with the mental health of respondents depicts a workforce with a lot on its mind.

Read more articles on my blog page.