Although the UK watched as other countries went into lockdown and we wondered when it would be our turn, the closure of all non-essential businesses still caught many of us by surprise. Sure, it was expected, but that doesn’t mean that we were necessarily prepared.
For years, the merits of remote working have been touted by forward-thinking individuals and companies. And the benefits are well known:
- It’s simply more convenient
- Removing the daily commute is better for the environment
- Workers save time and money by not needing to travel to an office
- Companies don’t have to spend huge amounts on rent to house their workforce
And with many businesses now operating in the cloud, with documents and folders accessible anywhere from any connected device at any time, the technology is certainly there.
But our habits and working environments have not yet caught up. The truth is that the vast majority of workers are ill-equipped to work from home.
Recent research gives a fascinating insight into home working in the UK:
- 55% of workers have little or no experience of working from home, compared with 52% globally
- Of those, 70% typically work just one day a week at home
- Only 41% have a designated room to work from at home
- 39% don’t even have a designated workspace or desk
So if you’re new to home working, or looking to improve your home office conditions, here are our tips to help you be happier and more productive.
All the gear, that's the right idea
Did you chuckle to yourself when colleagues grabbed their keyboard, mouse and monitor just before the office closed down? If so, you weren’t alone. But actually they’re the smart ones, because experts say that using a separate keyboard and mouse is conducive to better posture. It prevents curvature of the spine, while also protecting your eyes from being so close to the screen all the time.
Ensure your screen is at eye level
It’s also important to keep your monitor or laptop screen at the same height as your eyes. Use any files, boxes or books you have handy to raise the screen up to the correct height. This will stop you from adopting a bad posture by hunching over while working, which invariably leads to neck and shoulder pains.
Get off the sofa!
Okay, we understand that the first few days of home working are generally spent on the sofa. After all, it’s the comfiest part of your home. But the sooner this novelty is nipped in the bud, the better. Here’s why:
- It’s where you relax, not where you work. Create a space that’s dedicate to work so you’re in the right frame of mind
- There are too many distractions. Netflix, DVDs, books and magazines are all within easy reach
- Crumpled over the sofa is fine for watching every Harry Potter movie in chronological order – again – but it'll ruin your shoulders and back if you're attempting to analyse this month's spreadsheets
When is a desk not a desk?
If you're in the minority who have a dedicated desk, now's the time to use it for its intended purpose. That means moving the laundry sat there waiting to be folded up, opening and filling away the mail, and finally finding a space for the kids’ toys.
If you don’t have a desk, use the dining table and create some space. If you don’t have a dining table, find a decent, flat surface. If you can't find a flat surface, seriously reconsider how you're furnishing your home!
Things that aren’t designed to be a desk can suddenly become one. We've seen everything from ironing boards to kitchen worktops being used as makeshift desks. What's more, experts actually recommend moving around and adopting different positions throughout your working day. Standing up is one of five or six suggested variations, ranging from perching to kneeling. So as silly as it might first appear, ironing out the project details on the ironing board is actually a smart move.
Create a routine
Working from home can be a mental challenge as much as a physical one. So mentally prepare yourself by getting into a pre-work routine.
Plan your morning schedule as if you were going into work as normal. Shower, eat breakfast, get into your work clothes – maybe not the same clothes you’d wear to the office, but something that means ‘work time’ to you. A uni friend had a baseball cap that denoted essay-writing time every time it went on. It's the next best thing to a work from home uniform.
And do the same with your family or other members of your household. Getting the kids into the same routine will keep them happier – and less likely to interrupt your important video call with a client.
Put a lunch break in your diary and stick to it. This will give you a break, and also let your colleagues know when you’ll be away from your computer. Short scheduled breaks are a great opportunity to get some air, move around, and even relieve your other half from looking after the kids so they can take a relief break too.
A routine will also help if you're a sneaky snacker. Eat at the usual times, and resist the temptation to pop back to the fridge for yet another morning snack. Your waistline will thank you for it when it's time to get back into 'normal' work clothes!