Suddenly joined the home worker crew? Here's how to get your new workspace set up, says Luke Rix-Standing.
Once the preserve of reclusive novelists, working from home has suddenly gone from occasional to near-universal.
Recent years had already seen a shift towards more remote and flexible working, to be fair – but the coronavirus pandemic has forced countless businesses to set up shop at home.
If you’re totally new to home working, chances are it’s a steep learning curve. Here’s how to stop grieving over the office coffee machine, and make your home workspace feel as productive and positive as possible…
1. Banish the bedroom
It’s tempting to start working from the comfiest spot in the house – your bed! But this possibly isn’t the healthiest idea.
Conventional commuting marks a clear divide between work and home, and it’s important for both your lifestyle and sanity that the distinction in some way continues. Not everyone has a choice of course, but if it’s remotely possible, do not work where you sleep.
2. Let there be light
Natural light inherently increases your energy, positivity and creativity, and is an essential tool in the battle against cabin fever. Try to position your desk near a window, and experiment with your computer placement so that you aren’t dazzled by screen glare at certain times of day.
Once the natural light fades, keep your workspace illuminated with well-positioned lamps, that will keep the room feeling fresh whatever the time of day. Just imagine having to spend your office hours cooped up in a poky, dimly-lit basement. Horrible.
3. The personal touch
If you’re used to an office and enjoy heading out to work, working from home can be an irritation – but it’s also a chance to assert creative control. Productivity permitting, you can listen to music, wear whatever uniform you please, and design a workspace that works just for you.
You could opt for the classic family photo on your desk, or (if you’re seeing enough of them at the moment!) a novelty calendar, colourful print, or attractive timepiece. Your desk likely claims the lion’s share of your day, so don’t worry about looting other rooms to make it feel right. All those things Karen the office manager said you weren’t allowed in the real office – now is their time to shine.
4. Go for green
Whether it’s an open-plan office block or your own front room, workplace wellbeing still matters. It’s been proven time and again that even low-level exposure to greenery provides a mental boost, and you might really be missing your outdoor foliage fix right now.
From spiky little cacti to large-leafed philodendrons, there’s plenty of plants that can spruce up your desk. A trip to the local garden centre is probably off the table for a while but there are lots of options for buying online and having nature delivered direct to your door.
5. Cut the clutter
Tempted to stock your new home desk to within an inch of its life? Colour-coded binders, a symmetrical splay of pencil pots, a year’s supply of post-its, paperclips and Pritt Sticks, and your favourite coffee mug precariously squeezed in by your keyboard…
Everything runs like clockwork – until you have to takes notes or a phone call, and you find you’re balancing your notepad on your knee. Keep clutter to a minimum and go for ‘less is more’ to keep it calm and functional.
6. Invest in your chair
Your constant companion as you go about your day, an ergonomically sound chair is among the most important ingredients in any effective workspace – including when you’re at home.
Posture and comfort are important and hunching over your desk for hours on end is a fast-track to back and neck pain. Even for the most tight-fisted part of payroll, this is not the place to scrimp.
7. Optimise your setup
However, even the best chair in the world won’t save your spine if your tech isn’t set up properly. Remember that the top of your computer screen should be roughly level with your eye-line. If your desk is too short, or your screen too small, use a box or stack of books to lift your machine to the right height, and use a separate keyboard for a laptop so you’re not gazing downwards all day.
Every home worker runs the risk of claustrophobia, so retaining a little floor space to pace or stretch could be godsend by the end of a long week. Finally, the one thing your office is useless without – connectivity. If there are any known WiFi blind spots in your home, avoid them like the plague.