Working from home has become more and more common over the years and some companies have resisted the work from anywhere movement. There are various levels of progression that each company is in. What’s clear is that as the virus has become a pandemic across the globe, more companies are scrambling to accommodate, and even mandate, working from home as we figure out as a global society how to slow the spread and minimize the impact it has on our economy. But what if you’re suddenly plunged into a work from home environment? How can you still be successful? What should your work set up look like? Well, you’re in luck because we have some great tips for you to create the perfect work from home set up, whether it’s a temporary accommodation to weather the storm or something a little more permanent.
Temporary set up
Picture this: You don’t have a dedicated office at home because working from home used to be a rare occurrence. Suddenly your company has mandated that you work from home full time for the next month and they just announced that schools are closed for the next several weeks. As a working parent (which can already be complicated), you need to have a place to get work done and also know that your kids are safe because let’s face it, you’re multitasking in a new way for the foreseeable future.
Where do we start? This is where the hero becomes the open-concept space. Let’s evaluate what you have going on in your home. Do you have an open concept? Is your kitchen table your happy (for now) place? Can you see the family room from that table and then would be able to see your kids if they were in the family room? This sounds like a great temporary space!
Other options include a nice corner in a small space in your home if you need something a little more secluded or don’t need to keep an eye on little ones while you work.
Now that you’ve identified your temporary work zone, let’s dive in a little deeper into this table and chair set up. Usually, the kitchen table and chairs aren’t the best places to work simply because they aren’t ergonomic. If you’re planning to work at a temporary set up for a couple of weeks, then we really need to do what we can to fix this. There are some simple adjustments that can be made to make sure you have the best ergonomic setup possible in your situation.
First check to see if your arms are parallel to your keyboard when you’re typing. This will help to reduce stress on your wrists. If your arms are angled up and wrists bent when typing, then you’re setting yourself up for aches and pains later. To fix this issue, first evaluate your other chair options in the house. Standard seat heights vary by a few inches and your dining chair might be a little taller or there might be an accent chair somewhere else in your home that you can bring into the kitchen for this time. No other chair options at home? Then lets look for a pillow that you can add to the chair seat to raise yourself up enough to get your forearms parallel to the table. Just be cautious with this because you want to make sure the pillow doesn’t slide around while you’re sitting on it. The last thing you need is to fall off your chair.
Now that we’ve prevented shoulder and wrist fatigue, we need to evaluate where your feet are. Your feet should be flat on the ground and there should be about an inch of space between the backs of your legs and the chair seat. You might be thinking I’m crazy because I just told you to get your booty higher up so your arms are higher, but stay with me here. If your feet are now dangling or just the balls of your feet are on the ground, then find a study box to place under your feet to keep them up. You can also order a footrest online, but a shallow box will help for now. Your thighs should also be parallel to the ground.
So many people suffer from neck and back issues, and I’m one of them. We’re going to make sure your back is properly supported next. Your back should be all the way against the back of the chair. You should also feel properly supported. If you don’t, then grab a pillow from the couch for lumbar support.
One of the things that’s so important no matter where you work is to make sure you move throughout the day. While we’ve created as close to an ergonomically correct workspace as possible, it’s also important that you take breaks and move. You can also move your laptop to the kitchen counter to stand and work for about fifteen minutes every hour to keep the blood flowing.
A little more permanent
Perhaps you already have an office that you use when working from home or you’re a work from home regular. In either case, there are still ways to improve your space to support you in the best way possible.
Make sure your office chair is set up properly. Above I explained how to get a kitchen or dining chair to be as ergonomic as possible, and many of the same ideas apply here. Your arms should be parallel to the table and your wrists should be relaxed and not bent when typing. If this isn’t what you have going on and you’re working in an adjustable task chair, raise the seat.
Your feet should also be flat on the floor. If now that you’ve raised the seat your feet can’t reach, then get a sturdy box to place under your feet so your thighs are also parallel to the floor. There should be about an inch, or two fingers worth of space between the back of your legs and the chair seat which helps with circulation.
As a more permanent set-up, we also need to address your computer monitor height. The top third of your computer screen should be at eye level so when you’re working your gaze is slightly downward. This position gives less strain to your eyes and makes it easier to rest if needed.
Storage is also an important factor is more permanent home offices. Storage can take the form of wall mounted shelves, storage built into your desk, or storage off to the side. Each space is different and storage needs vary based on the work you’re doing and the materials and files you need to do it.