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Working from home tips and home office ideas

5-minute read

Some small businesses have been run from the owner’s living room or kitchen for years, but for others the ‘home office’ is a whole new concept. While the need to work from home may have been forced upon you, there are a few things you can do to help create a pleasant, safe, comfortable and practical workplace. These tips are for people who predominantly perform computer-based work.

Key take-outs
  • Create a dedicated space for work if you can
  • Avoid pain and strain by setting up all your furniture and equipment correctly
  • Know when you are starting and finishing work each day
  • Try to keep the social side of work alive

Create your own space

If you can, try to allocate an area – even if it’s just the corner of a room – to be your ‘office’. It should be well lit, though not in a way that creates screen glare, and the quieter the better. Blinds or curtains may help with glare.

 

Then make this workplace your own with pictures of family and friends, favourite ornaments and maybe a plant or two – or flowers. Without the companionship of others around you, you want to feel comfortable in ‘your space’.

Take care of your posture

We’re not all fortunate enough to have designated office furniture. But with whatever you’re using, you can do a few things to improve the ergonomics, that is, how well you can work in your new environment.

 

Having the correct posture helps prevent pains and strains. Ideally, when sitting at your desk or table with your hands resting on it your:

 

  • spine should be in neutral alignment – so not bent forwards or backwards
  • lower back should be firmly supported
  • shoulders should be relaxed
  • upper arms should hang loosely by your sides
  • forearms should be parallel to the floor and your wrists in line
  • thighs should also be parallel to the floor and well supported
  • feet should be flat and supported – either by the floor or a stool.

 

If you don’t have height adjustments on either your chair or your desk/table, you may have to improvise to achieve the above. And if you’re using a stand-up desk, all the above still applies other than the parallel thighs.

Adjust your chair

If you have an adjustable office chair, it’s important to set it up correctly to your specific body. Make sure:

 

  • your buttocks are tucked in at the back of the seat
  • any adjustable lumbar support you have fits into the lower curve of your back
  • the back rest is slightly reclined (back 10-20°)
  • your posture is as per the above.

 

If you share chairs, just like in the car, you may have to make adjustments each time you take over.

Look after your hands and wrists

These are the essential parts of your body that can develop repetitive strain injuries if you don’t look after them. Try to:

 

  • use a separate keyboard and mouse if possible, when using a laptop
  • centre the keyboard – with the H key in line with your belly button
  • keep hands in line with arms, not splaying outwards or inwards
  • use a ‘floating keying’ technique rather than parking the heels of your wrist on the desk.

Check your monitor height

As we said earlier, your spine should be in neutral alignment. It won’t be if you’re staring down at a laptop all day, which can put strain on your upper back while your shoulders may sag forwards.

 

Ideally:

 

  • use a separate monitor – or at the least, raise your laptop with books or boxes and use a separate keyboard and mouse
  • have the screen(s) an arm’s length away
  • aim to have the top of the screen(s) at eye level
  • tilt the screen(s) slightly so the top is a little further away
  • position multiple screens according to how much you use each
  • make screens viewable using eye movements rather than rotating your neck.

Keep things within reach

To avoid excessive stretching and twisting:

 

  • keep frequently used items such as calculators, tape, staplers and hole punchers within reasonable reach
  • if using a desk phone, position it on your non-dominant side
  • avoid cradling handsets and mobiles and always use a headset if possible
  • position equipment such as printers forward of you, to avoid having to reach backwards.

Move around

To keep your circulation going and to help avoid stiffness:

 

  • check your posture regularly and make adjustments before discomfort is felt
  • stand up when making phone calls and walk around
  • leave your desk to have regular breaks and meals
  • try stretching exercises at your desk.

Manage your routine

Working from home can make it hard to separate your work life from your personal life – but it’s important that you do so. Otherwise you’ll find yourself living in a 24-hour office.

 

Before settling into the home office each morning, make the effort to prepare for the day with your regular routine, as if you’re still heading out to work.

 

Then when you have finished work, ‘walk out of your office’ and start the rest of your day, maybe even changing your clothes. Throwing a sheet over your workstation will remind you that you’re no longer on duty.

 

For some people, working from home is manageable, but for others it can feel lonely and disconnected. So, make sure you build socialising into your work routine, such as video-lunch with colleagues or an early finish on Fridays with video-drinks.


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Things you should know

This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general. It is an overview only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this article, including when considering tax and finance options for your business.