You may have been working at home for some weeks now but how practical and efficient is it? Perhaps, to start with, your efficiency went through the roof, with zero commute time, no gossip sessions and significantly reduced wardrobe or grooming requirements, you may have begun your work from home campaign with flying colours...and then...reality hits. There are more distractions than you could have imagined, like your kids, your dog, your partner and those dishes in the sink. A quick task done around the house here and there didn't seem like a big deal, only you are now discovering that the constant stop-start strategy means your day flitters by with nothing to show for it. Pressure mounts and so does the stress.
There are a few main reasons that your productivity is slipping, and one of these, maybe surprisingly, is your home office set up. If your work space is not well thought out and executed, you may find that your focus and attention is compromised so those distractions suddenly become downright impossible to ignore.
A great office space in any location, but especially one that is in your home, will go a long way to helping you stay motived, focused and on point.
When it comes to your office space there are two parts to consider. One is your physical set up and two is your mental approach. We've covered these for you across two separate blog posts so that we can go into enough detail to really help you troubleshoot and get better results from the time you spend in your home office. This post will be covering the physical set up of your work space, keep an eye out for part two, next week, or in the blog file, for how to get ahead of the mental challenges that can creep in with your office set up choices.
Over the next two posts we're going to take you to a few items you can check in on to see how your home office measures up and if your office design, and not your family, is actually the main disrupting influence in your home work world.
Face to face
We all probably dread the face-to-face aspect of working from home. Many employers want to keep an eye on staff while they are working from home so make video time mandatory, for others having to have online meetings is an essential part of their work practice. It is very different to sitting in a room with someone and can be off putting. Here are some ways to help close the gap on awkwardness and give you more confidence in front of the camera.
If you are doing any face to face online meeting work while you are working from home, then proper equipment is essential.
Your laptop will come with a pretty great camera but it's not adjustable. It is usually above your eye level, meaning you won't be able to naturally hold eye contact with your meeting audience and watch them on your screen. Having a webcam gives you flexibility to mount the camera in the place that is really going to give you the advantage that you need to show your best side and make eye contact with your audience. You don't need anything flashy, cheap cameras will work well. A little bit of time watching yourself and running monologues will quickly show you the sweet spot for set up. If you do continue to use your laptop or phone for video meetings, make sure your phone is well mounted at a great height or get yourself a laptop stand so you can adjust the position.
A standalone keyboard and mouse are really going to help your wrist health, and yes, that is important. Spending hours with your wrists in the wrong positions can cause significant damage to your ligaments that could mean you are off work for long periods while you heal.
If you have seen any of my Live Confessions of a Conveyancer videos, then you'll see the massive difference good lighting has. There have been a few times when I haven’t been able to access it to do my live takes and it looks shocking. You might not want to get the big bubble light thing like I have that makes you feel like a movie star but you will need to add to your basic ceiling light set up by having a good lamp on the desk that shows your face well, as well as plenty of natural light to help you see well while you work through the day.
If you are going to be running training, hosting events or conducting interviews, then audio is the absolute key to looking professional and having a five-star appearance. Do use headphones, earphones when you are on a video call, they increase both your speaker clarity and audio tones significantly. In my videos, you'll see I have little wireless headphones in and I cannot stress the importance of using headgear enough, especially if you are recording.
Even though it might not be as convenient or as comfortable, a proper work station is a really important step. That might mean that you move a book shelf or rearrange your lounge room furniture while you are working from home so you can fit in a home office. Ergonomics are just as important at home as your office so be sure to have adjustable table height and a gas lift chair that fully supports your spine. Any equipment you purchase for working from home can be claimed on your next income tax lodgement so you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain by buying equipment that fits you well and looks after your posture.
A beautiful view
Do give yourself a beautiful outlook. The best place to put your desk is where you can see out a window. If a window is not available, you are best to sit with your back to the wall of the room so you have space in front of you. It feels much better than having a close up blank wall in your face all day. There is just nothing for your eyes to rest on other than the computer screen. If you just don't have space to spare and the wall view is as good as it gets make sure you keep your desk clean and free of clutter so that you can position some small plants, flowers, pictures or photos to give your eyes and brain a healthy break whenever it's needed.
None of your sitting muscles are supposed to be active all the time, it's just not natural. Even for those with great posture, your core is not designed to be activated eight hours a day every day. If you find you are restless and thinking about a walk to the pantry for those mint slice biscuits, chances are your mind, body or both genuinely need a time out.
Give yourself regular breaks that include a change of scenery and some whole body engagement exercise (squats are fabulous for this). That might mean that you take a walk around the garden (star jumps are encouraged) every 60 minutes or snatch a breath of fresh air on the balcony. Even a burst of brisk walking around the block (take your furry friend if applicable) will help drive away cobwebs and prevent fogginess, lethargy and snacking.
A door break
If you have the luxury of having a spare room to use as your home office, a great way to make a clear distinction between work and time off is to close the door at the end of the work day, leaving your desk neat and your computer inside. During the day work with the door open.
Claiming other furniture
If you are using the dining table to work, consider re-labelling that as a work space and leaving it (and your computer there after use). It will also save you packing up and setting up time as well as helping keep a more stable environment for fragile things like cameras, cords and lose files. It might mean getting creative with new eating arrangements that will suit your family. If you would still like to use the family dining table, then putting a tablecloth down as part of the dining set up can help mentally and give you a break from a work space.
It's really important to note that if your body is out of sorts you just won't be able to sit and concentrate for long. You might not even notice nagging pains or aches or associate them with your work set up, what you will notice though is an unwillingness to get the job done. As the chill sets in you might need to switch on a little heater under your desk to warm your toes or put on an extra layer because even a little chill will deplete your work focus.
A strong set up will help your body in the long run and keep your focus steady so you can power through your work day.
For more on the mental side, check in with our next installment: https://www.petastewart.com.au/post/set-up-a-perfect-work-from-home-space-part-two-the-psychological-space