The home office: how to make it work for you and for work - Post 3: #WorkLifeBalance blog series
By now, you’ve hopefully read my first two entries in this series on #WorkLifeBalance, where I’ve touched on my experience of being a home office worker and how to achieve a balance in your work and personal life. Today, I discuss the home office setup…
One of the things I really love about working from home is the ability to change the scenery from time to time. I have a dedicated office in my house, with an actual door, but I can also just as easily work from a coffee shop or a shared office if I need to spend a little time with team members. Even though we still sometimes email and Skype each other, while sitting at the same table, human interaction is still important.
I’m also fortunate enough that, if we have a particularly beautiful day, I can step outside and work on my patio with my swimming pool as my backdrop.
It wasn’t always this way though..
When I first moved to the US, I rented a one bedroom apartment and just didn’t have the space for a full office. I set up a small desk, in what the rental company called a “breakfast nook” and, to be honest, I couldn’t have been any closer to my fridge, even if I’d tried! I also had a view from my window of the McDonald’s over the street, which proved to be a recipe for disaster – AKA an additional 10 lbs added to my waistline.
While we’ve talked about creating a mental separation between work and personal life, I believe that it is also very important to have a dedicated area that is work focused. While I CAN sit by the pool occasionally, I can’t do it too often because it changes my mindset, which could have an impact on my work…
Working in your leisurewear
And while I sometimes don’t get changed into ‘real’ clothes after getting out of bed, (and yes, I’ve worked in my underwear) there is a mental aspect about it that makes me feel like I’m not taking my tasks as seriously as I should.
I attended an event a few months ago for expats who have moved to the US, most of them professionals and a fair number of them work from home. I was talking with a group about the challenges, when one of the ladies shared her way of dealing with it…
Every morning, she would get up much earlier than work started, shower and get dressed – in business attire. She would then leave the house, drive around the block, come back home and go to her office.
She also had her office set up as if it was a corporate office. She had a big desk, filing cabinet (mostly empty), a big potted plant and a comfortable chair.
It was her way of separating the two aspects of her life.
While it’s easy to sit on the couch and get some work done, it’s also the area you use for socializing or relaxing and I believe that it’s best to keep work out of these environments. If you get anything out of this blog post at all, let it be this: only two activities should ever take place in the bedroom, one is sleep and the other is not work.
Pay attention to ergonomics
One of the fastest ways to develop lower back problems is by sitting at your desk incorrectly.
The ideal workspace set-up includes the following:
- Sit back in your chair and don’t slouch
- Keep your posture!
- Elbows, knees, and hips should all be at around 90 degrees, sitting up right and adjusting your chair will help this
- Don’t look up or down at your monitor, you should be looking straight at it or very slightly downward
- Make sure that you use a quality chair that you can adjust. Some people like to use fancier chairs with knee rests or exercise balls. If you do this, make sure to follow the same principles for correct posture.
You probably know that standing desks are the rage right now, but the same principles apply, so if you do go this route, make sure that the desk you use is the right height for you. Also be warned that new research shows standing desks are not all positive.
My colleague shares her thoughts on the subject …
Chief Operating Officer, Americas
“I recently bought myself a new chair for my home office. I had used the same one for 7 years and only replaced it because the rubber had worn off all the wheels and the main shaft started leaking oil.
As I sit in my new and very comfortable chair, I am wondering why it took me so long to invest in a chair. I spend more time on this piece of furniture than any other in my home.
Besides the work and personal life separation, the key to a good work environment is ensuring comfort, which in turn will lead to greater productivity.”
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