It seems like more and more companies are realising that working from home can be just as, if not more productive than commuting into an office everyday.
I’ve worked from home for a few years now and have picked up a number of tips on the way. Seeing as more and more of us are now doing this, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve picked up over the past few years.
- Ergonomics and posture
- Designate a space just for work
- Pomorodo technique
- Keep a schedule
- What music or background noise to use
Ergonomics and posture
Chances are you’ve been given a laptop to work from and you’ve placed it straight down on a table. This is fine but after a while working like this you may find your neck and back start to ache. To achieve a better working posture with a laptop you basically have 2 options.
- Raise the laptop and attach an external keyboard and mouse/trackpad.
- Plug your laptop into an external monitor.
- Both of the above.
Before doing anything though, I suggest checking out this website which gives you precise measurements for screen height etc based on your own height.
Done that? Good.
Raising the laptop
I use a stand to place my laptop on. You could also use a pile of books or anything else stable and the right height. You’ll also need a separate keyboard and mouse or trackpad. These could be Bluetooth or wired. The final setup should have the monitor high enough for you to look straight ahead while working with the keyboard and mouse/trackpad lower down on the table. This should help your shoulders stay nice and relaxed from your arms being at a more comfortable angle.
Use an external monitor
Most laptops have a socket that allows you to connect it to an external monitor. You may need an adaptor or a new lead depending on your laptop and monitor. Most monitors have a few different sockets on them but be aware that not all of them will allow you to view your content in the full resolution available.
Using a monitor gives you the option of using the keyboard and trackpad on the laptop. The laptop remains on the desk as before, but your head is now looking straight ahead at the monitor instead of down at the laptop screen. You can also use the laptop as a second screen.
On a Mac, you also have the option of running the laptop in what’s known as clamshell mode. This is when the laptop is running closed but connected to an external monitor, keyboard and trackpad. Again, you could splash out on a stand to place the laptop in this position, or just use the Ikea napkin holder hack.
Feel free to mix things up a little too if you can and work on the sofa or in the garden if you have one. A change of scenery can really help you stay focused and the advantage to using a laptop is you can use it to work in multiple different setups and places.
Another option is to make yourself a standing desk. There are lots of examples of this on the internet. You can buy fully adjustable standing desks that go from standing to sitting position at the flick of a switch, and adjustable monitor stands that you place on your existing desk.
Don’t worry about spending much money on this for now as it’s relatively easy to make your own temporary solution first to see how you get along with the idea.
I use a monitor arm that allows me to move the monitor easily from standing to sitting position. When I’m standing I place my keyboard and trackpad on a piece of wood which has short metal legs from IKEA attached to it.
If you work for a company it’s worth checking if they have any budget available to spend on any of this. Your HR department might also have a set protocol to go through to ensure you have a comfortable working environment.
Designate a space just for work
Try to do all of this in a designated space if possible. Even if you have to share a space and go to another part of your home for, say the afternoon, make it clear that space is yours for the period of time you’re using it.
This will help you stay focused while you’re working as you’ll find it easier to fit into work mode when you’re in your work space.
If you’re keeping a schedule then this should also help you keep to that and avoid working extra in the evenings. When your office is no longer a train ride away it can sometimes be very tempting to just work a bit extra to finish a tricky project or to just check your work email. Before you know it that five minutes has turned into an hour and most of your evening has gone.
If you can’t shut the door on your workspace then place your laptop away after you’ve finished for the day.
There’s a famous video of someone being interviewed for a BBC news programme when his children wander into the room in the middle of the interview. Another younger child joins shortly after, followed by their Mother rushing in and taking them out of the room as discretely as possible. However hard you try to avoid it, these things can happen. Don’t worry if they do. These are difficult times and most people will be understanding.
This is something that isn’t exclusive to working from home but can be really useful if you’re struggling to stay focused on your work.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
If you are having trouble staying focused give the Pomodoro Technique a go. By working in short 20-25 minute bursts and then having a proper short break it can really help with getting focussed.
Along with the Pomorodo technique, try to stick to a regular schedule. It doesn’t have to be 9-5, just do what works best for you and your work colleagues if you have any. You could try starting earlier and then finishing earlier, but just having some kind of routine really helps.
Music or other background noise
Having some music to work to can be really helpful but this is very much a personal thing. Some people prefer working in silence, others the radio, and others to the background hum of a coffee shop. I knew one person who even preferred working with films playing in the background. Here are a few places where you can download or stream some of these different options.
I’ve set up a Spotify playlist of music that I sometimes use myself. This also includes my own album of piano music called Piano Days, released under the moniker Jigsaw Goldrush, which you can also download for free here too.
There are various different apps and websites you can use for this.
If you work with colleagues or have clients you usually speak to it’s important to keep this line of communication going when working from home. If you work for a company then they will most likely have their own system setup already, using something like Slack, Zoom, Skype etc.
Try to have regular meetings with your work colleagues, via video if possible. Also, make it clear when you’d prefer not to be disturbed as regular interruptions can affect your flow when you’re hard at work.
You may find yourself wearing different footwear now you’re no longer in the office. No more fancy heels or brogues whilst walking around the lounge.
The typical office shoe barely resembles the shape of a natural foot, and usually provides arch support along with a raised heel. There’s plenty of evidence to show that this combination can make our feet weak and affect our overall posture.
Whilst working from home, many people may spend all day either barefoot or in much less restrictive footware. This sudden change may result in your feet starting to ache as the muscles are being made to work more without any time to adapt.
If you don’t have a medical condition that could be the cause then this change may be something to consider. It’s a bit like taking a limb out of a plaster cast and expecting to be able to use it at full strength straight away.
Maybe look at doing some foot strengthening exercises to help your feet adapt.
There you go then. Hopefully you’ve found something useful here to make your working from home easier.