Back in March 2020. Boris announced that we’d all need to pause normal life for a national lockdown to try to control the pandemic. Rather sweetly, we all sort of assumed that we’d be back to business as usual again after three weeks. So we grabbed what we needed from the office, commandeered the kitchen table or any other flat surface we could find, and got on with things.
Over a year later, a lot of us are still working from home and many companies are realising the benefits of having a home-based workforce for the first time: we can actually be trusted to work productively, and business premises can be downsized to save on overheads. So, many of us are facing the prospect of working from home on a more permanent basis.
Working from home at your kitchen table may have been viable and tolerable for a few weeks or months, but if you’re now looking at working from home for the longer term, your mental and physical wellbeing (and possibly your relationship with your spouse/cohabitee) will be greatly improved with a more permanent home office solution. Here are our tips for working from home for the long term.
Get the right equipment from your employer
If you are an employee, you are entitled to ask your employer for equipment that will provide you with a safe working environment.
If you were at work, you’d be able to ask for a workplace assessment to check things like the distance between your eyes and your monitor, the height of your desk, and whether you need any special equipment like wrist rests to protect your posture. The same considerations need to be made at home, though any assessment would need to be carried out remotely.
You may benefit from an ergonomic chair, a standing desk and adjustments to your monitor and keyboard to prevent strain to your back, eyes and wrists.
Find a permanent work space
Working from your dining table might be (sort of) convenient, but it’s not a long-term solution, is it? It feels temporary, and moving your stuff every time your family wants to do something radical like eat a meal together isn’t ideal.
Bearing in mind that you’ll need to use your office space for perhaps 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, consider whether there’s another room in your house that you use less often. You might only use your spare room every so often to accommodate guests, or it might be used constantly but only as a storage room. Can you clear it out to make space for an office? Or could you clear a corner of another room or an alcove to make space? You could use the money you’re saving on your daily commute to pay for a storage unit
for anything you need to move out of the way.
Be creative with office storage and desk space
Once you’ve earmarked your office space, find a way to clearly delineate that part of the room or house as your work space, to help you switch back into ‘home’ mode outside your usual working hours. If you’re using the spare room, that’s a simple matter of closing the door. If your work space is within a room you use for other things (like your lounge or bedroom), moveable room dividers are an affordable and easy way to separate your work and home spaces. Alternatively, you could invest in a corner work unit that closes up to look like a corner cupboard when not in use. Fold-down desks are also now widely available if floor space is at a premium, and you can use multipurpose furniture like an ottomon or even a narrow shoe cupboard to store paperwork and files.
Once you’ve established your work space and set up your equipment, you can still ask for an assessment to see whether the height of your chair and position of your monitor and keyboard need adjusting.
Have a change of scenery
Lots of people are buying summer houses or large sheds for their gardens to use as office space, and you could heat it in winter with a portable heater or open the door and enjoy a nice breeze in summer!
During periods when cafes are open, you may benefit from spending even one day a week working from somewhere other than your house. This will help you to feel less isolated, and is a good way to exercise self-care in the form of treating yourself to a nice drink (and piece of cake). Just remember to get dressed first.
Finally, if working from home is going to be a long-term change to your normal working arrangements, remember that although you’re saving a bit of money on petrol or train/bus fares, your employer will be saving an awful lot more on their premises costs. You could always ask for additional funds each month to make up for the extra cost of your utilities each month, and/or to upgrade your broadband package.