Improving Efficiency When Working From Home

Australians recently made a shift to working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The working from home arrangements were made as a safety precaution, to limit personal contact with as little people as possible, which in affect would help slow the spread of the deadly virus.

Working conditions at home varied from household to household, kids were running past webcams, tugging on Mummy’s or Daddy’s sleeve in important meetings, partners were sneaking past (hopefully dressed) and pets became team mascots.

We made good use and had good fun with the latest communication technology.

We tried to set up our home office desk essentials with efficiency in mind. However, few had the experience or the furniture and equipment for setting up a home workspace effectively.

We found that there are two core foundations to ensuring you can efficiently and productively work from home. The first is having a dedicated space for work; this includes utilising appropriate ergonomic furniture for you.

The second is strategically planning your workday; varying your posture, scheduling time to move, taking regular and routine breaks, building core fitness into your work and focusing on spinal health.

Your Work-From-Home Space

The location of your home office within the house is important. It should be neither too isolated, nor too public. If you have multiple bedrooms in your house, one of the rooms could be converted into a workstation. In smaller homes, carving out a distinct space within the living room could work well too but we recommend using screens to give you some separation from the rest of the house.

Picking The Right Furniture

An ergonomically designed office chair, a sit-stand desk and a mobile pedestal are the core requirements to get your home office off the ground.

“Laying on the couch, completing your normal work hours on your laptop, with your neck kinked and arms bent in awkward positions, is a sure-fire way to cause pain.” Says Shane Rose practicing Accredited Exercise Physiologist. Shane provides 15 years’ experience in injury prevention, management and exercise rehabilitation to Prescribe. Shane has helped inspire us to better understand what a healthy workplace could look like.

Make good use of monitor arms and desk risers explains Shane. “A monitor with the top of the screen sitting at or slightly below eye level or laptop stand, positioned to avoid glare is recommended”.

“Sitting upright, with good spinal curvature, will provide a more even distribution of load on the body. However, this does not mean that sitting in that posture all day will save you from pain. This is because any posture for too long a time can accumulate load and lead to injury.”

Storage for files and stationery is also a must. Remember the quality of the work you produce; directly reflects the order in which you keep your desk. Tidy desk equals tidy work, messy desk equals messy work. Do your best to prevent your workstation from becoming a children’s place for arts and crafts or you will find very little ‘work’ gets completed come Friday afternoon.

When looking at a home office chair we recommend one that is height adjustable, has an adjustable backrest provides lumbar support, has adequate seat pan depth and width with an adjustable tilt.

“The best ergonomic chair isn't the one that gives you the best posture or costs the most; it's one that enables posture change. Change your posture often and you are well on your way to a healthy and effective working environment.”

Creating An Organised Work Environment

Remember to take care of your eyes, working from home comes with less structure and you will find yourself working longer hours with less breaks. Natural ventilation, windows and spaces with appropriate light fixtures promote functionality and efficiency.

Office lighting is important, comprising of three components: task lighting, ambient light and accent lighting, give all three some thought based on your primary work function.

Make sure your workspace is free from excessive noise and free of trip hazards. A few excellent solutions, noise cancelling headphones keeping your ears in business mode, tidy cable clips and dongles keeping your desk space tidy.

Give some thought to your power outlets, internet connections and wiring including network, system and printer requirements. You want to make sure that power points are easily accessible with wiring concealed in safe locations. Try cable organisers that give some flexibility to move.

Setting The Mood

Many of us will work up to 8-10 hours a day, it is key that where you work is welcoming, relaxing and encouraging. Rushing through tasks disorganised and stressed will lead to poor work outcomes.

Studies have proven that the colour blue can actually help create calmer moods in people, something to consider when decorating your home office space or choosing office products.

Think about how you want your room to make you feel, uplifted, invigorated and motivated to do your best work.

Give it some of your personal style. Add a piece of art, photographs (maybe of your co-workers, memories from holidays or your extended family), a treasured mug, inspiring quote, or even some company branding is a way of adding personality, structure and joy into your workspace.

Planning Your Workday

Working from home can be a challenge, especially when it is a temporary or a sudden new arrangement. Whiteboards, yearly or monthly desk planners, diaries, sticky notes and calendars are your best friends when working from home.

We all know a different home life and a lack of social contact, particularly over an extended period, may lead to anxiety, lack of motivation and loss of involvement in decision-making within the organisation. You can ensure efficiency and look after your physical and mental health with a few simple strategies.

Staying Connected

Utilise the latest technologies to maintain clearer concise contact with your work colleagues. Companies should have solutions in place to ensure clear and regular communication is maintained.

Scheduling regular successful video conferencing through zoom, meet ups or blue jeans (to name a few) is a great way to remain engaged, focused and provide some social interaction while enabling social distancing. It also gives everyone a chance to peer into each other’s homes, which gives you a better insight to your work family as individuals, not just co-workers.

While working remotely and especially in public places, remember to protect sensitive information from visual hackers. Prevent screen peering from strangers by using a PrivaScreen on your laptop or monitor screen which blackens out your screen from side views.

Avoid using public wi-fi and always compare your home environment to your work environment. Whatever is not acceptable at work should be not acceptable at home.

Webcam covers are another great way to ensure privacy while working from home. A soft cover that slips straight over your webcam prevents any accidental embarrassing webcam slip ups.

Scheduling Time to Move

One of the most important and often overlooked pieces of an efficient workplace is to schedule adequate rest breaks, stretches, and time to complete some preventative exercises.

Plan activities that vary your posture and movements at intervals throughout the day.

If you do primarily desk work, try to break it up with tasks that get you out of your chair, like standing for phone calls. Invest in a sit stand desk. Work intervals of siting then intervals of standing mixed in with some simple stretches in between. A good rule of thumb is to change your posture every 20-30 minutes.

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