Fulcrum Group Extraordinary Times Blog Series #45 – Is Your Home Office Stopping You From Doing Your Best Work?

Tweaking your home office

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Staying away from the office may have started as a temporary measure, but those who have sampled flexible working for the first time may not be so willing to give it up. According to a new survey by insurer Direct Line, 44% of UK employees–which equates to some 13 million people–plan to ask for permanent flexible working arrangements after coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted.

However, as many of us are surely discovering, our homes–which can be both lonely and full of potential distractions–are not always the ideal places for productive work. Cynthia Ring, chief people officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, says the line between work and home life is more blurred now than ever before. Here are a couple of tips to help encourage “distancing” of your work and home lives.

Separate your home self from your work self

Workplace design experts advise creating a degree of physical separation between work and home lives wherever possible, as a laptop in your eyeline can be a constant reminder of work that needs doing. Preferably, pick a room with a door that you can close at the end of the day and avoid working from spaces normally used for relaxation. 

Those short on square footage at home should look at ‘flexible’ furniture that can be hidden away at the close of business, like standing desk converters you can use on top of a kitchen table, and lightweight, fold-away room partitions.

Remote workers can also create some emotional space between home and work by getting dressed for work and shutting down computers when the workday ends.

Alejandra Albarran, director of design and innovation at ROOM, which makes soundproof office phone booths, says: “It’s also helpful to have a routine and to take breaks throughout the day. Try to wake up around the same time, grab coffee, and then do what you normally would to get started at work. While it can be easy to bypass any breaks while at home, make sure to stand up, go for a walk or grab a snack. At the end of the day, do your best to shut down and take time for yourself.”

Stop waiting for home working to end 

Productivity issues being experienced by remote workers right now may be due to a refusal to accept that home working may continue for a long time yet.

Brian Parker, a principal at architecture firm Cooper Carry, says the new post-pandemic world will cause all of the makeshift home offices, which were thrown together in haste, to be tweaked and finalized into spaces that remain permanent workplaces.

Parker advises upgrading your seating first to increase health and wellbeing while working from home. He explains: “Those working from the dining room table these days will have found out pretty quickly that those hard chairs just don’t cut it. Investing in a proper ergonomic task chair, like the one you most likely have at the office, will pay dividends on the body and mind.”

He also recommends checking on the height of your work surface to make sure it is as comfortable as possible for maximum productivity. Whether you’re standing or sitting to work, experts tend to agree that the top of your computer screen should be in line with your eyes, and the height of your desk in line with your elbows so you can rest your forearms comfortably.

To reduce eye strain, invest in a separate LED computer monitor, which can be plugged into your laptop, giving you a larger visual surface for reduced eye fatigue.

Albarran recommends those working from home steer clear of the sofa, adding: “You’re a lot more likely to be productive if you’re sitting up straight rather than laying on a couch. You’ll also want a space with as much natural light as possible and, if you can, bring in some plants or nature.”

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