Working from home survival guide
April 8, 2020
Working from home for many is the dream – no commute, no uniform, comfy pants, regular access to decent coffee, spending all day with your beloved fur babies (not that the feline kind appreciate this), however it doesn’t come without it’s challenges. Serious thought and money goes into designing office spaces– chairs and workstations are designed to minimise musculoskeletal strain, the office environment is designed to ensure optimal lighting to minimise eye strain, and the layout and technology is designed to allow a mix of privacy, teamwork, support and collaboration to minimise psychological stress and optimise productivity and creativity. So what happens when we are suddenly asked to work from home, alone, armed only with a laptop, our dodgy home internet and a mobile phone?
Due to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown/isolation measures, there has been a huge rise in working from home. Suddenly, jobs that previously we thought couldn’t be done from home even for a single day (speaking from experience as a physio!) are now being required to be done full time without a whole lot of notice. Many went home after their shift on a Friday, expecting to go back to the office on the Monday, instead being told over the weekend that they wouldn’t be going back and would be required to work from home. Cue make-shift offices on kitchen tables, shoddy internet connections, unexpected IT issues, staring at the same 4 walls day in day out, and a sudden drop in human connection. While this situation was only initially expected to last a couple of weeks, it is becoming every more clear that it may last far longer, so here are our top 10 tips for reducing risk of developing musculosleletal pains, eye strain & visual fatigue or stress whilst also maximising productivity!
- Plan your routine with set boundaries. Having set start and end times and regular breaks will help you switch off from work mode, giving your brain the recovery time it needs to avoid burn out and improve productivity. Use your technology to help with this! Create alarms on your phone and computer to remind you to have a tea break, lunch break, and to tell you when it’s nearly ‘home time’. You can even set your phone to avoid notifications from emails outside of customised working hours by changing the settings on the outlook app. If you have the kids at home, involve them in setting the routines – this way they are more likely to respect them and you don’t have the added excitement of a child barging in on your meeting a la Professor Robert Kelly on the BBC.
- Create ‘What if…?’ disaster plans. What would happen if your internet, your computer, your phone or the software you need stops working and you can’t just wander over to bug Kevin in IT? Rather than just waiting for it to happen then panicking and trying to figure out what to do in the moment (because a panicking brain is rarely a sensible brain), plan ahead. Make a paper-based contact list of everyone that you may need help from in an emergency and when/how they can be contacted, be it IT, line managers, internet providers or whoever else you may need. Have a few go-to IT solutions on hand if you can so that you can try and solve minor problems yourself. If you have a diary with meetings, jot down the times and contact details of the meetings (telephone number and email in case one or the other stops working), and if you can do any of your work on paper format, have those options ready and at hand.
- Organise regular virtual meet-ups. Working in isolation is not good for productivity, creativity or the soul! So organise regular virtual meet-ups, whether that be a lunch time chat with colleagues, a weekly team meeting, or a post-work virtual meet up for drinks on a Friday! Even just giving your colleagues a call for a quick chat gives your brain some respite, helping you feel more positive and increasing productivity and creativity for the rest of the day, and don’t worry about disturbing them, they are likely to welcome the call!
- Stock up on brain food. Try to have healthy snacks and lunch options to fuel your brain and stop you reaching for the chocolate which yes makes you feel lovely when you eat it…. but then you crash and feel sluggish. Preparing daily snack baskets for all the family will have the added bonus of solving at least 75% of your parental queries a day – win win!
- Create a workspace. If you can, have your workstation in an area of the house you don’t have to go into the rest of the time, however, if, like me, you end up working in your kitchen, make the most of it! Gather everything you may need for your day and make your workspace as similar to your normal workspace as possible. Try to position your computer so it is at 90degrees to a window as this will minimise eye strain from glare (if you were facing away from the window) or excessive light behind the computer (if you were facing the window). Finally, try to set up your workstation as best as possible to minimise musculoskeletal strain on the neck and back. If possible, your eyes should be at the top ¼ of your screen while sat upright on a chair. If you only have a laptop, consider ordering a keyboard and mouse set, such as this affordable Logitec set, so you can raise your laptop up to the optimal height, for example on a stack of text books (again, speaking from experience – see pic!), or a laptop stand such as this affordable Kensington option. Your desk should be at elbow height and your keyboard and mouse within the easy reach zone. Lastly, if your work is predominantly telephone based, and you don’t have the privacy to work with your phone on loudspeaker, consider investing in a Bluetooth headset capable of pairing with your smartphone, such as this affordable Jabra headset. If you would like more personalised advise on ergonomic equipment solutions for your medical needs, contact us for a video DSE consultation.
- Start your day with a ‘commute’. Under the new rules, the government still allow us out the house once per day for exercise. So, if possible, use the time in the morning to ‘commute’ to work with a walk, jog or cycle ride. This will help you stay healthy by meeting the recommended daily activity levels (see our blog ‘Minimising the potential effect of the coronavirus‘)
- Dress for success. I know your comfy pants are super cosy, I do, but by getting dressed for work as normal, your brain is automatically helped into work mode, boosting your productivity!
- Incorporate regular stretch and activity breaks into your routine. Here are a few exercises that you can complete quickly, every hour if possible, to reduce the impact of sedentary behaviour. If you would like a more personalised exercise program taking into account your medical needs, contact us today for a video consultation.
- Swap your commute home for ‘self-care’ hour. Use this hour however you feel you need to. Complete an internet exercise video, have a bath, sit somewhere quietly and do mindfulness or relaxation practices. Headspace and Calm are great websites/apps with free mindfulness resources.
- Avoid screen use outside of working hours as much as possible. This will give your eyes a break so you don’t develop visual fatigue, while avoiding screen use before bed will help optimise your sleep pattern, helping you to be refreshed for whatever the next day brings!
Overall just relax and know that not everything will go perfectly, everyone else is in the same boat, and this will not last forever!
Working from home exercises programme