Working from home can be both mentally and physically challenging, but having the right equipment and mindset can make it exponentially easier. Whether it’s staying organized with digital tools for remote work or adopting ergonomic furniture, creating a comfortable and productive workspace is crucial for working from home successfully.
Perhaps you’re new to working from home, or maybe you need an improvement in your current circumstances. Either way, here are our tips and strategies for working at home.
How you show up to work still matters, even if you’re logging in virtually. One of the most important (and overlooked) aspects of working from home involves self-presentation. What are you doing to ensure that you’re fully prepared on calls with coworkers, clients, and customers?
The most important thing you can do to prepare is to create a distraction-free space. This means eliminating anything that might cause disruptions around you when on a call, including pets, children, spouses, and roommates. If you can, choose a dedicated space in your house or apartment for working, so that you don’t take it with you in the rest of your home.
Setting clear boundaries with other people in your house can ensure that they respect your space when you’re working or on an important call. For example, you might put a sign on your office door that denotes you’re busy, or you might tell your family that you’re unavailable (except for emergencies) during a specific time frame.
Use Google Calendar, Calendly, or another scheduling tool to block off time for exercise, lunch, and virtual chats with friends and family. This will ensure that coworkers recognize and respect your me-time, and it will show friends and family when you need to maintain your focus on work.
The habits you maintain at home are also essential for staying focused — especially in relation to how you show up for yourself. Sam Kern a podcast creator and software engineer who works remotely full-time, stresses the importance of getting ready each day. “What you wear definitely changes how you show up and approach your work,” he explains. Dressing professionally (at least from the waist-up) can ensure that you convey your preparedness for the workday.
Additionally, check the background your coworkers will see on screen. A clean, unmessy space shows that you’re focused and punctual. Getting ready the morning and keeping your space clean is important for showing up not only for yourself, but also for coworkers and anyone you may be virtually connecting with.
Anyone who’s regularly participating in video meetings should evaluate the effectiveness of their video streaming equipment. Headphones are important if you’re sharing a space with others, especially if you’re not the only one working from home. The built-in camera and microphone on your computer or cell phone should also work well enough for work calls, but they’re only as good as your wi-fi connection.
Be sure to verify the quality of your equipment and internet connection first with a tool like Free Conference. This is a quick and easy way to test your connection speed, microphone, audio playback and input, and video.
Lighting is another element that can improve the quality of your calls. While natural light is always a great option, make sure you’re positioned with a window behind your computer, rather than behind you (which can cause a silhouette effect). It’s also best to have a number of lighting sources available rather than relying on a single overhead light. Wirecutter photo editor Michael Hession suggests arranging lamps at different angles, and that bouncing lamp light off a nearby wall is more flattering than pointing it directly at your face.
Not having proper office furniture can be both painful and frustrating (just ask anyone who’s worked from the couch all day). Working at a laptop for long hours can cause chronic hunching, which may result in back and neck pain. And while ergonomics are important, not everyone has access to the latest high-tech office tools. The good news is that there are small changes you can make to create an at-home office environment that supports your body and mind while working long days.
Here’s a list of small changes you can make to optimize ergonomics in your at-home workspace:
If you’re in need of expert advice on your at-home office, consider a consultation with ergoIQ LIVE. Powered by Humanscale, an ergonomic office supply company, these chats put you in touch with a team of certified ergonomists who can help you maximize the health benefit of your workspace in half an hour. These consultations can be done either by video or phone call, and will provide expert advice on potential issues in your current setup — plus how to optimize the space for improved posture and productivity according to your body type.
Another thing to keep in mind is how you’re holding your body. Poor posture can cause pain and tension that exacerbate existing stress. A lumbar support pillow can help you sit up tall and prevent strain in the lower back. If you don’t have access to one, simply rolling up a towel or blanket and placing at your lower back is a helpful way to keep your spine upright.
Next, conduct a body scan and review the following checklist to ensure that your body is free from tension.
Reviewing this scan every few hours will make sure that you’re staying in a safe, comfortable position that can prevent and mitigate pain and discomfort. Another way to engage in full-body relaxation is to listen to a yoga nidra meditation, which will guide you through physical and mental tension release. Yoga nidra meditations can be found on apps like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Insight Timer.
No matter what kind of work you’re doing from home, having the right tools matters. By setting boundaries, getting the right streaming equipment and adopting ergonomic office furniture, you’ll be well-equipped to show up to conference calls professionally and stay focused throughout the day.
Michelle Polizzi is a freelance writer and editor with over 5 years of experience. When she isn't busy writing or researching, you can find her doing yoga, enjoying the outdoors, or exploring a new corner of the world.