I've been working from my home office for many years, but usually I am out to employers and clients at least 3 days/ week. Now that I'll be working from home entirely for the next while, it's time to take my own ergonomic consulting advice. Here are some tips for considerations if you are working from home too.
1. Maintaining a work : life balance. Managing work, time & task requirements for productivity and separating work from your non-work life is important. A few things that help me stay focused and shift my mind are:
- Create 'rituals'. Humans are creatures of habit, and our habits are triggered by a complex web of our thoughts and environment. The act of logging out of your computer, saying goodbye to co-workers at the end of the workday, walking out the door or getting into your vehicle, taking the commute home (and what you do on that commute) are all routines and triggers that allow this transition to naturally happen. Creating a ritual for yourself in your home office can help you shift between work and home-life. The physical distance, time, and environment are no longer the same, so you don't have those automatic environmental and commuter time triggers. This is even more important if you do not use a designated office space (ie. working from your kitchen table).
- Since the environmental triggers are now gone, you can replace those with some sensory triggers. Your mind and body are connected, to replace a visual trigger with another physical trigger might work for you. Here's a few things you can try:
- Breathing - this physical trigger can work anytime; breathing for mindfulness can help you clear your head and focus your intentions on the task ahead of you. Taking 5 deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling for twice as long helps you become self aware.
- Place a picture, your business or company's mission statement near your workspace. Reviewing this reminds you of why you are doing what you are doing, and helps to avoid the distractions of home life that can easily pull you away.
- If you organize with a task list, you can review this at the start of your day to help you switch into work mode.
- At the end of the day, you can mentally focus on releasing any work stress hanging over you, and refill yourself with calm, peaceful thoughts or words. There are many meditation or calming techniques you can find online.
- Keep your usual schedule. If you usually start work at 8:30am, continue the same time and task routine. This will help you stay on track and avoid disruptions and productivity.
- Just because you are at home doesn't mean you need to stay in your pyjamas all day! Getting up, showered and wear your usual work attire can set the tone for the day. You might not need to put on make up and your best hairdo but most people feel better about themselves when they look better.
2. Boundaries for family members or even pets may be required to avoid procrastination, remain productive and maintain healthy relationships. The important people in your life need to know when you are available for them, and when you are not. If you have younger children who need your regular attention, you will need to have an appropriate replacement available so you can get through your day with some sanity and productivity, and still love yourself and your family at the end of it! This may be a challenge but creating a plan that will work for everyone is important. Ensuring everyone also understands your boundaries is critical to having healthy relationships.
3. Create an organized work environment. Your home work environment may not have the same amount of space, a suitable desk, supplies and other work items you are accustomed to.
- Do a gap analysis of the differences from work to home, and create replacements where you can.
- Organize places for work items and designate an area for work. It may require changing to more digital rather than paper based work.
- Use the 5S methodology (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain). From my experience working in manufacturing and industrial environments I've seen first hand the power of the 5S system. When everything has a 'home' and it is returned, there is no time wasted ever looking for misplaced items, your space stays clean and organized (and easy to keep clean when there's no clutter!). An organized space leads to an organized mind.
4. Check your ergonomic set up to maintain good posture. Your set up should support you to sit with good posture. If the screen is too low or too far, you'll end up dropping your head, rounding your shoulders and leaning forward with no support to your back. if you can't match your chair height for relaxed shoulders and arms to use the keyboard, you will end up shrugging or sitting back and reaching forward all day, and you may experience contact stress and bruising on your arms from rubbing on the edge of the desk all day.
Author: Mindy Gulas, R.Kin, Ergonomic Consultant, CSEP-CEP
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