Unexpectedly working from home?
I hope this finds you well. Life has for now has changed. Let’s get the aspects we can control in order. Are you sitting comfortably?
I’m a follower of human-centric design and am also really interested in ergonomics. I’m really keen to make spaces work for the people using them.
How can I help working from home a more comfortable and enjoyable experience? I've applied the principles of healthy building standards (WELL Building Standard & Fitwel) to the working from home experience...
How is your new home workstation?
Not knowing how long this might be for - it’s a good opportunity to stop and assess. I’m HOPING at the least you have a table and chair set up. I’ve seen allsorts on Facebook. Hammocks used as chairs, ironing boards used at desks, people having to sit on their bed. If you’re working on any of those you pretty urgently need a better set up. That can’t go on for days!
You’ve probably always worked at a dedicated comfortable desk set up, maybe even one with two monitors. Now you are suddenly at home. On a laptop. With new kinds of distractions. Hopefully you’ve found a quiet space without your partner also working from home on video conferencing as well or children to keep occupied and home schooled - or BOTH! Oh and pets interrupting those conference calls - which has become the norm for me. It will take a bit of adjustment. Here’s the source of my interruptions. I did a time lapse for one morning and didn’t realise how many times she comes to sit with me. You can see I’ve just learnt to work around her!
I hope you are settling into this new way of working. I’ve been working from home for over 14 years. I don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office room - but I’ve learnt to make the space at home work for me and I thought it would be good to share with you my learnings. Perhaps we can also use the opportunity to build in some better habits to help our wellbeing while we are at it (me included!)
Please watch this excellent short video of Jo from Posture People talking through the potential problems people might have working on a home table and chair set up….
How does your space compare? Could any of those clever tips or pieces of kit help you?
What’s wrong with using a dining table?
As you’ll have seen in Jo’s video, dining tables are designed to be around 3cm higher than a desk. Couple that with a shorter person sitting at the table - they then have some wrist pain problems which the kit that Jo demonstrates will elevate..
Laptops really aren’t great for longer term working.
- Are you using the built in mouse and keyboard of your laptop?
- A quick improvement would be to raise the laptop on a stand as use it just as a monitor and then use a separate mouse and keyboard. There’s a whole host of pieces of equipment available from Posture People to adapt the furniture you have. If none fit - call them. They’ll have a solution.
Even desktop monitors need attention.
I have mine on a box so it is raised to the ideal level which is screen is at—or slightly below—eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.
What’s wrong with using a dining chair?
Almost all of the recent marketing emails I’ve received giving advice on working from home set ups show four legged chairs in the photo. The reason we use task chairs is they are not only adjustable to fit you (seat, height and arms) - but being on castors mean you can constantly adjust your sitting position and move laterally. The kit that Jo suggests will really help make a four legged chair more comfortable, but if budget will allow I would encourage you to buy yourself a dedicated task chair. Posture People has a range of quick ship options received in 72 hours. You can buy high quality recycled options such as a Herman Miller Aeron chair from Recycled Business Furniture. Also quick ship.
Get up and walk about once an hour. More often if you can, especially if you are using a dining chair and table set up! Set a kitchen timer or timer on your phone to make sure you do it. Put that timer somewhere you have to get up and walk to.
You could use your kitchen counter for some tasks like reading so you vary your working position and therefore reduce the chance of back pain. This could be where your ironing board comes into play. You could use it for a standing height area for reading tasks or webinar viewing (...and wow.. aren’t there alot of those happening now!)
Mark Catchlove of Herman Miller’s mantra is “SIT - STAND - MOVE - repeat”. Their company researched a whitepaper on moving during a working day. The conclusion was that full time sitting or full time standing is not good. Switching between the two is what we need to do. There’s many health benefits and it’s even found to increase good cholesterol.
Try and do some stretches like this one - make yourself Y shaped and lean back - repeat a few times a day. Roll your shoulders backwards and forwards.
Access to nature
We might not all be able to go for walks in nature for some time but try to incorporate what nature you can into your day. For me it’s a view onto our garden, with my favourite plant next to me and a desktop photo of greenery. Yes even imagery - seeing nature’s patterns and woodgrain is good. There’s a small park near to me so I’m going there for my daily exercise. It really does help your mood and productivity and it will decrease stress. According to the WELL Institute - 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week has a 20% mortality risk reduction. So we may as well use our physical exercise time (while we have it!) Spending this time in close proximity to home is good for our sense of community too… even with social distancing. We’re using our local shops more and hopefully will continue to after all this.
Air quality is a big factor for indoor health. We are making our spaces increasingly airtight. Inside air quality can often be many times worse than outside. And now we are spending even more than the average of 90% of our day inside of those spaces!
Give the area you are working in an air flush at least a couple of times a day by opening windows. Use an electric fan if you can to circulate the air. Even better - if you need a stand for your desktop monitor - add one with an air purifying unit.
Air purifying plants like the snake plant (Sanseveiera trifasciata) soothe and aid good mental health as well as cleansing the air we breathe. They can be ordered for delivery from Market Florist or online still. Snake plants are among NASA’s top ranked for absorbing formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene. They need little water and plenty of light.
Also good are….
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) The no.1 on NASA’s list. Low maintenance, shade-loving evergreen needing little water.
- Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) Palm like top air purifier removing formaldehyde, benzene, xylene. Water twice a week and happy in indirect sunlight.
Sit near a window to benefit from the daylight exposure, but try to sit at angle (90 degrees ideally) to avoid glare on your screen. Early exposure in the day to daylight really helps to keep our body’s circadian rhythm. Consider using a warm to cool white light bulb so you can program the light colour through the day from cool in the morning through to warm in the late afternoon.
If the only lighting in your room is direct and harsh, and you can’t dim it - use a task light instead. You might have one elsewhere in your home or IKEA have super cheap ones including this award winning one for £3.50 and are still delivering.
Keep hydrated. The WELL Building Standard recommends the US Institute of Medicine daily guideline of 2.7 to 3.7 L of water (through a combination of beverages and food). Try to eat as healthily as you can - eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Using that break away from your workstation to eat mindfully will reduce your calorie intake as well.
Clear the clutter around you and feel in control of your space. You will feel better for it. I work in the middle of our living space so have to be quite disciplined about working tidily. Well I think it’s tidy! There’s still piles of things. I’m working so much more paperlessly than I did even three or four years ago.
Clear your mind clutter as well. Write down your objectives for the day and consider drafting a productivity timetable to suit this new way of working, incorporating some time for exercise and spending time with those you live with including any pets. Pets are hugely important to our mental and emotional well-being.
Your working day could look very different especially with all the distractions you may now have. Give yourself licence to make your timetable work for you at this time.
Help others selflessly. Help a neighbour or just have a chat. Join your local COVID Mutual Aid group on Facebook. Do some volunteering if you feel inclined and have the time. Give blood. Give a charity some time if you can’t give them money just now.
I say it’s selfless ...but you are surely going to feel a benefit from helping others as well!
I’ve gathered my favourite products here
I also have these excellent resources to share with you….
- Lots of further tips and advice from Posture People link
- Osteopath stretching advice: https://www.posturepeople.co.uk/ask-an-osteopath-the-best-stretches-when-working-from-home/?mc_cid=c868f31325&mc_eid=315d50c095
- Local massage therapist Maria Pali can help remotely with exercises if you are experiencing problems and I recommend her once we can have massages again. She does corporate onsite massages and workstation assessments as well
- Mental health: https://www.mariapali.co.uk/10-ways-to-stay-on-top-of-your-mental-health-during-self-isolation/
- Lighting: https://workinmind.org/2020/03/31/how-to-light-your-home-workspace/
- Productivity: 3 ways to manage your time more effectively - advice from Lyndsey of Heads Up consulting
I've written a further blog on creating an inspiring workspace here
For a limited time I’m offering one hour consultations in return for a donation to the Brighton & Hove NHS Food Bank
Chloe Bullock is a BIID Registered Interior Designer® at the British Institute of Interior Design – the pre-eminent professional organisation for interior designers in the UK. She offers Animal-friendly, Human-friendly, Planet-friendly interior design to both residential and commercial clients.
The importance of good design saving waste and money is very important to Chloe so she offers a wide range of interior design support ranging from free advice calls, short consultations and adhoc help at points in a project where it's needed - through to full service design.
Prior to setting up her own company over 14 years ago, she was part of The Body Shop team delivering ethical global store concepts and specifications. Her ongoing commitment to environmental awareness, sustainability using circular economy principles and cruelty-free specifications learnt at The Body Shop, has translated into her own interior design business. She was the first interior designer in the UK to be VEGANDESIGN.ORG CERTIFIED™, she has recently become a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is a FitWel® Ambassador and keen follower of human-centric, healthy design.
Ph: 07799 534685