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Working from Home – Tips for Setting up Efficient Home Offices

A home office built-in we created for a client
with hidden printer trays and filing cabinets.

When you were told to work from home more than 40 days ago, you probably threw on your favourite work top (pairing it with your favourite PJ bottoms of course), found some kind of desk space (some even resorting to bar carts!), and tried your best to keep your kids off screen during those endless Zoom meetings.  Now that many of us will probably be WFH for another 40 days at least, some people might be wondering how you can set up a more permanent home office that would help you work better and more efficiently. I’ve compiled a few tips that could improve your work from home situation. Feel free to contribute any tips that might help others as well in the comments below!

Find a Spot for Privacy: If possible, choose a room with doors for privacy during meetings. If you’re in a den enclosure with no doors, you could try installing curtains in lieu of doors. If your kids are older, consider making an “open/closed” sign (or even have them make it!). If mom or dad is on a call, the closed sign should be respected just like if it were hanging on a restaurant door. If it’s open, kids are free to come in for hugs and check-ins. You might even want to flip the sign to “closed” at the end of each day so you can “leave work at work”.

WIFI Connection: Make sure the room is in a place where you get good WIFI reception. Consider purchasing a WIFI extender if you’re experiencing spotty connections (this isn’t an ad, but the Google mesh system really works really well for me).

Improve Sound: If you have to hop on Zoom work calls, you may want to consider a space with more soft furnishings and/or carpeting to absorb the sound. Don’t have the option of either? Try putting a few pillows into the room. It really does help. Try to use headset microphones for optimal sound.

No-Clutter Approach: Find a work surface that’s large enough to put your laptop, a monitor (if needed), minimal office supplies and one thing that motivates you such as a picture or object. Put everything else in boxes or stored away. If you are working on multiple projects, buy file folders so you can neatly file everything, opening only one file at a time if possible. I find this prevents me from getting overwhelmed. I also recommend putting your desk near a bookshelf so you can easily access things and put things back. The key is keeping your desk free of clutter, and only what you need when you need it.

Fabric wrapped bulletin board we made for a craft room.

Use a Bulletin Board: I love using bulletin boards in offices so I can post to-do lists, schedules, pieces of important paper or inspiration. It also helps keep the desk free of clutter. You can also try wrapping a bulletin board in a piece of nice fabric and stapling it for a pop of colour.

Consider Home Office Ergonomics: Ergonomists suggest that your body should be aligned in 90 degree angles, so try adjusting the height and position of your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor (and your knees are forming 90 degree angles). Eliminate strain on your mouse arm through the same principles by making sure your arm isn’t too far away from your body or too elevated. You can reduce neck strain if you have another monitor that you can place at eye-level.

Lighting Ideally, you’ll have access to natural lighting during the day, and light source that gives even spread lighting in the evening. You’ll want to make sure there isn’t any harsh glare on your monitor or in your eyes while you work. If you find that the space is too dimly lit you might want to consider changing the bulbs to LED warm light bulbs, but check the wattage on the fixture first.

Take Scheduled Breaks The 20/20 rule set by optometrists suggests that we look away at our screens every 20 minutes and gaze at something 20 feet away to prevent eye strain. You may also want to consider setting up a foam roller to roll away tension in your lower back and legs. You could also set a yoga mat to encourage yourself to do some regular stretching.

How to Deal with Kids While Working From Home: While I don’t have kids of my own, I’ve asked a few of my friends how they are dealing with home-schooling, working from home and simultaneously keeping sane. Some take shifts with their partners looking after their kids, and some have taken reduced hours at work. If you have the space to do so, you could also set up a mini kids “home office” or designated schooling area with daily written out schedules, daily homework showcases, and artwork.

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