How to best set up your home office
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in more ways than one. The number of people working from home has increased tremendously over the past year and a half, especially during times of lockdowns and increased restrictions. By the looks of it, working from a home office will likely remain a viable option for many employees and businesses.
That’s why it’s important to set up your home office in the best way possible.
Setting up your home office for success
When it comes to setting up your home office, it’s important to consider more than just the type of technology and computer you use.
Modern office buildings are often set up and designed with the intent to facilitate many long hours of workers diligently tapping away on their computers. From the types of office chairs to the height of your desk, employers have long realised that it’s important to take into account the ergonomics of their teams’ work stations to ensure health, wellbeing and long term productivity.
Ergonomics – an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safelyMerriam-Webster
Your home office should be no different. You may need to take some responsibility and initiative in ensuring your home office is set up for success (if your company doesn’t conduct their own checks), so you’re best positioned physically and mentally to do your best work.
How to set up your home office
Choose your area carefully
Whether or not you have a dedicated room as a study or office in your home, it’s important to designate a specific area for work.
Not only is it important that you have a set aside space that can fit your desk (or table), chair and equipment, it’s also essential for your wellbeing that there is also enough space for your full range of movement without risking any injury or strain.
Another important factor to consider in choosing your home office area is the presence of any trip hazards. This can include anything from cabling and wires to mats, boxes or other clutter.
Is there enough lighting?
When you go about setting up your home work station, it’s important to look at the lighting situation. Your normal daily living might not normally require the same amount of lighting that hours of work might demand.
To avoid headaches, eye strain or discomfort, you need to check that the lighting situation is adequate. In addition to the lighting, look out for any glares or reflections that could make viewing and working on your computer, laptop or papers difficult.
Look out for ventilation and temperature
To set yourself up for success when setting up your home office, look out for the amount of air flow and ventilation available in your seat. Sitting somewhere where there’s plenty of air flow will help you feel better and get the oxygen you need to work at your best.
Room temperature is another important consideration. If you can control the climate to an appropriate level and ensure you’re comfortable, you will be optimally positioned to put your best foot forwards work-wise.
Is it noisy?
How noisy is it around where you are intending to work? Working beside a blaring TV or other noise can severely impact your ability to concentrate and work your best.
Some noises may be unavoidable, such as construction work going on next door or the occasional police or ambulance siren. If practical, you won’t regret locating your work area in as quiet and comfortable a room in your house as possible.
Access to amenities
This might not be a problem for most of us, but it’s worth considering how accessible your kitchen and toilet is from your designated work office. Keeping yourself hydrated and satiated, as well as being able to take regular bathroom breaks when you need it, is often a commonly forgotten but not unimportant consideration.
Of course, this will depend on the structure and layout of your house, but if you are tossing up between different areas in your home, think about how accessible your kitchen and bathroom are.
Emergency exit access
All work place and offices need to consider emergency evacuation plans and keep their exits unobstructed and free from trip hazards or other impediments to passage.
When you work at home, you still need to consider your own safety. Ensuring you have a reasonably direct and unobstructed path to exit your home in event of an emergency is very important for your wellbeing.
Take security into account
Chances are you take security into account already if you’re working from your own home. It’s worth sparing a thought however to your security and the security of your valuable work equipment as well.
Some people might have access to a separate office or work-room in their backyard or semi-detached section of the home. If you’re working in a shared apartment or share-house, you may need to consider what security you have from other members of the household and their guests.
Take care to give yourself the peace of mind you deserve by ensuring your home office is secure and safe.
Remember: Check that you have a working smoke detector and appropriate first aid supplies available at home!
Go through an electrical-safety checklist
There are a variety of things you should check to ensure the electrical safety of your home office and your workspace. Here are some of the main items you should check off during your office set up:
- Make sure your double adapters or power boards are not overloading your power outlets.
- Ensure an earth leakage circuit protection is in place for work-related equipment.
- Safely stow away all electrical cords.
- Take care that your connectors, outlet sockets and plugs are in safe condition.
- check your electrical cables and equipment for any external or visible damage.
How to set up your work station
Setting up your desk
There are couple of things to consider about your choice of desk other than style and size.
Your desk needs to be at a suitable height for both your size and the height of your chair. There should be adequate leg room under the desk with no objects or clutter in the way. If necessary to allow your feet to sit flush on the ground and your knees to be at a right angle, you should consider getting a footrest.
Choosing the right chair
You’re going to be sitting in your desk chair quite a lot so make sure to take the time and expend the energy to find the right one.
Ideally, your chair should have a five-point base for excellent stability. It should also prevent unwanted sliding, slipping or rolling across the floor.
The seat height, tilt, angle and back rest should all be adjustable so you can find the right position for your body shape and size. For the record, it’s ideal to have your elbows at a right angle when working at your desk and for your knees to make a right angle with your feet on the floor. Your thighs should be flat against the chair and parallel to the floor.
Adequate lumbar support and padding is important to help you keep your body in a supported and comfortable position. If you have arm rests, it’s preferable to choose a chair with padding for extra comfort whilst also having arms that are not too high that they obstruct your ability to push the chair in close enough to the desk.
Preparing your work surface
It goes without saying that you should be working at a desk or table, rather than on a surface that is not hard, horizontal, supported and conducive for a work environment. Try and find the closets type of surface to your work desk so you can best imitate the style and manner of your work in the office.
Avoid working by desks with sharp contact points or other hazardous edges or parts, and keep your frequently used items and objects within comfortable, safe and easy reach from your regular seated position.
How to set up your computer equipment
Setting up your screen or monitor
Any computer screen or monitor you use should be located flat on your desk or from a support arm angled horizontally and at the right height. The best position is to have your monitor at a height where the top of the screen is level with or slightly lower than your eye level. This works out to be approximately 40 millimetres above the surface of your desk or table.
In terms of distance, use your own arms: It should be about an arm’s length away from you. Also consider how the light from bulbs or windows hits your screen so that there is no glare that can impede your vision or make using the computer uncomfrtoable.
Using a keyboard and mouse
Your keyboard and mouse play important parts of your home office set up.
Both pieces of equipment should be at a practical distance from your body where you are able to relax your shoulders and keep your elbows close to your body.
Keyboards should be flat and placed in front of your screen with the mouse at the same level and directly next to it. If your hand or hands don’t feel comfortable using your mouse or keyboard, try moving it slightly closer, further or to one side or another.
For workers who spend a lot of time typing and clicking, consider investing in a padded support for your wrists that can just sit next to your mouse and keyboard.
Tips for working in your home office
- Always adopt a safe posture.
- Do regular posture checks.
- Keep your wrists straight when typing on a computer.
- Sit upright or slightly reclined with lumbar supports for your lower back.
- Change position, stretch and move periodically after long periods of continuous work.
Good luck with your work in your home office!
There you have it: our guide to setting up your home office. At One Central Health, we value the wellbeing of our staff: That’s why our occupational therapists conduct home office checks for all of our team members prior to them working remotely.
If you would like to find out more information about how our OT team can help you and your company best set up your ergonomic home office or work station, feel free to contact us today.