Diana Kelly Levey

4 Steps to Create a Work-From-Home Space You Love

A man working at a desk with computers and books

March 7, 2021 | Categories:

When the prospect of working from home went from remote concept to actual reality at the start of the pandemic, most of us were excited by the idea—at first. We pictured ourselves sleeping in, working in cozy pajamas from the comfort of our couch, and having more freedom over our schedule. But as we head into the seventh month–and what looks like a third wave of coronavirus—the novelty has definitely worn off.

By now, you might be craving a return to the “old normal,” and a clear delineation between home and work life. “A routine helps you know when it is work time and when it is not work time, so you can relax,” says time-management expert, Laura Vanderkam. Creating a new routine with remote work can help your life feel more normal, even when everything, well, isn’t. “Start your day at the same time as usual, and put on clothes that make you feel good,” suggests Kayla C. Wright, an occupational therapist at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Center.

Here, Vanderkam, author of The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home, and Wright share their tips on how to be healthier and happier in your work-from-home space.

How to Create a WFH Space That Maximizes Happiness and Productivity

Create a Commute

Commuting to and from an office provides a natural structure to a day, and most importantly, a starting and stopping point, says Vanderkam. “Without that, many people feel adrift, and have trouble focusing.” Transition rituals can help you start the workday, she advises. “For instance, if you need to walk your kids to school or drive to daycare, that can take the place of a morning commute,” she says. “You might walk a dog, drive a spouse to the train station, run a quick errand, or just walk around the block.” If time is tight, the “commute” could just be grabbing your coffee, sitting down at your desk, and looking over the day’s to-dos, suggests Vanderkam. “Have something that tells you that ‘now is work time.’” (Related: How You’ll Save and Spend Money by Working from Home)

Select the Right Seat

This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve typed on your laptop from a recliner or couch for a few hours and felt pain afterward, you know using the right work chair is key. “The most common mistake people make when they transition to at-home work is that they sit in whatever is available,” says Wright. “Being positioned without proper back support for long periods of time can contribute to back and neck pain, as well as numbness or tingling in the arms, wrists, and hands.” Wright also recommends using a chair with armrests. If you don’t have an actual task chair and you have to make do with a kitchen or dining chair, make sure there’s padding along your back for support and that you’re practicing proper alignment with your posture.

Improve Your Workstation Setup

Speaking of posture, here are Wright’s tips for an ergonomically-correct workstation:

  • Keep feet firmly planted on the ground or on an inclined footrest, which supports the low back.
  • Arms and wrists should be parallel to your work surface; shoulders should be relaxed and your upper arms should hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Position the computer monitor an arm’s length away from your face. If the monitor is too low, consider placing it on a riser stand or box so the top of the screen is just below eye level.
  • A wireless keyboard and mouse will allow you to access the laptop from this proper height and distance, without overextending your arms.
  • If you choose to stand while working, make sure your head is in line with the rest of your body and that your back is straight. Your workstation should be raised so your arms are at 90-degree angles and you aren’t leaning or bending to reach your work. (Don’t forget to do these stretches if you sit at a desk all day.)

Take Frequent Breaks

In a given day at the office, you probably walked to meetings, the printer, pantry, and bathroom. At home, all those destinations might be just a few steps apart, which makes it less likely you’re getting enough physical activity in the day–which can take a toll on your health. That’s why it’s so important to schedule breaks in your day, “Knowing ahead of time what will add to your energy levels increases the chances that you choose a smart break, rather than just pausing to scroll online for a moment,” says Vanderkam.

Taking breathers can also benefit your back, says Wright. “Getting up throughout the day allows you to shift your bodyweight pressure from your low back and distribute it to your legs,” says Wright. Set alarms on your phone to remind you to stand up, stretch, or take a walk.”

Read the full article on Happify.

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