For many of us, working from home has become the new norm and will be for the foreseeable future. This has caused concern amongst employees and employers alike whose current living situations were not conceived with efficiency or productivity in mind. But there is no need to worry. There are a number of tried and tested working-from-home tricks (some simpler than others) which can help minimise distractions, train your focus and make the space around you inspiring. Not convinced? Read on.
Today, more people than ever are working from home. The adoption of flexible hours and remote roles has boomed since the turn of the millennium. In the UK alone, the Office for National Statistics reported that between 2008 and 2018 the number of employees working from home increased by 74%. That’s just over 1.54 million people who have opted for job roles that involve less commuting, and that number just keeps rising.
Also, there is no hiding the fact that Covid-19 has changed the way we work and what was once a choice, remote working, has become mandatory for most. So, whether you’re just getting settled into your new remote routine or are seasoned in the home-office environment, we’ve pulled together some of the best home office setup tips that will help you increase your comfort and improve your productivity.
In this post:
- Remote Working Routines, Habits and Wellness
- Create the Perfect Work Climate at Home
- Home Office Setup
Remote Working Routines, Habits and Wellness
It all Begins with a Routine
Start as you mean to go on. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to establish a routine that you abide by during the working week, particularly one designed to power your mornings. Working remotely means that there is no commute, a time during which our brains can slowly rumble into action and begin zoning into the day ahead. It’s no secret that lots of those working from home cut things fine and will bounce from the bed to their emails within 5 minutes of waking up. This won’t bode well for stress levels will have a ripple effect for the rest of the day, if not the whole week.
It is worth taking at least 30 minutes to enjoy breakfast, listen to the radio, exercise or meditate before delving into the day ahead, to begin the day positively and confidently.
This same thinking should also be applied to the rest of the day. A simple way to start building a routine is to visualise it. Get yourself a planner and figure out the basics first:
- What time you’ll wake up
- What time you’ll start work
- Your breaks and how long they are
- What time you’ll finish
Then, start incorporating other elements into your daily routine that will help manage daily tasks and drive productivity; checking and responding to emails during the first hour of the day, for example. Though it might seem obvious, you will see that having a remote-working routine will help you to remain focused and calm.
Take your Sleep Seriously
There is no use in creating a routine if you don’t get a good night’s sleep. While some people can function off 5 hours a day and some need at least 9, it’s been proven that poor sleep quality causes a variety of unpleasant side effects, like irritability, headaches, difficulty focusing and poor performance at work. Newcomers to the home-office lifestyle might experience poor sleep patterns at first. This can be due to working more hours than you should, increased intake of caffeine and not enough downtime from computer or phone screens.
Similar to having a core morning routine, you should also set up a sleep schedule too, and look at reducing factors like caffeine and screen time that can make you restless. The Sleep Foundation recommends that the optimal number of hours to sleep for people aged 18-64 is between seven and nine hours, which, for some, might seem impossible but working towards it will unlock numerous benefits and improve wellbeing.
Organise and Prioritise
Just as it’s encouraged to establish a routine, get into the habit of organising the day ahead and setting yourself goals. When outside of the office environment, it can be a challenge to stay on top of your tasks and ultimately feel satisfied with what you’ve achieved. By having a clear set of goals for the day, you will feel much more in control of your activity, and thus you will feel more confident in yourself.
Whether using a classic agenda or with a calendar or task management tool, take 5 - 10 minutes each morning and afternoon to take a step back and look at your workload, and track the status of the projects you have open and update their priorities.
Set Boundaries with Family and Housemates
You’ve seen the charming news reports of newscasters being interrupted by their young children whilst live on air. Even if you’re not necessarily going to be on the news, you have to be prepared for unexpected interruptions when working from home.
If your family or housemates are not accustomed to having you at home during your normal working hours, they might be tempted to interact with you. These interactions will ultimately become distractions and it is a good idea to sit down and map out a set of boundaries (work hours, breaks, etc) that everyone agrees on. If your partner also works from home, plan when each one of you will care for children, other family members or pets.
Try not to sit in places in your home that those around you associate with downtime. The ideal situation would be to have a separate, dedicated room that acts as your office, which makes it easier to signal that you are working.
Dress for the Part
Though it might be tempting to roll out of bed and into ‘the office’ wearing pyjamas, by doing so you are not setting yourself up for a productive day. Comfortable clothes are a must when working from home but making the effort to dress each morning signifies a shift in your day and prepares you mentally to begin work. Now, this isn’t to say you wear a shirt and shoes at your desk, but opting for something that you perhaps wouldn’t wear around the house or to the store. Not only does it help set the tone for the day, but it will make you feel more prepared (also for any surprise conference calls).
As important it is to dress for work each morning, make sure that when work is complete, you change your attire into something different to draw a mental line through the day and help you unwind.
Don’t Forget to Leave the House
Taking time out of the workspace is a must, but getting out of the house and enjoying a chance of scenery is essential, even if it's just on your doorstep or window balcony. You might be grateful that you don’t have to withstand the daily commute to and from the office, but it presented a time each day during which you were on the move and passing through different environments.
When working from home, it’s common that people will skip meals, work longer, talk less with friends or not leave the house. All of the above have negative effects on your mood, especially when they start to become part of your routine.
By enjoying a change of air and scenery during a break or after work, you’ll have the opportunity to pause the mind, consolidate your thoughts and disconnect from work.
Create the Perfect Work Climate at Home
Find the Best Temperature for Productivity
In the office, finding a temperature that satisfies all can lead to disagreements. You know the scenario, where half of your colleagues are enjoying the warmer air and the rest sweating in their seats. This discomfort caused by excessive heat is one of the leading factors that impact productivity. In a 2018 study, the Trades Union Congress shared that offices should be between 16°C and 24°C, and the ideal temperature being 20°C. Once this pushes past 27°C, it’s said that productivity decreases by 5%. This is similar to the effects of colder temperatures, too, even during the height of Summer.
Though, when working remotely you don’t have to worry about your colleagues, that doesn’t mean that your own comfort should be forgotten about, too. When working remotely, where you want to keep the number of distractions to a minimum, so do your best to make sure that temperature isn’t one of them. Humidity and stale air quickly build up in the spaces that we are in for prolonged amounts of time and before you know it, you find yourself sat in an uncomfortable indoor environment. Traditional fans may offer some relief but they essentially just move the air around the space but don’t offer much more relief than that.
The best way to achieve and maintain the ideal temperature is using air conditioning solutions that can be easily adjusted to match the activity within the room, and that can be controlled through a remote control or smartphone app like our intuitive airCloud Home application. A remote controller alone will assist in keeping you focused and make adjusting the air’s temperature a simple operation that takes no time at all. This type of solution also means that in Winter or Summer, you can guarantee yourself the best work climate to excel at work.
Adjust the Airflow for Comfort
Just like finding the ideal temperature for your home office, it’s beneficial for it to have optimal airflow so that the air around you doesn’t become still or feel stale. When working in a space in which the environment doesn’t have natural movement of air, this can decrease comfort and, as a result, a person’s focus. If you’re lucky enough to be working with a window in the vicinity then leave it open to allow constant circulation or open it at regular intervals to allow fresh air in.
If maintaining the room’s temperature remains a priority, then air conditioning can provide the best of both worlds. Wall-mounted split systems are one of the top options for homeowners, due to their versatility and the ease of being able to customize the direction of the airflow and its strength. You can use them to distribute air evenly throughout the room or adjust the direction of the airflow so that it pushes air to a desired spot to maximize the comfort within the room.
Combine Nature and Technology for Cleaner air
Incorporate plants into your workspace to reduce stress, boost your concentration and also improve the health of the air in the room. The NASA Clean Air Study found that the air-purifying qualities that plants have can be used to make indoor air better and healthier for us by reducing the pollutants that build up around us. Even just by adding a plant or two on the desk can enhance your mood and create a calming effect.
To make a notable difference to your home office’s environment, specialised air conditioning systems can be used to safely capture and remove impurities in the air. Our Premium S Series Wall Mounted unit is built with our award-winning FrostWash technology which eliminates mold, dust and bacteria from building up on your heat exchanger. To do so, it traps and freezes these particles in ice, and, after a set period of operation time, it melts and is flushed out of the system taking the impurities with it. This patented freeze and melt system has show a 93%* reduction of bacteria and 87% of mold in indoor environments.
By using cutting-edge tech like this combined with plants, you can guarantee yourself one of the most comfortable and clean home office spaces.
Home Office Setup
Now, what about the space itself? Let’s take a look at how to set up your home office for success and the things to keep in mind to maximize your productivity.
Assign a Dedicated Space
Firstly, it’s to decide on which space you will dedicate to your office. Not all of us have a separate office at home, so a simple solution to this is allocating a particular desk or chair from which you work. What’s important is that this dedicated space is only used for work and is left alone or has its details changed when the day is over.
For smaller homes, a simple trick can be changing little details around you so that you have a visible change to your home when you are working and not. For example, say you are working a desk that usually holds your alarm clock, book and items of jewellery on it. Put these away and replace them with items that represent work; an agenda, post-it notes, wall calendar etc. Then, after the working day is done, reverse the process and bring out the more personal elements once again.
Aim for Natural Light
If you can, choose a room where you have access to natural light via a window or door. Numerous studies over the years have proven that natural light and views can decrease stress, improve mood and boost concentration. It’s also been connected to better sleep patterns because of the sun’s impact on our internal clocks and serotonin levels. If you don't have the adequate means to set up your home office next to a window, then use your breaks to go outside and take a breather.
It’s also important to make sure any light source doesn’t produce glare, isn’t too bright and doesn’t shine directly into the eye or on the peripheral, this includes natural light, desk lamps and overhead lighting. By arranging lighting appropriately, you’ll be more comfortable and focused.
Be Prepared for Video Conferences
Though this should be a given, you’d be surprised by the number of remote workers that forget to spruce up their background and find themselves face to face with colleagues or clients. When working at home, feel comfortable in your surroundings but be ready to tweak them to project a professional image to the best of your ability. One of the easiest ways to guarantee success is to select a space that has bare walls or minimal decoration behind you and that doesn’t let those viewing see too much of your personal environment.
Failing the above, hopefully the video conferencing platform that you use allows you to select the backdrop and you can create a vision of calm and order.
Organised and Clutter-free
Just as it’s wise to keep your video conference minimal, the same can be said for your desk.
Having an organized and clutter-free desk should be on your list of priorities, especially at the end of the day so that when you return to work the following morning, it doesn’t scream ‘chaos’ at you.
One of the top reasons for keeping a tidy desk is to reduce distractions and it’s also a simple way to help boost your confidence and reduce stress.
Though each of us will have different takes on what represents clutter, the trick is to try and not let your desk become messy with papers, mugs, toys or mail. So during breaks, collect and clear away any items encroaching on your office space.
A Comfortable Chair is a Must
If there is one investment you make, then a comfortable chair should be it and, if possible, an ergonomic one. If you are well accustomed to the office environment, you’ll know how essential it is to have a chair that is designed to make sitting as physically sound as possible, whilst keeping you focused, upright and calm.
Preferences and budgets will determine which chair is the right one for you, but, whilst it might be tempting to make do with the chair from the dining table, splashing out on a suitable seat will save you a lot of pain (literally).
Screen Height for Improved Posture
Just as it is important to have the right chair for the job, you also need to make sure that your computer screen is at the right height. To gauge the correct height, the top of the screen should be level with the eye line or just below it and placed between 20 to 30 inches in front of you. Making these adjustments will safeguard your health, avoiding slouching, neck pain, inadequate back support and also eye strain.
Perhaps not the most obvious home solution, but opting for a standing desk can be a game-changer for many and ease the pressure being placed on certain points of the body. There is an increasing amount of studies that suggest that sitting down for long periods of time is bad for the health, and for some worse than others, which is why the stand-up desk concept has become popular over the last decade.
To hone the ergonomics of your workspace, use ergotron workspace planner, which suggests the best sitting or standing setup depending on a person’s height. The same for your wrists and arms, reduce the strain on your them by opting for an external keyboard and mouse, even for those using a laptop and tablet.
By using some of the ideas suggested in this guide you can enhance your remote work experience and build your confidence in being able to successfully manage yourself on a daily basis. These are just a handful of the simplest ways to make your workspace a more comfortable and productive place that we hope will be useful for you in your homes.
If you’re interested to know more about our residential cooling and heating climate control solutions, you can discover our full range of systems, here, including heat pumps.
*Tested by Kitasato Research Center of Environmental Science with JCH South East Asia premium VX series. Test no. 2017_40194 : anti-bacterial & anti-mold effects when operating frost wash four times
by Hitachi Cooling & Heating
01 Dec 2020