It’s not something we’ve had to think about before: What happens when your family is home all or most of the day, trying to work, do schoolwork, create, cook, exercise and relax?
How are others adjusting to the new normal? Everyday people on Instagram and Twitter are sharing photos of their home office setups. Because so many have had to shift to working at home with little or no warning, some desk setups are humorous or less than optimal.
A turned-over clothes hamper or ironing boards, for instance, do not make great makeshift desks, though a fold-down liquor cabinet has possibilities.
2, 3, 4 or more Work Stations, Oh my!
You might find yourself having to create multiple work spaces – for you, your spouse and your kids for distance learning. Find ways to keep the common areas functional and free of clutter.
Assess all the places in your home as possible work areas, as many people only need a laptop to work from home. It’s important to set aside a quiet space to work in that is your own, or your child’s, and this helps create familiarity and discipline.
Possibilities include a garage, walk-in closet or even a she-shed or other separate structure. Wireless, battery-operated LED puck lights and light bars can illuminate places with little or no electrical wiring when needed.
If you’re limited on horizontal space or width, think about how you can take advantage of any vertical space to make your work-from-home environment as efficient as possible. A drop-down wall mounted desk is a great option.
The Essentials and Ergonomics
Does your “temporary workspace” include your sofa and dining table? Are you ready to trade in your metal folding chair for an ergonomic model? Setting up a dedicated work surface furnished with supportive seating, adequate surface, and sufficient lighting is where the bulk of your investment should be set aside for. The ergonomics of your back, neck, wrists and eyes will thank your later.
The top of the monitor should be at about the height of the eyes. Your work surface should align with your arms from the chair across to the table at a 90-degree angle. This allows your wrists to rest relaxed and supported and leaves an arm’s distance between you and your monitor. Set up the desk for the right height for your children and adjust it as they grow.
You should take breaks and stand up every 30-minutes, change your position, maybe do some stretches, and move around. Also include your children in this break, have a song or two dance party, or some activity they enjoy.
Proper Lighting – Mix Direct and Diffused
Lighting is essential when working from home for two major reasons: first, a well-lit space lends itself to increased productivity. Second, video conferences benefit from a well-lit background.
Eyes tire while staring at a single source/direction of light. An illuminated room mixing both direct and diffused light sources will reduce eye strain.
When setting up your work-from-home space, consider the light sources you have available to you. Pull in a floor or table lamp, sconce, and/or overhead light into your home office. If possible, set up your home office near a window. You may also need to adjust the position of your lamps to optimize your video quality and brightness. Avoid placing lights behind you, as that can cast your face in shadow. Instead, keep your light source in front of you, so that it brightens your space.
Another tip: use mirrors. Hang up a mirror if you don’t already have one. It will reflect light around the room and make your space feel bigger.
Storage and Organization
There is no reason a kitchen cabinet shelf or kitchen drawer can’t be commandeered for work papers, especially if you are working nearby. A small rolling file cabinet, or floating shelves can offer a solution. A bar cart can also take on a new role during quarantine.
Trendy chalkboards and blackboards can be used for your children’s schoolwork, your brainstorming, collaboration and décor. A calendar can double as an art space, your scheduled Zoom meetings, your children’s distance learning online with Teacher schedules.
Keeping it all together is hard, but organized living beats chaos. You need a place to stash your work stuff or it ends up becoming a dumping ground, and messy surfaces covered with work papers can cause anxiety.
Maintaining a clean house can help with overall productivity. Teaching your child to pull their weight and take responsibility for their work space will instill broader values of contributing to family, society and their community. Start small, such as creating a chore chart together, is a great way to have these conversations and to set expectations.
You Zoom, I Zoom, we all Zoom
Maybe you want to make the spot where you spend your days (and maybe nights) more welcoming and video conference-friendly. Bring life into your office with well-placed plants. Some flowers to cheer you up make a nice backdrop for Zoom calls. Snip items from your garden or a houseplant to brighten the office and add something green, even if it’s just a single palm leaf. Personalizing your workspace will help you feel at ease and will also help to make your space conference friendly.
If you have enough room, bring in an extra chair for your spouse or children to come talk to you while you are in your office.
Temporary? Is working from home your new Normal?
Many households were unprepared for the entire family’s transition to working from home. Striking a balance between work and life is a new challenge that many around the world are facing.
Managing your work environment and routine may take a little trial and error. With diligence and commitment to making an at-home work environment your new normal, your children’s and your work spaces will come together in no time. Be as patient as possible and make it as fun as you can. Please share in the comment section below what is working in your home for this “new normal”.