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8 tips for a pleasant working environment when working from home

by Bianca Scholtz
8 tips for a pleasant working environment when working from home

A lot of office employees have been working from home since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. For some, it’s a long-awaited dream come true while others are lost because it’s a completely new situation. One important thing that shouldn’t be underestimated for working productively at home is your working environment – after all, you spend several hours a day there.
In this article, we will give you some tips on how to design and organise your workspace.

1. Choose a suitable location for your workspace

Remember that you spend quite a few hours a day at your desk. So it should be in a nice place in your apartment or house. There’s no sense in putting it in an unheated bedroom, for example, if it’s so cold that you’re just going to end up under a blanket on the sofa. If possible, place it in a bright and warm area, while making sure to avoid glare on the screen.
Some other important aspects are peace and quiet and few distractions – if your family watches TV in the living room, that’s definitely not the place for you. If working from home is only temporary and the needs of several people have to be meet, you may need to be a bit more flexible and move between rooms. But this shouldn’t become a permanent arrangement.

2. Pay attention to ergonomics

Just like in your office, you should also pay attention to healthy posture at home. The sofa is surely a tempting place to work. But after you’ve spent 8 hours there, you (or your back) will come to the painful realisation that it isn’t good for your posture. The wrong working posture can cause serious damage to your back in the long run. If it’s foreseeable that you are going to be working from home for a long time, you should preferably invest in an ergonomic desk and a matching desk chair. You can also ask your employer if they will subsidise the furniture.
However, if you’re going to be working at your regular office again 5 days a week again after the Corona crisis, that kind of investment makes little sense. Nevertheless, you should still watch your posture. Always take breaks and move around – maybe take a short walk through the neighbourhood – and try to change your working posture regularly.
Tip: A ball pillow that you place on your work chair is an inexpensive acquisition that you can later use at the office. It forces you to constantly adjust your sitting posture, which in turn trains your back muscles.

3. Furnish your workplace the way you like

Once you’ve found a suitable place for your workspace, you should give it some personality. That will also make it more enjoyable for you when you’re working. From patterned file folders to flowering potted plants, you should treat yourself to something beautiful for your desk. But don’t overdo it because too much can be a distraction. For example, avoid tear-off calendars with daily puzzles or the like because they are an excellent invitation to read when you’re faced with an unpleasant task that you would rather postpone. You know what we mean…
Also make sure you have everything you need for the job within easy reach. If you have to get up every time you have to punch a hole in a sheet of paper or need a paper clip, your concentration will always be thrown off, which will affect your work flow.

4. Separate the professional from the private

Ideally, you should set up a separate room at home so you can just close the door behind you at the end of the workday. If the transition between home and office is fluid, you will no longer feel comfortable in your own four walls in the long run because your thoughts will be focused on work from morning to night.
For a lot of people who were still working at an office until a few days ago, a separate home office isn’t an option because they will probably have to go back to their regular office after a few weeks anyway. However, it’s still important that you set up a fixed workspace, at least temporarily, which serves only one purpose. That will make it easier for you to work in a disciplined way. It can even be a small corner in your living room or bedroom. And if you need the table for other things, you should at least keep your workspace out of view after the end of the workday. That could mean, for example, that you clear the desk completely and store your supplies in a mobile container or cupboard. You could also use a room divider to visually separate your workspace from the living room.

5. Pay attention to the right clothing

The thought of spending the whole day in comfortable, baggy clothing is surely tempting. But it isn’t a good idea, because your clothes unconsciously affect your working posture. If you’re wearing pajamas you will probably find it difficult to put yourself into the mood to work. Of course, you don’t have to sit at your desk in a suit or business attire. It’s best to wear comfortable but neat clothes that you would also wear at the office. Make sure your clothes are clean and your blouse or shirt is ironed – then you’ll always be ready for spontaneous video calls and always look professional even in front of your home screen.

6. Make sure you aren’t disturbed

Whether it’s your partner, children, flat mate or pet: Those who live with you need to learn that working from home doesn’t mean free time. You need quiet to make progress – because even if you interrupt your work “only very briefly”, it will take quite a while before you can concentrate on your work again. In the end, that means that you will spend more time on your tasks and have less free time in the evening.
If you’re working from home and also need to look after your children at the same time because schools and daycare centres are closed due to the Corona crisis, this can be especially difficult. You can certainly make arrangements with older children because they can also do things on their own. Try to find childcare for younger children or coordinate with the other parent.
Our personal tip: If you really can’t go out during a curfew, talk to your employer. They will certainly understand that you just can’t work full time when you have to look after small children at the same time. Stay up to date on any regulations from the government and authorities. The situation is changing every day.

6. Maintain contact with colleagues and supervisors

While working from home, you’re not only missing out on coffee breaks and lunch with colleagues, but also on conversations with people with whom you can discuss ideas and problems. Now in particular is when you probably want to keep up to date with how your colleagues are doing. It’s also difficult for supervisors and even customers to get an overview of your work progress. So set up scheduled appointments to maintain contact with your customers and supervisors. With your colleagues, on the other hand, it’s best to set up a group in an instant messaging app. So you can also exchange information during your coffee break at home.
[Optional: In this article, you will find some handy tools that will help you stay in touch with your colleagues while working from home. [Insert link to Article 2 “Collaboration tool”]]

6. Be sure to take regular breaks

You absolutely need regular breaks to be able to work productively. We recommended a mixture of scheduled breaks and spontaneous ones when you just can’t concentrate anymore. The scheduled breaks could be, for example, lunch with your family or flat mates. If you live alone or there aren’t any other adults at home, a quick cooking break (You’ll be surprised what you can conjure up in 30 minutes) can help you clear your head for a minute. If someone else does the cooking, a meal together is a pleasant opportunity for a brief exchange – so everyone doesn’t start feeling lonely. For short breaks, you can set an alarm that takes you away from your desk for five to ten minutes every two hours. But you should work consistently until it rings.
One last tip: You really should use your breaks to rest. When you surf the Internet, you don’t really relax, and there’s a risk that you’ll lose track of time and not be able to finish your work in the allotted time. Get up, stretch, maybe take a short walk or even do a mini-workout. In other words: Do something to clear your head.

7. Stick to scheduled working hours

If no one is checking when you arrive at work, it can be a struggle to get started – especially with unpleasant tasks. Fixed rituals will help you make steady progress and not get stressed when deadlines are approaching. A scheduled working day also prevents you from accumulating unlimited overtime instead of resting.
Small rituals can help you start work on time. If you always used to have a cup of coffee before leaving home, keep up this ritual before you sit down at your desk. Maybe you like to go jogging in the morning, take a shower and then start the day fit. There’s no limit to your imagination here. The important thing is that you send the signal to yourself with the ritual that you’re about to start work.
The same applies to the end of the day because you now no longer have the commute as a ritual to prepare you for your off time. Deliberately introduce another ritual to end your workday. Move your laptop out of sight, clear your desk, take a short walk, etc. The mental distinction between work and leisure is important.

8. Avoid distractions

You should remove anything that might distract you from your work during working hours. When working from home, there are two main factors that can lead to procrastination: household chores and computer apps that you also use for your private life. To maintain your concentration, it’s worth setting fixed times for your household chores and keeping two separate user accounts on your PC – one for work and one for home.
It should also be emphasised here that it’s essential that you make arrangements with your co-habitants – children, partners or flat share members – so they don’t constantly interrupt you. If everyone respects your working hours, if you don’t wander off into the vast world of the Internet and if you keep your household under control, you’ll be in great shape.

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