Make sure your home office doesn’t work against you

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Anthony Hill, Geeks2U’s Technical Director, authored the below blog for SmartCompany.

If you’re trying to get some work done at home then it pays to have a productive workspace.

These days lots of people tend to knock over some work at home. Sometimes it’s the unavoidable downside of a demanding job, putting in a few hours during the evening or weekend in order to stay on top of things. Other times it’s by choice, with the trend towards flexible work hours helping people strike a better work/life balance.

Whatever the reason, when you’re working at home your first thought might be to just plonk down your notebook or tablet on the dining room table and get to it. If you’re working at home regularly then it’s worth taking the time to set up a healthy and productive workspace. You’ll get more work done and your back will thank you for it.

Before you go on a tech shopping spree, the first step is to think about an ergonomically sound workspace.  You might not be able to spare an entire room as a home office, but it’s still important to think about location – whether you’ve got a desk tucked away in a corner or the dining room table is doubling as your office for the day.

Posture is important – don’t sit on the couch for extended periods with a tablet or notebook on your lap. In the ideal workspace the top of your monitor should be at eye level when you’re seated. Your arms should hang down straight by your sides, putting your elbows level with the keyboard or perhaps slightly above. This posture ensures that your neck remains straight when you’re looking at the screen and your wrists remain straight while you type.

Your average dining table is too high, and the chairs too low, to meet these requirements. Sitting on firm cushions can help, but a better solution is to wheel in an office chair from another room – preferably with adjustable height and backrest.

Alternatively you might invest in a folding table as a makeshift desk, something lower than your dining room table which can easily fold away when you’re not using it. One advantage of this arrangement is that it forces you to tidy up after yourself each day, which can help keep the peace if you don’t live alone.

Using the right table and chair helps keep your back and arms straight, but it still leaves you bending your neck to look down at your notebook or tablet.

If you’re putting in a lot of work hours at home but you don’t want to buy a desktop PC, it still might be worth investing in an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. The extra screen real estate compared to your notebook or tablet comes in handy but, more importantly, this arrangement lets you raise the monitor closer to eye level. Another option is a stand to elevate your notebook.

While you’re revamping your workspace, it’s important to think about lighting. It’s not just a question of switching to a brighter bulb, you should also aim for diffused lighting rather than a single bright light directly overhead. Ensure there are no light sources in your field of vision and also watch out for screen glare and other reflections which can cause eye strain.

We don’t all have the space and budget to build the perfect home office, but with a few simple tweaks you can make your home workspace a lot more user friendly.

David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.

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David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.

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