With the flexibility that comes with working from home, it’s no wonder why about 1.3 million of us (and counting!) choose to swap stuffy offices for the comforts of home. Whether you work better at certain times of the day, or you want to carve out more family time with your loved ones, choosing to work from home allows you the flexibility to create a lifestyle that you can really enjoy.
If working from home is something you plan on doing long-term, then you need to create the right environment to make sure that you have the best set-up possible. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to working from home. From setting up a home office to protecting your health and your loved ones, find out everything you need to know to do it right.
Creating an office space at home
Sure, working from home means you have the luxury of just opening your laptop from the comfort of your couch and getting stuck in, but that’s not going to work for you long term.
To start on the right foot, you need to create a space for yourself where you can easily switch on and off from work.
If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room then you can get to work turning this into a home office. Not everyone can do this though, some have to make do with what they already have. Luckily, with a few clever tricks and a bit of planning, you can create a workspace almost anywhere.
You don’t need a whole room to create a workspace, you just need a desk, a good chair and somewhere that you won’t be distracted by other things in your home. Try not to do work in your bedroom. This could be tough if you don’t have any other space but keeping your bedroom as a place to unwind in helps your mind associate being in bed with being asleep. This can help you to have a more restful sleep at the end of the day, which is especially important after a long day of work.
Make sure your work area is well lit. If possible, try to find an area that is near as much natural light as possible. When using a laptop or monitor, try to make sure that there are no windows directly behind or in front of you. This can cause eye-strain. Instead, try to sit adjacent to a window, so the light is coming in from the side. Desk lamps are helpful for those dull and dark days.
Wherever it is that you chose to work, remember to keep it tidy. When working from home it can be easy to get distracted, and a messy workspace won’t help this. Remember, a clean desk will help you to maintain a clean mind, which in turn helps you to focus your full attention on your work.
Looking after your physical health while working from home
Now that you have your set-up sorted, it’s important to think about how this could affect you long-term. You might not realise just how much your desk, chair, and monitor could impact your health if you’re not careful.
You might be tempted to just use your kitchen table and chair to work on. While this is okay short term if you’re stuck, you should try to avoid doing this. A good desk and chair is essential to help protect you from injury and strain. A little investment is worth it to help keep your body healthy.
Do you need storage, space for two monitors, space for a lamp, or a desk that you can feed wires through? Try to think about all of this before you purchase your desk so you can make the transition as smooth as possible.
Make sure that you get a desk that is the right height for you. Many desks will be a standard height but think about where you need it to be for you to sit at it comfortably. Everything should be within easy reach so you don’t have to strain yourself.
Your chair is going to have a big impact on how comfortable you are while working. You should adjust your chair so that you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. Your elbows should be by the side of your body, forming an ‘L’ shape and your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. This can help prevent repetitive strain injuries. Remember to rest your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest if necessary. Try to avoid crossing your legs, this will help to keep your posture aligned properly.
You should look for a chair that properly supports your back so that you reduce your risk of developing back pain. An adjustable chair could help you to support your back throughout the day while still allowing you to move about as needed.
The top of your screen should be in line with your eye level. Place it directly in front of you about an arm’s length away. Remember to position your screen in a place that won’t be reflecting sunlight or other light sources which could cause eye strain.
You might need to get a monitor stand or a separate keyboard for your laptop to help you set up properly.
Looking after your mental health while working from home
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you’re used to working in an office environment or in a job that’s really social, working from home could be a shock to the system. Here are a few simple things you could do to help look after your mental health while working from home.
Create a routine
Try to establish a routine as soon as possible to help you to create a firm boundary between home and work life. This means you should get up, get ready for your day, and eat lunch at around the same time every day. You should try to keep a routine that would be similar to what you would do if you were going to an office.
Remember that just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re working alone. Try to stay connected with colleagues, friends, and family. Regular interaction with people outside your home will help to keep your social life healthy and give you a break from your work.
Take regular breaks
Remember to get up and move about often. It can be easy to stay put for hours without realising it, so set reminders if you have to. Not only will it give your body a break, but it will also help to keep your mind fresh. If you can, try to get out for a short walk on your lunch break too. This can help to break up your day and gives you what could be a much-needed change of scenery.
Building good habits
As humans, we’re hardwired to build habits. We’re naturally drawn to doing the same kind of things each day, like eating at a particular time, taking the same route to the local shop, and going to sleep around the same time each night.
Unfortunately, when it comes to habits, it can be very easy to pick up some bad ones. Most of the time you might not even notice that it’s happened, but your bad habits could be having a big impact on your life.
So, when you start working from home, one of the most important things to do is to get to work building those good habits that will help you to lead a healthier life. Here are a few good habits to have that could help you to stay in tip-top shape…
Eating a healthy diet
When you start working from home it could take you a while to settle into a new routine. You could find that you don’t have to get up as early as you no longer have a commute, so you now eat breakfast at a later time in the day. This could disrupt your usual eating habits and have you feeling hungry at odd times. Don’t worry though, stick to your new eating times and you’ll quickly adjust to this new routine.
Try to avoid having too many unhealthy snacks in the house. Now that you’ll be at home during the day, you could find yourself snacking more often. If you are feeling peckish, try to opt for something healthy, like some fruit or veggies.
Dehydration not only affects your health, it affects your ability to work too. If you’re not getting enough water during the day, you could feel groggy, tired and irritable. This could have a huge impact on not only your performance at work but also your attitude to it.
While you might be drinking a lot of coffee, tea or flavoured drinks, you could still suffer from dehydration if you’re not getting enough water. Try to drink between 2-3 litres of water a day. If you find that it’s a difficult habit to get into, set some regular alarms on your phone to remind you during the day.
If you work outside your home, you’re more likely to get a bit of extra exercise in during the day. So when you make the transition to working from home, you could find that you’re suddenly a lot less active than you had been. It’s important to get into the habit of exercising regularly throughout the week. Whether it’s a morning walk to wake you up, a gym class on your lunch break or an activity after work, make sure you have something planned to get you moving.
Like all things, when it comes to working from home you might start off strong with a solid routine and some good habits in place but as time goes on things could start to slip a little and then a lot. Before you know it, you might have picked up quite a lot of bad habits that could affect your health in the long run.
It’s normal to sometimes fall back into bad habits and old routines so don’t beat yourself up about it. The important thing is to recognise when this happens and make the changes you need to get back on track.
What happens if I fall ill?
When it comes to our health, most of us just assume that we’ll always be as healthy as we are now. Sure, you might catch a cold the odd time or pick up a bug, but you’re usually right as rain after some medicine and a bit of rest. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Try as we may, none of us can predict the future, and our health is never guaranteed.
What would you do if you became seriously ill while working from home? Do you have a plan in place if you were unable to work for an extended period of time? If your ability to work and earn an income is affected you could find yourself in financial trouble, especially if you’re the main breadwinner of the household.
You might want to think about how you could help protect yourself and your loved ones financially if you were to fall ill suddenly. Life insurance with critical illness cover could offer you some peace of mind knowing that if the worst did happen, you’d have a safety net to catch you.
Whether you see yourself continuing to work from home in the future or you plan on returning to an office at some stage, it’s so important to keep looking after your health. Picking up good habits now and putting the time into making sure you have the best setup to work from home could make all the difference to your health down the line.
When it comes to protecting your future, we can help you to compare life insurance and critical illness cover from the UK’s leading insurers to find the right policy for you. So whatever your health looks like in the future, you can have some peace of mind knowing you have a plan in place if the worst should happen.