I’ve been working from home for 22 years now, 21 of them full time. I’ve worked from spare rooms and from sheds. I’ve parked laptops on dining tables and on desks. And I’ve worked all by myself and in a house full of kids. I’ve learnt a few things I think will help you when you’re working from home.
1. Be good to your bum (and your back)
A really good chair is one of the best things you’ll ever buy. My one, a Herman Miller (opens in new tab) Mirra, was around £500 fifteen years ago and it’s still going strong. It’s survived two dogs’ attempts to chew it, two children’s attempts to destroy it and many thousands of hours of me sitting on it. You can cut all kinds of corners when you’re working from home, but I don’t think your chair should be one of them. You’ll spend much more time on it than on your sofa.
2. Get a separate space
Whether it’s a hideaway secretary desk (opens in new tab), an entire room or a garden office (lucky you!) it’s important to keep your work area separate. That way work doesn’t creep into family time or me-time, and vice versa.
3. Protect your floors
Office chairs with wheels can do serious damage to laminate floors and carpets. Get a protector (opens in new tab) or a rug.
4. Get a really good desk
Dining tables are fine for the odd bit of work, but if you’re going to do long shifts it’s really important to have enough room and to have everything in the right place. I’d strongly recommend a keyboard tray and a desk or laptop stand (opens in new tab) that puts the top of your screen at roughly eye level.
5. Don’t do video calls in front of a window
Even really good webcams (opens in new tab) struggle with that much direct light and tend to make you look awful. My one makes me look like a clown.
6. Light is important
Natural light makes a huge difference to how you feel, but glare makes it hard to see your computer screen so make sure you’re not trying to work in direct sunlight. At night, good quality task lighting (opens in new tab) can help reduce eye strain. It can help you look good in video calls, too.
7. Get outside if you can
On a good day it’s nice to work outside, especially if you’ve got outdoor space and nice garden furniture (opens in new tab). Invest in a decent umbrella if you don’t have naturally shady areas, though. Laptops become very hard to read in direct sunlight and don’t like getting too hot, so it’s wise to shade them as well as yourself.
8. Upgrade your Wi-Fi
Unless you have a really hopeless broadband service, the weakest link in your home Wi-Fi setup is probably your router. The ones that come supplied by broadband providers are often pretty awful. Investing in a good quality router (opens in new tab) can dramatically improve both speed and range.
9. Don’t work all day
We’re not made to stare at screens all day. Take regular breaks to give your eyes and arms a rest.
10. Buy a keyboard and a mouse
If you’re using a laptop, your hands and wrists will thank you for it.
11. Invest in some headphones
Good quality headphones (opens in new tab) can shut out the outside world or just give you a nice soundtrack to your working day. We’re big fans of wireless Bluetooth ones that we can use outside the office too.
12. Get an Instant Pot or a slow cooker
Not strictly a work tip, I know, but it’s easy to end up snacking instead of eating healthily when you’re working from home. Slow cooking (opens in new tab), or fast slow cooking with an Instant Pot (opens in new tab), doesn’t need any attention; just chuck the ingredients in and let them do their thing while you do yours.
13. Stay warm (and cool)
It’s not a big issue in the warmer months but when the weather turns you’ll want to be warm all day. Don’t heat the entire flat or house if it’s just you: stick a portable radiator (opens in new tab) under or next to your working space or get a Dyson heater (opens in new tab). They will keep you cosy without running up massive bills. And a good-sized fan on or near your desk is a must in the summer. Just make sure it’s a quiet one.
14. Get a SAD lamp
Many people feel they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the cooler months when we’re not getting much sun. I’ve found a SAD lamp (opens in new tab) on the side of my desk helps keep the blues at bay.
15. Get out of your dressing gown
Getting ready for work helps you get into the right frame of mind each morning. It also means you get fewer funny looks from couriers if you aren’t still in your PJs at 4pm.