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6 tips for organizing a home office

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Your well-being and, as a result, your productivity depend on how your workplace is organized. In a well-equipped, ergonomic home office, you can do more than usual and feel better at the same time.

Studies show that people who work in an office with a well-thought-out layout, perform tasks more efficiently. For example, a study conducted at a management school at the University of Minnesota showed that workers who replaced their chairs with a treadmill significantly increased their productivity.

At first, due to the unusual way of working, a decline in productivity was observed, but when the participants in the experiment adapted, their performance improved. Productivity has increased, the quality of work and communication with colleagues has improved.

This works in the opposite order: a poorly organized workspace can be harmful to health and reduce work efficiency. Here are a few problems that can arise from an ill-conceived workplace:

  • occupational diseases of muscles and bones,
  • diseases of the cervical spine,
  • shoulder pain
  • wrist pain
  • lower back pain
  • tunnel syndrome
  • elbow pain
  • eye strain due to insufficient lighting,
  • stress due to noise or clutter,
  • weight gain due to sedentary work.

Unfortunately, many freelancers do not pay enough attention to their home offices. And given the fact that the freelancer is paid for the work done, he loses not only his health, but also his money in an uncomfortable workplace. After all, the less its productivity, the less income.

How is your workplace arranged?

Beginner freelancers often buy used or just cheap furniture for their home office. And when their business goes uphill, they are just too busy to change furniture or somehow improve their office. So their jobs are not very comfortable.

There are several ways to improve your home office right now. Look at your desk, at the technique you are using, at the chair. It is worth arranging these items correctly, and the degree of comfort will increase significantly.

Desktop

If you use a regular table, it should be high enough so that you do not have to bend over it. At the same time, it should not be so high that you have to wring your wrists while writing or working at a computer. The correct height of the table depends on your height.

Specialists at one of the largest medical centers in the world, the Mayo Clinic, made several recommendations for creating an ergonomic workspace. According to their advice, the table should be no higher than 86 cm.

In general, the standard table height is considered to be 75 cm, but this is a common value for a person of average height - 175 cm. How to calculate the ideal table height for yourself? Multiply your height in centimeters by 75 and divide by 175. For example, my height is 163 cm, which means that the ideal table height for me will be about 70 cm.

Checking how this height suits you is pretty simple. When you sit at such a table, the elbows should lie freely on the countertop, while the shoulders should not rise. In my case, a height of 70 cm was ideal for this parameter.

And do not forget to free up space under your desktop: nothing should bother your feet.

Technique for work

A computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone are quite a common set of a modern freelancer. If you use more than one device, you should think about their location. When the home office is designed to install only one device, ergonomics can suffer.

The arrangement of working equipment affects your comfort, even if you do not notice it. If the screen is too low, for example, when you use the tablet, you work in a bent position, which over time can cause pain in the shoulders and back. If the screen is too high, your neck will suffer.

Here are a few steps to help you use the equipment with great comfort.

1. Select the main device

Adjust your workplace to the device that you use most often, but think about how to use the other devices with great comfort. For example, next to the main desktop, you can place another table for mobile gadgets.

If you have a chair with wheels, you can easily move from one table to another when you need to use something from mobile devices. And to make it more convenient to work with them, use special racks-holders, desktop or floor. They are easily adjustable and place the screen at a height comfortable for work.

2. Check screen height

When you are sitting with your back straight, the screen should be at the level of your gaze. You should not look down or look up. To adjust the height of the screen, you can use special racks.

Well, if you prefer to work on a laptop, you can use an additional monitor so that you do not have to keep your head tilted all the time.

3. Set the correct distance

Your computer should be close enough so that you do not have to lean forward while you work. If, sitting with a straight back, you can touch the monitor with your fingertips, the distance is chosen correctly. If you have to reach out, the monitor is too far away, but if you can put your palm on it, it's too close.

Chair or chair

If you have sedentary work, it is very important to choose a comfortable chair that provides good support for the back.

There are brands of office furniture that focus on workplace comfort. For example, the Herman Miller brand, which produces the well-known ergonomic chair Aeron, as well as Haworth and Humanscale, which focus on environmental cleanliness and ergonomics of furniture.

Yes, these chairs are not cheap. The cost of a new ergonomic chair can exceed 100 thousand rubles. However, it is not necessary to buy a new chair, you can take it with you or choose cheaper analogues.

The main thing is that the chair supports the back well - the angle of inclination of the back should be slightly more than 90 degrees so that you can relax the muscles of the back.

Here are the signs of an ergonomic chair:

  • adjustable height
  • support for the back, especially for the lumbar,
  • the armrests are on par with the keyboard,
  • the back can bend, spring under the weight of the body.

Body position

Even the most ergonomic workstation will not help you maintain health and increase productivity if you work in the wrong position, such as stoop.

Here are some tips for getting the right posture:

  • Adjust the height of the chair and the position of the hands. Sit so that both feet are on the floor and the angle between the thigh and lower leg is 90 degrees.
  • Check back support. If your chair does not provide good support, place a pillow to relieve tension on the lumbar.
  • Place the chair in the center of the workplace. You should be clearly opposite your main home screen.
  • Sit straight. Do not slouch or lean on the table.
  • Take regular breaks. Even if your desk pose is perfect, there is nothing good about sitting all day.

Alternative workstations

If you experience discomfort or worry that your work is too sedentary, consider installing an alternative workstation.

There are many workplace options, and not all of them include a table and chair. Here are some examples of alternatives:

  • table for standing work,
  • fitness ball as a chair,
  • a table with a treadmill,
  • orthopedic knee stool.
Orthopedic knee stool

Most freelancers choose desks to work at which they can work while standing.

Samantha Gluck, a freelance journalist, explained why she chose a standing job:

I spent a lot of time sitting. And all this time she was looking for a way to improve her health. I thought: I’ll try, and if I don’t like it, I will work as before. Since then I have never worked as before.

Samantha has been using the desk for standing work for about two and a half years. Her regular working sessions at this table last about three hours and can last up to five hours.

Freelance writer Jennifer Mattern, who has been using a stand-alone workstation since 2010, spends three to four hours a day behind it and alternates with other places to work:

I love to jump from place to place. I move from my chair to the chair, and then to the table for work while standing, and then back.

Finding the right alternative

Everyone initially has problems finding the perfect alternative to a regular table. Most often, problems relate to the high price of special workstations. If you can not afford expensive furniture or do not want to invest in the arrangement of the workplace, you can independently create a table for standing work.

For example, put a large book under the monitor to raise it to the desired level, and put the keyboard and mouse on a separate, slightly higher table.

Left - Samantha Glack workstation, right - Jennifer Mattern workstation

Or make it like Jennifer Mattern, who also assembled her workstation from ordinary furniture. She put on the cabinet a modular shelf unit with legs, not him - a small box, on top - her laptop.

Well, if you can make a table yourself, there is a lot of room for imagination. On a homemade workstation, you can place all the necessary equipment.

The main thing is that the monitor is at the level of your eyes or slightly lower, so that you do not have to bend your head.

And of course, you should take care of the convenient placement of the keyboard, for example on a separate table. You can buy a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and use it with a laptop or tablet without any problems.

In addition, you need to take care of the flooring, for example, put a mat so that your legs do not get tired.

Benefits of an Alternative Workplace

Freelancers who choose a table for work while standing, note a positive effect on health: back problems disappear, fatigue from sedentary work is relieved. In addition, the concentration and clarity of mind increases, the amount of useless surfing on the Internet decreases.

Jennifer Mattern noticed that such a workplace is also suitable for the lazy: the faster you finish the job, the faster you can sit down, which means you stop being distracted and concentrate on work.

In addition, you can alternate jobs depending on the type of activity. For example, if the task requires concentration, work while sitting, and if you need to conduct research or fluently study some materials - standing.

However, your table and body position are not the only things to consider. The environment also plays an important role.

Workplace environment

Your home office is not only a chair, a table and a monitor. To create a healthy working atmosphere in the house, you need to take care of the environment. Factors like lighting or noise greatly affect your well-being.

Vivian Giang of the University of North Carolina investigated the effects of light on employee productivity. According to the results of the study, light directly affects productivity. An article published on a business school blog claims that both the type and amount of light in an office space are important.

“Cool” light with a color temperature of 3,000 K contributes to increased productivity, but real daylight has the best effect on humans. If a person does not have access to daylight and works in a windowless room, he becomes more irritable and gets tired faster.

According to a study at Northwestern University, workers who have access to real daylight during the day have better health and better mood, are more alert, energetic and productive.

So choose a room with windows to enjoy real daylight during the day.

Noise can not only distract from work, but also adversely affect health. For example, if a living or working room is located next to a noisy street, it can cause stress, disorders of the cardiovascular system, irritability, and sleep problems.

Health problems associated with noise are a fairly common occurrence. According to a report by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, traffic noise affects the health of almost one in three people in Europe.

If your home office is quite noisy, you should take action. Modern soundproofing panels can be easily mounted on your own. Moreover, they also look original and refresh the interior.

For additional soundproofing of the room, you can use carpets, curtains and upholstery, put new high-quality double-glazed windows and thicker solid wood doors.

And most importantly, remember: an ergonomic workplace helps to improve your well-being and work more productively. So all the costs of organizing it can be considered a long-term investment in your business.

Choose the right desk for your space and workflow

Approach this matter with all responsibility. If you are not satisfied with tables that sell ready-made ones, then think about purchasing a table for an individual order. This is justified when the layout of your room is not standard, when you need some additional work surfaces for the job.

Get rid of everything superfluous

When you work at home, you can easily get distracted by a computer game or watching a video. If you look at your home office as a professional space, this will help you maintain motivation to work. Of course, this does not mean that you should get rid of all the trinkets on your table. It can help you figure out what is worth leaving, and what is better to get rid of a simple question - I would leave this item on my desktop if I worked in a large company.

Organize desk drawers

If your desktop has drawers, use them. Such boxes are convenient for storing papers, folders, notebooks. There is, of course, the danger that the boxes will turn from helpers into regular problem areas. Just as some people push clothes into cabinets in order to hide them from their eyes, so over time you will throw off paper and folders into drawers just to remove them from visibility. To prevent this from happening, it is necessary to develop a document storage system and adhere to it (read the article "Document storage system at home").

Organizers for the desktop

Those items that you need while working and which should always be at hand also need proper storage. For office supplies and papers on sale there are special organizers. You can buy them or make them yourself (read the article “Necessary and useful from unnecessary and useless”).

Organization of vertical storage

This means using the wall space above or near the desktop. It is very important to have quick access to books, music or any other medium of information, especially if you work in a rapidly changing environment. It doesn’t matter if you buy shelves or make them yourself, this is a great way to stay organized and eliminate clutter on your desktop.

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