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Working from home during coronavirus: Setting up your space

COVID-19 is having a big impact on daily life, and many of us are now finding ourselves working from home for an unknown period of time.

If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, you’re hopefully pretty much good to go. But if you don’t have that space available, here are some practical pointers to help you get set up.

Setting up your workspace

Just as your usual workplace is set up to help us collaborate and do our job productively, it’s important to try and create the right working environment at home.

Creating a work space

First of all, you need to decide where your work space is going to be. Try to create yourself a dedicated work space, even if it’s just a corner of your dining room.

Try and find a spot where you’re least likely to be disturbed by potential distractions, including children and other family members, who may now be around for all or part of your working day.

This doesn’t mean your work area has to be a permanent set-up: it could be an area you only set up during working hours, but it does need to have the equipment and environment you need to work effectively.

Creating a dedicated space will help you have the mindset that when you’re there, you’re at work. It’ll also give some definition between work and home which can be tricky when working remotely.

Getting the technology sorted

From VPNs to monitors, our home set-up can often be very different to the office environment.

If your organisation has an IT team, the first step is to make sure you have their contact details in case you’re struggling to get or stay connected.

You may also need to think about alternative ways of keeping in touch in case you’re unable to use your usual work equipment or connection. This could be as simple as exchanging personal mobile numbers and starting a team WhatsApp group.

Working in a healthy way

When you’re at work, your employer has a duty of care to make sure that your working environment is safe and any risks have been minimised.

Now that you’re creating your own workspace at home, it’s important to think about how you’ll take care of your own health and safety. That includes not only electrical appliances and furniture, but also the way in which you work.

Make sure you have a chair that supports your lower back and allows you to sit up comfortably. Just be aware that tables and chairs at home can be a different height from standard work stations so, for computer work, make sure your chair height allows your forearms to rest comfortably on your work surface so that your elbows are roughly at right angles.

Some employers may be open to you taking home key pieces of equipment, such as your chair, keyboard and monitor, so be sure to ask your line manager if this is possible.

It’s also important to avoid repeated movements or staying in the same position for too long: the easiest way to do this is to vary your tasks so you avoid repeating the same movements for prolonged periods of time using the same parts of your body.

You can also do this by getting up and stretching every so often and make sure you take regular breaks. If you’re finding this hard, try setting a timer on your phone to make sure you get up every hour.

There are many free apps out there that can help you keep healthy habits. Take a look at ones like Stretchly, OutStanding, or Micro Breaks.

And finally, it’s really important that you adhere to any arrangements your employer may introduce to reduce risks. This may be through equipment provided, a process for reporting accidents or symptoms of ill health.

For more information on how to look after yourself when working from home, download our Working from Home guide for employees.

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