Working from Home – Security, Health, Productivity and Well-being
Covid-19 has shaken up our world in every possible way and suddenly having to work from home has been a huge challenge for many of us. As some countries prepare to ease the lockdown, for many employees this will not mean easing back into an office environment. Working from home is likely to remain a constant or at least periodic requirement for months to come.
To help employees adapt to this new reality, we have put together some of the most useful tips on maintaining security, health, productivity and well-being in this new working reality.
Devices – Most large companies will have provided employees with company laptops. Ideally keep these solely for you and your work rather than your partner/flatmate or children’s use. Set it so your screen locks when you are not using it.
Software – Follow company guidelines on what you can and can’t download onto your device. Often what you can download will be out of your control.
Data – Only save company date on your company device and file storage system. If you handle printed material remember that it is confidential and should be destroyed when no longer required.
Remember the Basics – Never give your passwords to anyone, including your IT department and be wary of scams and phishing attempts from criminals posing as people from your company. Think twice before you click any links or attachments from suspicious emails. Criminals have been using the lockdown period to work out new ways of targeting people, so let your IT department know if you see something suspicious or inadvertently click on a spurious link.
Where you choose to work will affect your productivity and your physical health. Though it may be tempting to work on your laptop from the sofa or in bed, this is not a good long-term solution as it can increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Finding a dedicated work spot and adapting its ergonomics can make a real difference. No one working position suites everyone, but the following DIY solutions can help you maintain a better working position:
Table & Chair – Choose a table and chair whose heights mean that when seated, your feet are flat on the floor. Your ankles are at right angles and your knees very slightly lower than your hips.
Elbows – Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees with your forearm supported before the keyboard. Use books/packets of computer paper or boxes under your feet or under your laptop to achieve these heights or sit on a cushion to raise yourself up to the desired height.
Eye Height – Ideally use a separate mouse and keyboard so that you can raise your screen to eye height with books or a laptop stand.
Mouse & Keyboard – Have the mouse and keyboard directly in front of you within easy reach. A laptop sized screen should be about an arm’s length away.
Back Support – If possible, choose a chair with back support and use a rolled-up towel for lumber support. Sit back in the chair so that your lower back and shoulders are against the backrest.
No position is comfortable for long periods of time, so make sure you take mini breaks to stand and stretch. Many of us are moving less as we do not have our daily commute to and from work, so it is important to regularly move. Some people find it useful to set a timer every hour to remind them to stretch. Others make it a habit to do squat exercises whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or the microwave to ping or to stretch their shoulders, neck and fingers whilst on no camera web calls or standing to take phone calls or read documents.
If you haven’t worked from home before, you are unlikely to immediately be as productive as you were in the office, but there are certain things you can implement to help get into a good rhythm.
Schedule – Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each working day and keep to set working hours. Sticking to a schedule helps you create a boundary between your working day and your personal time and helps maintain a good work-life balance.
Goals – Set daily goals. This can help keep you focused as you are likely to have less oversight and direction from your boss.
Breaks – Take regular breaks throughout the day. Set a timer if you need reminding. Physically moving from your workspace can help your energy levels.
Internet – If you share your living quarters, other people’s computer use can slow down your internet. Moving closer to the Wi-Fi router can help, or using an ethernet cable direct to your computer, though you may need an adapter if you are using a laptop.
Distractions – Notifications from the numerous internet platforms and apps people are currently using can be very distracting. Put your phone on airplane mode and disable computer notifications at times you need to concentrate. Consider investing in some noise cancelling headphones if outside noises distract you
Environment – Some people find the silence of working from home a distraction. There are several apps available which mimic the sound of the office or consider virtually working along side a colleague who you used to collaborate with.
Video Conferencing – Having a light source in front of you can greatly enhance your appearance. Natural light from a window or a desk lamp in front of you can stop the cave – like effect of lighting from behind.
Health and Well-being
Boundaries – Whether you find it hard to motivate yourself to work from the kitchen table, or find it hard to stop and switch off in the evening, keeping boundaries between your work and homelife is important for most peoples’ mental health.
Social Interaction – Working from home can be very isolating. As well as regularly talking to family or friends, If your company offers daily/weekly check in calls or recreational events like quiz nights, consider joining them.
Exercise – Don’t ignore your physical well-being. Think about joining one of the myriad of free online workouts, or once lockdown is over, go out for a lunchtime walk to help top up your vitamin D levels.
News Alerts – Be mindful of listening or reading the news constantly. To help lower stress and anxiety levels, consider restricting your news consumption to one or two times a day.
Communication – Discuss in advance with your cohabiters what your working styles are. Will you have scheduled eating and hang out times or will everyone do their own thing? If your internet signal is poor plan in advance who has priority for web calls, schoolwork or recreation pursuits like gaming.
Setting Ground Rules – If you have young children at home, you may need to work in chunks of time, for example 2 hours work followed by 1-hour time for them. If you do not have a partner to share the childcare with, you may need to consider asking your manager if you can be flexible with your hours and work in the evenings or early morning.
Visual Cues – some parents find visual cues help their children understand when they can and can’t be disturbed. A coloured bulb in a lamp outside the door could be illuminated for ‘do not disturb’ and off when it is OK to enter. If your workspace has no door wearing headphones or a baseball cap could indicate when you are occupied.
For all the challenges working from home presents, it is helpful to remember that you are not alone. Most of the world is finding it’s way in this new reality.
8th May 2020