It’s a time of change, it’s a time of novelty. Now that working from home, telecommuting or working remotely is a new reality for many due to social distancing and lockdowns, I am preparing myself to teach and blog from my living room for the foreseeable near future. Recent studies show that remote employees that work online from anywhere are far more productive than in a standard office as they require less time to get ready or commute to work. Let’s see if I can put this theory to the test while creating a comfy home office with hopefully the best home office layout design I can come up with.
Analysis of my Current Work Situation at School and Home
So far, I have mainly taught in the classroom on a daily basis so this was my main work place. Here, I would have a desk with a laptop and I would spend probably one to two quarters of my day documenting, communicating and sharing my classroom work on the computer. The rest of the work day would be actively teaching, preparing activities, cleaning or tidying and of course most importantly interacting.
I have therefore never really set up a so called home office. I usually work on my laptop when blogging, sitting on my sofa, my bed or my bean bag when I am at home. With the majority of my time being spent using the computer during this isolation period, I probably will have to change that. Because apparently posture and efficiency are better in a properly set up home office.
How to rearrange the Home and Routine for a better Home Office Experience?
Online orders have shot up during national lockdowns and so it is only natural that I start to browse Amazon and Co. for some home office equipment. However, I don’t want to rearrange my whole living room, so I try to look into options to use the furniture I already have and how to optimise it.
What can I change in my living room/main home office space?
I have a dining table and an office chair. It’s a good height and provides sufficient space. During the first few days I work from here. I feel good, I hold video conference calls and write documents, emails, articles, but somehow I don’t enjoy facing the wall opposite me. I remember that I have an empty space next to my big balcony window with a view out to Canary Wharf. I purchase a foldable home office desk with two slim tables that are adjustable in height and wheels so that it is mobile.
I create space for all my things and I feel better looking out the window every now and then and enjoying the light coming in. Another plus is that I’m not next to the fridge any longer, which is tempting to eat more and take more short breaks. Maybe because I am “locked in”, I have more of a desire to look out. I improve my posture by alternating between working while sitting and standing up whenever I feel a need to. This also helps me from getting a stiff neck and back, which I tend to get easily. In between I can stretch or do a few yoga poses to refresh my body and mind.
What else to consider apart from the office space?
Since I won’t spend much at this stage, I want to focus on the basics plus the non-material aspects.
Light: Looking at the light, I feel having the desk by the window is a good choice as I’m utilising the natural light as much as possible. I won’t really need a desk lamp for most of the day and by that I also save energy. The sunlight streaming in doesn’t cause any disruption as my desk is in front of the wall, so not directly in the sun. We all know that natural sunlight has a lot of health benefits like being a good source of Vitamin D or increasing energy levels and productivity, so I’m happy with this decision.
Space Organisation: Taking a look at the organisation of the space around my desk, I have everything I might need to grab or get near me on my shelves. By that I’m avoiding time loss to fetch documents, gadgets or office tools. It’s not cluttered, but organised in different drawers and shelves, so it’s easily available.
Nutrition and noise: My living room is open plan and the kitchen is part of it. The good thing about it is that I don’t have to go far to grab a drink or food. The bad thing is that it can be tempting to take more snack breaks. However, staying hydrated throughout the day is important for a good performance level. And obviously eating healthy and light meals, so having fruits and vegetables handy should do the job. The other aspect is noise. There aren’t many loud noises around me usually, but of course, preparing food in the kitchen can be distracting. If that was the case, I could consider wearing headphones, playing my music playlist on Spotify or my audio book on Audible. Another tip for people who work better with white noise are sites like Coffitivity or Noisli for background noise that improves focus and productivity.
Movement: As already mentioned, my adjustable desk allows me to stand up instead of sitting when I feel like it. While standing I could make calls, hold video chats and virtual meetings or record videos such as tutorials. Writing also works while standing, but works slightly better when being seated I feel in terms of my posture. Because my office desk is mobile, I can move it around in my living room, which enables me to watch something on my laptop while cooking for example. However, it is also important for me to allocate time slots where I stretch, do some yoga or a quick workout.
Scheduling: I realise that I need to structure my day more effectively. The morning is probably the best time to be active and use the energy to hold meetings, record videos, delegate tasks and make phone calls. The afternoon is more suitable for writing and editing tasks, where I have to be focused and should avoid interruptions through messages and phone calls. It’s obviously not always possible to stick to the schedule, but to have a rough outline of the work day helps to get things done effectively with a goal in mind. Breaks should also be part of this. I usually take a snack break and a movement break every 2-3 hours. I have also found it useful to set myself goals for the day in the morning that are achievable in a day, which lead to achieving my long-term goals set out for the month or year. I use my Paulo Coelho planner for this and prefer to note it down in a handwritten manner.
Me-time: I start the day with a 10 minute meditation and a physical exercise to get ready for work. Mostly I do 30 minutes of yoga or HIIT exercises. This wakes me up, prepares me and helps me plan the day ahead. I just have a coffee and a smoothie before getting started with work. My couch is next to my desk so if I feel like taking a little time out, I can just briefly lie down or take my bean bag to the balcony to catch a bit of sun for a breather.
Lessons From Remote Working during Lockdown #1
Lesson #1: Working from home has been challenging at times, especially with regards to delivering education in the same format and way as in the classroom at school and there are certainly many limitations to overcome in the future to provide remote learning and teaching at a high level that is satisfactory for everyone involved. I have covered these challenges in more detail on the UK Education Blog:
Lesson #2: Overall, it has been a pleasant experience though for me personally. I felt I could be more productive while using the additional time I had for outstanding tasks, because I didn’t have to commute. I also had more time to exercise and communicate with others via video chat and messaging platforms and was therefore able to devote more time to pastoral or team-related matters. This was vital during this period of complete isolation from colleagues, students and all other social contacts.
Lesson #3: I can certify that improving my home office has helped me feeling better working on the computer all day long and has improved my focus and enjoyment while working. I would highly recommend an adjustable and mobile desk to alternate between standing, sitting and moving around. There’s a reason why Microsoft Eyes Guard reminds us to take short breaks every 30 minutes or so. One should also bear this in mind when scheduling meetings to ensure they have 5 minute breaks in between each. I have written articles about home office improvement options:
Activities one can do during a lockdown in London:
And possible home business ideas in case you are inspired or are considering moving into online work: 48 Home Business Ideas Guide
Blogger and Educator by Passion | Senior Online Media & PR Strategist at ClickDo Ltd. | Contributor to many Education, Business & Lifestyle Blogs in the United Kingdom & Germany | Summer Course Student at the London School of Journalism and Course Instructor at the SeekaHost University.