How To Work From Home Effectively | SLMan
There’s more to successful WFH than sticking your desk next to a window and having natural day light. SLMan asked a group of experts what you really need to do to stay productive and healthy. Covering the physical and mental aspects of working from home, here’s what they had to say...

THE SET-UP

Desk 

“With many of us working from home at the moment, it’s really important that our desk setup is right. New research from Bupa UK revealed that 63% of us have injured our back, neck, hips, knees or wrists as a result of their new working-from-home set-up. Get the desk right and your body will thank you for it.” – Michelle Njagi, senior MSK physiotherapist, Bupa

“Style wise, a big desk is a must, especially if you have multiple screens, but I would also suggest having one with a delicate leg style as it will feel lighter in the space. Art deco-style desks, for example, look really cool. If you don’t have a space for a large desk, get something sturdy and ideally with storage, so you can tidy your work away at the end of the day. You could also opt for a standing desk. Most models allow you to adjust the height throughout the day.” Katharine Pooley, interior designer

Chair
“Lower back pain is a common occurrence when sitting uncomfortably for long periods of time. It’s important to change your posture regularly and sit right back in your chair, so the small of your back and shoulders are supported. It can be tempting to sit on the sofa with your laptop, but this could lead to muscle pain. Your chair should be close to your desk and your feet fully on the floor. If your feet are not fully touching the ground, you should prop them on a foot stool or books.” – Michelle
 
“When it comes to design, buy the most expensive desk chair you can afford. You want to create an effortless, designated working environment that is really comfortable but doesn’t stick out from the rest of your home. A stylish desk chair will do just this, plus help to reduce any aches and pains.”  – Katharine

Extras
“When you create a working-from-home space, you need to consider comfort, storage and functionality as priorities. Then temper those considerations with what will be inspiring, positive and attractive to work with. Little extras like artwork, photographs, a diffuser or candle – and either a motivating or relaxing playlist – are great additions. Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your working from home space, even if it’s just a temporary situation.” – Katharine
 

THE TECH

Screen Brightness
“If you are staring at a screen all day, try to make sure you are sitting next to a window or able to get regular access to the outdoors – in your lunch break, for example. High levels of blue-spectrum light can negatively impact sleep due to its effect on the pineal gland, which won’t release the sleep hormone melatonin until it perceives that it is dark. Artificial lighting is generally less beneficial for the brain than natural light. You can add apps like F.lux to your laptop to help shift the light spectrum to the orange end, which is better for your brain and eyes.” Dr Tara Swart, neuroscientist and author

“If you’re working in bright sunlight, and you can’t control the brightness adequately with blinds or curtains, you might want to have a play with your monitor settings for colour, brightness and contrast, and find what combination suits you best. Adjust it throughout the day to ensure the screen is neither too dark nor too bright, as this can damage your eyesight. Your computer’s ‘high contrast’ mode will be useful if you are struggling to see clearly. This can be found in the settings tab of most devices. You can also increase the size of the cursor and the mouse pointer, which will help limit eye strain.” – Mark Beecroft, IT consultant and CEO of Hotech

Screen Position
“When looking at the centre of your monitor or laptop screen, you want to be looking slightly downward. This is the best set-up for your posture, and will reduce back and neck strain. If you have a laptop, a stand can help, but make sure you also get a wireless keyboard and mouse. Raising a laptop with a stand is great for the screen, but often doesn’t result in a very natural position for the keyboard, which means your arms and wrists may tire more quickly.” – Mark

Font Size
“The size of screen fonts is dictated by a setting in your computer’s operating system. Finding the right font size for you is a balance between the level of comfort you feel and the amount of horizontal and vertical scrolling you need to do to show the content you’re trying to see. The larger the font, the less content will fit. If working from home is going to become a regular thing for you, then a 24-inch external monitor would be a good investment. If you’re struggling to focus on a small font, you may want to increase the size and reduce the amount of content on the page at a time, but this will ultimately come down to personal preference and your eyesight. In general, between 12 and 16 is a good place to start, then you can adjust from there.” – Mark

THE LIFESTYLE

 
Breaks
“It’s best for your brain to take 10-minute breaks every 50-60 minutes to maintain your focus throughout the day, with a longer break at lunch time: 30 minutes to eat and up to 30 minutes to take a walk or do some stretching. 3pm is a great time to take a 30-minute break and/or do some aerobic weight-bearing exercise to re-energise and motivate yourself because all our neurotransmitters are at the lowest point of the day around this time. A snack or some fresh air and deep breaths supplies the glucose and oxygen your brain needs to think and make good decisions. The blood supply to the brain requires some variety and mental stimulation to keep you at peak performance. Without some breaks, your mental performance will deteriorate throughout the day.” – Tara
 
Diet
“Eat regularly to keep your brain fuelled with brain-boosting snacks such as nuts and seeds, avocado and berries. Staying hydrated is crucial too, as it helps with memory and concentration. Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon as its lingering effects can impact sleep quality. It’s tempting to make a coffee at 3pm when we feel sluggish, but staying hydrated and not being too sedentary should help.” – Tara
 
Exercise
“Moving your body to boost your circulation and getting outdoors, preferably in nature, and bringing an element of mindfulness into your day are important when working from home. You’re missing time outdoors or moving around as you’re not commuting, so you need to schedule time to exercise in your new routine. If you aren’t naturally getting 5,000 to 10,000 steps per day, formal exercise is vital.” – Tara
 
“Exercise releases feel-good hormones and can help you unwind after the stresses of everyday life. If you can, use the time you’d usually commute for a quick workout or meditation session. It will increase mood and productivity. Sitting for long periods of time can also impact our health – both physically and mentally. Mix your working setup by regularly swapping between standing up and sitting down. Calls or virtual meetings are a great opportunity to stand up and stretch out your muscles. If you need more motivation, recording the number of steps you take on a pedometer or phone can help you set daily goals and targets to get you moving.” – Michelle 
 
Balance
“Make sure you mix things up on the weekends. Your brain needs a balance between routine and variety. While working from home it can be really easy for the line between work and home life to blur, but it’s crucial to keep them as separate as possible. Focus on quality interaction with your partner/family at meal times and in the evenings – use downtime to relax and switch off from work. If possible, turn off your email notifications over the weekend.”  – Tara

For more information, visit KatharinePooley.com, TaraSwart.com, Bupa.co.uk and Hotech.co.uk
 

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