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The Three Must Haves for Your Home Office

In working with my home office clients, I see certain themes come up time and again. Inevitably, the person will be sitting either at the dining room table or on the sofa with a laptop in their laps, papers scattered every which way and frustrated as all flip because they feel like they are spinning their wheels. There is a better way. Here are three things you can change in your work environment to improve your productivity.

 

A Location Specifically for Work

Let’s start with those laptops in the laps while curled up on the couch. Holy back pain! Just because it’s called a laptop does not mean you should type in your lap! I’ll come back to this in the second section.
Please do not set up your home office in your bedroom. Here’s the thing – you need separation between your work and your life. Your bedroom is for sleep and ‘sleep’. 😉 That is all. Creating a visual separation is key. Ideally, you would set up your office in a small spare bedroom. Or that dining room you never use any more.

If you hear someone tapping on the keyboard next to you, it will be very difficult to sleep. I have experienced this first hand when I shared a room with a friend at a conference. My friend was up until after 1am answering emails. I could not get to sleep, even with earplugs. I was exhausted the next day.

It’s not just the tapping. The blue light of a computer, phone or iPad can suppress melatonin which is your body’s natural way of inducing sleep. Keep all of your electronic devices out of the bedroom. Otherwise, you will be tempted to check email in the wee hours instead of allowing your body time to rest.

What if you can’t put your desk anywhere but your bedroom? Put up a divider screen (choose one from Amazon and include link) or convert a closet into a small office space. In one home, I relocated the door of the family room and installed a custom desk with shelves into the niche next to the closet. Speaking of closets, they are also a great place to set up a home office.

home office

An Ergonomic Chair

I know I know – ergonomics yawn and oh the expense. But this is the number one place I encourage clients to drop some of their hard-earned dough. You can always sit at an IKEA desk – I do and I really like it – but you need to ensure that your body is situated in the right chair and in the right position if you want to avoid long-term back issues.

When you shop for a chair you must have the option to sit in it! Don’t just purchase that chair online because your friend raves about it. Every person’s body shape and size is different and what fits your spouse may not work for you. If you absolutely must share a chair please make it is adjustable.

What to think about –
• A fullback – your entire back should be supported from the bottom of your bum to the bottom of your neck.
• Breathe – the chair should be made of breathable materials and it should not be itchy or abrasive. You might be sitting in it for eight hours. Do you want to sweat or be comfortable?
• Movement – a swivel chair preferably on wheels is ideal in an office so you don’t have to get up to reach your files.
• Adjustability – use the 90 Degree Joint Rule. Make sure that you can sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. If they don’t reach get a footstool. Then when you are seated check that your elbows, knees, hips, and feet each make 90-degree angles.

 

Get the Hell off your Laptop and get a Large Screen

Maybe it’s just that I am in the second half of life but investing in a large screen has been life-changing.

If you work on only a laptop your screen and your keyboard are very close together. I am kind of nerdy so while I wrote this on my big screen and desktop, I measured the distance between the two. It’s about a foot (12”) compared to under 1” on my laptop. When you are using a laptop the effect on your body is to hunch over. Don’t be the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And guys, yes I literally mean guys, if you’re using your laptop in your lap the heat could be warming up the crown jewels. Not sure that’s healthy. If that’s not incentive to place your laptop on your desk, I don’t know what is. At the very least get a laptop pillow cushion.

The eyes have it. Dude, your eyes are squinting looking at the itty bitty laptop screen. Do you really want to have to get computer glasses?
At under $300, a large monitor screen is well worth it. I have the HP 27” Widescreen. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The top of your screen should be in alignment with your eye level. Avoid glare on the screen by keeping it away from the window. The back of my screen is facing at an angle to the window and the window is to my right-hand side.

No matter the size of your screen, be sure to look away every 20 minutes and walk away at least every two hours.

home office

I wrote this article today from my private home office, which is the tiniest bedroom in the house.

I close the door and my family knows I am not to be disturbed at work. At the end of my day, I walk away from my work entirely. It’s so great. I wrote on my 27” HP widescreen – heaven on my aging eyes. And I sat in my HON Mirus chair which I purchased off a showroom floor. One last amazing point – check out your local office supply stores. They often have refurbished chairs. My chair cost me under $200. It retailed at over $700. Yes, great office chairs are expensive. A lifetime of chiropractic costs more plus the time you have to take to go. Buying a refurbished chair definitely brings that expense way down.
That’s a wrap! Happy productive working in your new home office

Catherine Avery

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