Whether you work from home on a regular basis or you’ve been forced to make your home your office, there are plenty of ways to make life more comfortable. Trying to fit your normal 9-5 job from a home office setting? Feeling like your health is suffering because of screen time, seating arrangements, and bad ergonomics. We’ve compiled a list of ‘must-have’ items and easy life hacks to get you through these unprecedented and difficult times.
Working from home during the global Covid-19 pandemic? Here are a few ways to make your life easier.
Work from home essential items and cheap hacks:
Blue blocking glasses
Number one on the list! Guess why? With everyone stranded or working from home and spending an abnormal amount of time in front of their screens, there is an even greater disruption to our innate circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings. Implications of circadian rhythm disruption are altered brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities.
Humans, like various other land based mammals have evolved to be diurnal – meaning that they are active during the day and sleep at night. Blue light and some wavelengths of green light are the main factors which control the circadian rhythm. They do this by suppressing the secretion of Melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the brain. In nature, when the sun goes down, there are no other sources of blue/green light and to suppress melatonin secretion and prevent a restful night’s sleep. Computer/TV screens and LED’s emit a significant amount of blue and green light and right now we are using our screens more than ever. The best protection for a healthy and regenerative nights sleep is to block out all sources of blue light after sunset. Therefore, blue blocking glasses are the most essential work from home item on our list.
External Keyboard and Mouse
One of the core rules of desk ergonomics is having the top of your monitor at eye height so that your spine can remain in an upright position and avoid unnessesary neck strain. This poses a challenge to laptop users without these two essential peripherals. No, elevating your laptop to eye hight and then lifting your arms up to use the keyboard/trackpad is not an adequate solution. That said, we do believe in a compromise if an external keyboard and mouse are not available – see the cheap hacks section below. We also recommend getting an ergonomic keyboard and avoid laptop trackpad use to prevent RSI (repetitive strain injuries) to your wrists and finger tendons.
Standing desk/adjustable desks
Quickly becoming a mainstay in many modern office settings, standing desks allow workers to reduce the amount of bodily strain caused by sitting 8+ hours per day. Any work from home setting would be greatly enhanced by this one item. Again see the cheap hacks section below to see how you might be able to get away with what you’ve got around the house.
Noise cancelling headphones
This excellent purchase can be an absolute lifesaver when working from both the home or public setting. This especially applies to those in flatting situations or for those with children. Ear plugs also work, but if you’re taking conference calls these are your go to accessory in a noisy environment.
Pretty self explanatory here. The mere presence of water at your desk is a nice visual cue to keep yourself hydrated. You can even program yourself to take regular visual and stretch breaks each time you have a sip. Metal, glass or BPA free bottles preferred.
Are you finding it difficult to stay focussed on the job? While not being for everyone, coffee certainly does help with energy levels. We love our Aeropress for both the taste and convenience but there are many different options here.
Foam rollers, spiky balls and other muscle release tools are a great way to keep limber and pain-free while you’re forced to adapt to ergonomically unfriendly environments. A lacrosse ball is often the best buy for value here – it’s firmer than a tennis ball and doesn’t slip out from under you during use.
Finally – there’s nothing nicer than feeling like you’re not actually at work at all. Plants go a long way in achieving this desired stress relieving effect, and on the plus side, they also reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in your home.
Right! Now that you’ve got your essentials let’s demonstrate how to set-up your work space.
Don’t have a home desktop setup or a standing desk? We have two compromise options to help keep your back and shoulders from getting stiff when working from home.
- Stack a couple of old phone or textbooks under your laptop/monitor. It’s a great compromise between having your laptop screen too low and raising your arms up because the keyboard is too high.
- No standing desk? How about trying the mantelpiece or bookshelf? Again you can use old phone books to adjust the height as required.
- Don’t get stuck sitting in the same position for hours on end every day. If you have a standing desk – use it! If you’re back is getting tired, sit down again, but in an hour’s time stand yourself up again.
- The name of the game here is to not become complacent. Postural tension injuries are innately insidious – you don’t feel them happening until it’s too late. Your best defence is to move or change position every twenty minutes and stretch regularly.
- Take breaks for your eyes. The 20/20/20 rule applies here: stare at something 20 feet (6 metres) away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.