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An illustration of a man sat on a sofa with a laptop and his feet on the coffee table

How to set up a home office – workspace ergonomics

Without sounding like a Feng Shui manual, having your equipment, furniture and environment working in harmony is fundamental to getting the most out of your home office. From the right choice of desk and chair to how you light them, you’ll notice a huge difference in your ability to sustain productive levels of working if you get things right.

Illustration of a desk and monitor including dimensions

The perfect home office desk set up

Depending on whether you’ll be using your desk to prop up your laptop for a full day of videoconferencing or typing up that new 60-page return to work manual, there are a few key considerations to weigh up.

How to select and set up your desk:

  • your desk should be at least 60cm deep – allowing space for you to type and write comfortably
  • and, at least 100cm wide – making sure you have enough space for a mouse, keyboard, printer or scanner, and of course a cup of tea or coffee, as well as keeping useful and relevant documents close to hand
  • connect your laptop to a monitor, if at all possible – setting this at the level of your eyes, or just a little lower will help reduce strain on your neck.

2 chair

Home office chair selection

While dining chairs and armchairs may have been pressed into action in the short term, investing in the correct chair will pay dividends over time. The correct support is vital to maintaining good posture and reducing the physical impact of working at your desk. A supportive and adjustable chair (and footrest, if you can) also increases your ability to design a layout which places desktop equipment at a comfortable height and distance.

Setting up your home office chair:

  • choose a seat with height and tilt adjustment capability
  • adjust the height of the seat so that your hips are parallel to the floor
  • if possible, choose a chair with lower back support – this greatly reduces the stress across the entire back
  • your elbows and wrists should be placed in line

An illustration of a desk with computer equipment and light above

Lighting your home office

There is no substitute for natural lighting, so arranging your workspace near to a window is your best option, if possible. However, you should avoid setting up your desk with the sun shining directly into your eyes or onto the monitor, and you may also want to think about how your lighting works for video calls - with the light directly behind you, your colleagues may struggle to see much more than your silhouette.

Ensuring your desk is evenly lit will reduce strain as you move your eyes from your screen to your phone, printed documents or writing materials, so an additional table lamp is a good option for when natural light is in short supply.

Illustration of a tidy home office desk

Keep your home working space free of clutter

Whether you’re working from home alone, or sharing your desk with others, things can begin taking over your workspace quickly. Get into the habit of clearing up your desk at the beginning or end of each workday to help you focus, only keeping your most frequently used items on your desk and keeping smaller items such as paperclips, pens, and sticky notes in small containers.

Illustration of a computer screen and files with labels and a Brother label printer

Home office organisation - create a filing system

Resisting the temptation to print every document will limit the potential for paperwork to begin piling up. However, there are times when only a printed copy will do. For these occasions, using a simple filing tray helps to keep important paperwork accessible – if you need to refer to these regularly you can use drawer storage or labelled boxes to file as you go and keep your workspace clear.

Illustration of a notebook, smartphone, desktop calendar and sticky notes

Maintain a schedule

While elements of flexibility can be introduced, your working from home schedule should reflect your standard working practice as much as possible. Whether this means starting and finishing at the same time or that you’re not going to spend the day working in your pyjamas, there are proven benefits to sticking to your usual routine.  

Working from home tips:

  • adhere to your usual work times – if you work in the office from 9-5, then do the same at home. This includes taking a lunch break and avoiding allocating work tasks for the evening.
  • share your work schedule with others in your household – this helps to communicate things like important meetings in advance
  • schedule your home and work tasks separately – commit to tackling your household chores outside of working hours, no-one’s ironing is needed by COP on Friday
  • take regular breaks – without colleague interaction (and interruption) or being dragged away from your desk to make the tea round, you can find yourself sat at your desk for much longer periods at home. It is recommended that breaks are taken every hour to allow you to maintain a healthy working practice.

Illustration of an apartment floor plan

Allocate a break space away from your home workspace

Just as important as separating work and home in your schedule is giving yourself the ability to do this physically through a change in environment. Working from home can quickly blur the lines between work life and home life – making sure that you have somewhere that you can rest, take a break or otherwise step out of the office is imperative for the long-term sustainability of working from home.

Setting up your home office up in a separate room allows you to visibly switch between your professional and personal life. If a separate space isn’t available, dedicating a work-only area of your room can do the job work as well – just ensure that it is clear to yourself, and others, where these boundaries are.

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