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About a year ago, in spring 2020, much of the working world was introduced to home-working for the first time. As it was such a new experience, it was quite rare to have a fully equipped home office. We were just expected to find a table, set up our laptop, have the phone ready and make do until the pandemic blew over.
The problem was that we had no idea how long it was going to last, so nobody really wanted to set up a permanent office at home. Early estimates of three months proved optimistic, but still, we’d all be back for Christmas. Wouldn’t we?
As time passed, though, it became clear that home-working might well become a more permanent way of working. Businesses liked the lower costs of smaller offices, and employees grew to appreciate the work-life balance WFH brings. So perhaps now is a good time to set up somewhere especially as a home office. Here’s how to get the basics right.
At work, your desk and seating will all be compliant with health and safety regulations (as per the HSE guidance). While some leeway might have been granted for temporary working, many employers are insisting on having ergonomic seating and desk space at home.
If your office is self-contained and single-purpose, you can set yourself up with a professional office desk and chair, either from a mainstream furniture shop or office specialist. There’s always a market for second-hand furniture too. If your desk and chair are to be used for family purposes too, you’ll need to bear the regulations in mind when you’re shopping for them.
Positioning your workplace can be tricky. If you’re expecting to do a lot of video conferencing, you need to be illuminated, but if there’s too much light behind your screen it’s hard to see. Try to avoid directly facing a window, especially if it points at the sunrise or sunset. A decent pair of blinds could do the trick, but you’re always better off keeping lighting natural and ambient on your face and your screen.
The opposite applies too. If you’re facing away from the window, you’ll probably appear as a silhouette on video calls. It’s best to have a wall behind you, which you can decorate appropriately. Bookshelves are particularly good at deadening echoes and standing waves, by the way – and it’ll boost your intellectual credibility.
Having a place where you can be alone and undistracted is very important for a lot of jobs. If you’ve got the luxury of a spare room, or a bedroom that can double as an office, that should be fine. In smaller homes, that can be a problem – especially if there are home-schooling kids.
Sheds and garages can make decent temporary spaces, and a converted loft will give you all the peace you’ll need. Failing that, you might just have to resort to noise-cancelling headphones and soothing music.
Always consider power points when locating your desk. Yes, you can use extension cords and multi-sockets, but you’re always better closer to the wall socket than having trip hazards everywhere.
This is particularly true if you’re using home networking – it sends your internet data through your electricity cables to your router, so it’s great if your home has WiFi dead zones. Home networking sockets work best when they’re plugged directly into the wall socket rather than an extension. You can also use normal Ethernet cabling too, although you might find yourself lifting a few floorboards to keep them hidden.
Whether you’re working from home full-time or it’s just for a few days a week, it’s always handy to have a place where you can sit down and go. Just remember that your working day does have a beginning and an end, and just because you’re at home it doesn’t mean you should still be in there when the owls are hooting.
And if you’re looking for a home with a little more space, perhaps now’s the time to take a step up the property ladder with a new build?