2020 is finally behind us, but sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is very much ongoing. On Monday 4th January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new lockdown measures for the whole of England; similar restrictions are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This means that, at least for the time being, working from home will remain the status quo for many of us. No matter which part of the UK you call home, the current rules require you to work from home if you can - and since the new coronavirus variant is up to 70% more transmissible, compliance is more important than ever.
Back in March, just before the first national lockdown was announced, we shared our top 10 tips for working at home. That blog post is nearly a year old now, but it's still well worth a read if you're struggling to stay productive.
How to Work from Home: 10 Top Tips
However, one thing we didn't cover in that list was how to set up a home office space. When you begin working from home, you might be tempted to park yourself on the sofa, or even to stay in bed all day - but you'll quickly discover that such positions make it very difficult to get into a productive frame of mind.
Instead, you should select an area of your home that can be used for work and work only. Having a dedicated workspace will help you to keep your professional and personal lives separate, drawing a clear line between your office hours and your leisure time.
SEE ALSO: How to Maintain Your Work-Life Balance While Working from Home
Home Office Setup Checklist
If you want to create a professional, distraction-free working environment within your home, here's what you will need:
- A laptop or PC with all necessary software installed. Consider asking your employer to provide a dedicated work computer so that you're not using a device with all your personal stuff on it.
- A stable Internet connection. Working from home can get very frustrating very quickly when your Wi-Fi keeps cutting out - if you're experiencing problems, get in touch with your Internet service provider.
- A desk, table or other suitable work surface. A proper desk is ideal, but a kitchen table or countertop will do in a pinch. Try to position your computer monitor so that the top of the screen is roughly level with your eyes (a laptop stand or, failing that, a stack of large books may help with this).
- A suitable chair. Comfort is important, of course, but so is postural health. Instead of curling up in your favourite armchair, choose a seat that offers good back support and makes it easy to sit up straight while working.
- A notepad and pens. Even in the modern world, where so much our work is done on computers, stationery can be very handy. Keep some paper and pens nearby in case you need to make some quick notes.
- A phone. When working remotely, it's important to make yourself easy to contact. Even if you're keeping in touch with your colleagues via email or an instant messaging service like Skype, you should still keep a phone handy in case a verbal conversation is necessary. (Again, you may want to ask your employer for a dedicated work phone so that you don't have to share your personal number with professional contacts.)
- A webcam and microphone. Forget face coverings and sourdough starters: the video conference has been the symbol of life in lockdown. Use of Zoom and similar services skyrocketed in 2020, and if you're working from home, you're probably going to take part in at least a few video calls. So make sure you've got a decent camera and a decent microphone, otherwise you'll be neither seen nor heard!
- Headphones. Listening to music on headphones is a great way to shut out distractions while working at home (as long as the music itself isn't too distracting, of course!). Wearing headphones during meetings will also mean that you're not broadcasting your Zoom call to the entire house.
- A 'do not disturb' sign. Display this on the door of your home office when you're very busy, or when you're in a meeting.
- Curtains or blinds. Sunlight can cause problems when it shines directly on your computer screen (or gets in your eyes). Consider the layout of your home office, especially the position of the windows in relation to your work area, and invest in some blinds or curtains that will allow you to block out the light if necessary.
- Lighting. Of course, you don't want to be working in the dark all day. To prevent eye strain and headaches, make sure you've got a suitable light source in your home office.
You should now be all set to work from home. If you're still having trouble staying focused, read our other blog on Working from Home: How to Stay Focused & Avoid Distractions.
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