If you’re new to working remotely and could use some guidance on how to be more comfortable with it, here are some tips to help you be less stressed and more productive. It may be easier than you think to master the art of working remotely!
Having have been a “remote worker” for seven years, I have mastered the art of working from home, and it’s how I prefer to work. But working remotely does require certain adjustments, to help you avoid becoming stressed out. Since many people have suddenly been forced to work from home, due to the need for social distancing during the Coronavirus health crisis, I’m sharing some important tips that can help you be as productive and comfortable as possible.
Today’s focus: Don’t let working remotely become a pain in the neck…and back…and wrists. Your desk setup is key to being pain-free. Here’s how to do it.
1. First and foremost, do not sit on the couch or curled up on a bed working on your laptop computer — while that sounds comfy, you’ll wind up in knots.
2. Accessorize your laptop:
- Use a mouse — not the laptop’s trackpad. It’s not only better for your wrists, hands and arms. It also helps you get work done much more quickly and efficiently by making it easier to do functions like select, copy, paste and scroll, and to access shortcuts that are available by right-clicking.
- Use a real keyboard — either the kind that plugs into a USB port (if your laptop has one), or a wireless one. Position it as ergonomically as possible, to avoid tensing up your shoulders and straining your wrists. Your shoulders, wrists and elbows should all form one 90-degree angle, with your wrists kept loose and hands in a straight position (not bent up or down). Depending on your height, this may require your keyboard to be below your desktop. If so and you don’t have an under-desk keyboard tray, try having the keyboard on your lap, elevated a by a firm pillow.
- Raise your laptop so it’s at eye level, directly in front of you, to avoid neck strain. A stack of books can do the trick, or use a laptop stand that can provide some additional space for storage.
- Have batteries on hand (and nearby) if you use a wireless mouse and/or keyboard. You don’t want to wind up suddenly out of commission when you’re on deadline or on a conference call!
3. It’s imperative to have a comfortable chair, and maintain good posture. If need be, add a pillow to support your back, and/or a cushion so you don’t get achy from sitting against a hard surface. Your feet should rest flat on the ground. If you’re on the shorter side (like me) and they don’t, add a footrest.
- If you’ll be working remotely long-term, it’s wise to invest in an ergonomic chair that’s suited to your size and the way you work. Do some research online and look for features that match your needs — including adjustability, maximum user weight, seat height, seat depth, lumbar support, and back tilt. You’ll find free ergonomic calculators that can help you with this. If you can, wait until stores reopen and be like Goldilocks: Go test a variety of chairs in-person and choose one that’s “just right.” If you can’t wait, be sure to buy from a company that has a generous return policy.
4. Go hands-free with your phone. Use speakerphone, a Bluetooth earpiece, or cell phone earbuds. This will enable you to take notes or continue using your computer, while sparing you from the special kind of pain that comes from holding your phone with your shoulder.
5. Don’t just sit there! Get up and move around for at least a few minutes every hour — walk, stretch, breathe deeply, refill your water glass. Setting a daily “steps goal” and sticking to it can be a good motivator. Taking these little breaks will help you loosen up, and also clear your head so you can be more creative and think more effectively. Set a timer, or set your fitness tracker to vibrate with reminders to move. While it may sound silly to set reminders, it’s easy to get “in the zone” and lose track of time when you’re working.
- When you’re the phone, walk around if you can (or at least stand up). Studies show that movement is associated with higher creativity, and standing makes your voice stronger and clearer by allowing you to breathe more deeply and naturally. Walking around can also help you focus on the conversation and resist the urge to engage in counterproductive multitasking.
If you (or your employer) need to buy any new equipment, I encourage you to shop locally and patronize small businesses, if possible. Your local merchants will really appreciate it, especially as the necessity of social distancing has hurt many of them financially. See if you can order from them online or by phone. At this writing, many will offer delivery or curbside pickup.
What are your desk setup questions, or tips for working remotely? Please share!
Wishing you good health and a positive, successful experience working from home.
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