Working from home sounds like the ideal work/life-balance situation, whereby you set your own hours and wear what you want. Yet, it can be fraught with hazards. Apart from your deadlines bleeding into your downtime (if you don’t set clear boundaries), have you considered how your domestic workspace can impact your health and safety?
If your office allows you to work from home, you’ll know this comes with a wealth of benefits, including more control over your schedule, greater flexibility for parenting responsibilities and personal needs, as well as less commuting and the expenses that go with running a car. If you run your own business from home, you’ll have the added joy of doing something you love, better tax breaks and no boss to contend with. Either way, have you taken a long hard look at your workspace and is it ticking all the boxes for a higher level of productivity?
Create a healthy work environment
When choosing to work from home you need to consider your workplace health and safety concerns. You may have thought you’d just wake up, perform your morning routine of exercise, breakfast, shower then open your laptop ready for a productive day at work. Yet how efficient will you be if you’re in an uncomfortable chair, sitting at your dining table in poor natural lighting? You might be slouching because your laptop is too low or straining if it’s placed too high for your elbows and all of a sudden WH&S is out the window.
Separate your living and work spaces
Rather than using your living-room couch or kitchen benchtops, which were not designed to be ergonomic workstations, buy yourself a desk and chair. Even better, invest in a laptop pack, so your laptop is at the right position for best posture. Unless you are prepared to establish separate work and living spaces, you are likely to encounter a host of workplace-related health issues. Poor posture will put you at musculoskeletal risk, while poor lighting will strain your eyes.
With the corporate world emphasising a focus on measurable productivity, you’re going to need to enhance your work area with the right equipment if you want to see positive results long-term.
Carry out an honest workplace assessment at home
Make a critical appraisal of your home office environment. You can do this by researching some WH&S workplace material or contacting a professional ergonomic consultant, who will highlight any areas that hold operational limitations. Investing in laptop solutions and installing portable workstations will pay long-term dividends for both yourself and your employer in increased proficiency and job satisfaction.
Other hazards to consider when working from home
Apart from the long-term effects of poor sitting posture, a home environment can present risks to your safety. While the hassles of being surrounded by children’s homework, cookbooks or household bills on your workspaces are obvious, there are other dangers lurking when you share your space with your family or flatmates.
Take stock of any trip hazards, such as cables and carpets, and make sure your electrical outlets are not overloaded with adapters and power boards. You’ll need to consider noise levels, room temperature and air ventilation. Are emergency exits clear of obstructions and is your chair adjustable with the appropriate lumbar supports? Are you sitting in a position that affects the glare on your computer and is security sufficient to prevent unauthorised entry?
Establish workplace procedures
Making time at home for work, family and relaxing effectively comes down to a few key points:
- Dedicate a specific workspace for yourself.
- You must know when to switch off the computer or close down the notebook, with no peeking after your allocated workday ends.
- Schedule time for family by telling them you have a “non-disturbance” requirement. Perhaps even set up a “Do Not Disturb” sign near your desk when you’re working.
Once you have settled on the best location for your office space, establish clear work hours and let your family or housemates know there are rules about how to engage with you during those times. If you’re a work-from-home employee, you must implement your own method of operations, whereby you check in with co-workers to let them know you’re able to meet your deadlines for the day and you haven’t gone AWOL.
Make maximum use of ergonomics
While a purpose-designed office desk is ideal, other surfaces can work well enough provided most of the other ergonomic needs are addressed. Most employers are happy to make a contribution towards a decent work set-up to enhance your productivity and avoid losing valuable labour hours over ill health.
Ergonomic home office consultations
One of the joys of working from home is you can be more productive – as long as you’re not sneaking off to the shopping centre or chatting to friends after yoga class – because you’re not spending hours commuting to and from work. Make this time work for you with a safe workplace practice assessment so your work-from-home life will be more comfortable.
Here at Ergoworks Consulting, along with our corporate assessment services, we provide a valuable ergonomic home office consultation service. If you are either a home office employee or you are responsible for home workers, our expert team is able to advise on everything from laptop solutions and workstations to stand-up desks and more.
Contact us to see how we can help with you home office.