Whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic forever changes when — and especially where — people work in the years to come is debatable. But self-isolation has pushed much of the workforce that still has work to do over to makeshift home offices.
Chances are, you already have a desktop or laptop to work on, so getting yourself situated with the right home-based work environment is mostly about the support you need. Unlike being in an office, where you have a dedicated workspace, you have a lot more leeway in where you actually park yourself.
Here are some ideas on how to make the whole experience not only better, but also healthier.
Sit and stand up straight
Never assume your posture is going to be great working from home. The couch is one of the worst places to sit and work for long periods, which is why a proper chair and desk is the best combination. Even if it’s a table instead of a desk, it’s better than staying on a couch all day.
But your back and neck are the most vulnerable, which is why posture needs help. BetterBack is a low-tech option that uses a pad connected to two straps that wrap around the knees. With the right level of tension, it can help you sit up straight, hitting both the lumbar spine and pelvis at the same time.
You can wear it for as little as 15 minutes a day, but multiple sessions during the day are fine, and they don’t necessarily have to be while working. You can just as easily put this on watching TV on the couch or sitting down to meditate.
Get up on your feet
Sitting down to work on your laptop can stiffen muscles too much, which is why breaking that monotony by moving around is so important. You can also break it up even more by working while standing up.
Aside from stacking boxes or books, there are several other products to do it. The WorkEZ Standing Desk is a low-tech choice to prop up a laptop, though you might find similar products from other companies if you’re looking to do that for a computer monitor. It’s an adjustable stand offering a longer degree of height, but given its plastic build, it’s not always stable. If you weigh it down at its base, it will help — it just adds another element you have to include in the setup.
For something more mechanical and considerably stable (not to mention expensive), the VarikDesk Pro Plus is far more versatile. It uses a spring-assisted lift and can handle enough weight for a monitor, keyboard and mouse, much less a laptop on its own. You can even put two monitors next to each other. The padded surfaces have give, but are also rigid enough to handle everything you put on them.
Reduce blue light to your eyes
Your smartphone and tablet may have the option for a blue light filter that reduces the amount of eye strain. Your computer, however, may not. Looking at a computer screen all day can take a toll you don’t always realize as it happens. That’s where a pair of glasses might be worth considering.
The Gunnar Optiks Blue Light Glasses come in different models, and are made to filter out the blue light and give your eyes a break. They’re mostly basic designs, and if you wear prescription glasses, you can swap out the lenses into these frames.
They can be pricey, though, so if you’re looking to go the budget route, try the ones from ANRRI Blocking Glasses as an alternative.
Change your home phone line
If you have a home phone line with an incumbent provider and you’re paying too much for it, stop right now. With the Ooma Telo Air or Ooma Basic, you can get a home office phone number for peanuts by comparison. Ooma uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to route the phone connection over your home Internet connection. Think of it like Skype or Zoom but for phone calls.
You can port your existing home phone line number (if you have one) or choose a brand new one — including in a different area code, if you want. Calls throughout Canada are free, and a basic plan starts at just a few dollars a month. With an extra plan, you can add the U.S. and other countries to that.
The Telo Air device itself also offers Bluetooth capability to take calls through your cell phone, while the Ooma app can also take calls when you’re eventually allowed to leave home on a regular basis.
Boost your Internet
If you’re using the device your Internet provider gave you for both the modem and router functions, then you need to change that. The modem part is fine, but the router part, not so much. Notice how your connection may die out the further you go? Or that it stutters if too many people are on at the same time? Those devices were never meant to be robust routers.
First, consider a third-party router to do the job. As standalone routers with better components, they will get more out of the connection you’re paying for. The second thing, especially in a house, is to try a mesh whole-home Wi-Fi system. These are at least two or more routers and satellites that work together to create a redundant mesh Wi-Fi network. Devices will connect to the router or satellite closest to it, rather than everything trying to pull the Wi-Fi signal from the central router. It makes a difference.
You can start looking at the Linksys Velop AC2200 Wi-Fi Mesh, but there are plenty of others available.
Music for the mind
Well, this is really about the music you prefer to listen to, not anything specific to focusing on the work at hand. Portable Bluetooth speakers abound, but one that offers great sound quality and can get pretty loud is the Sonos Move. It’s a pricey choice, but it’s arguably the most versatile in Sonos’ lineup. If not that, look at what Ultimate Ears, Sony, JBL and other brands might have.
For your ears, you can consider the Sony WH-1000MX3 noise-cancelling headphones to drown out some of the background noise, which may also prove incredibly useful if you use them for meetings, too.
The Jabra Elite 75t are among the best true wireless earbuds you can buy right now. Lightweight and ideal for moving around the home, while still being able to hear people talking to you (use the HearThrough mode for that), they truly balance work and home life well.