You are minutes into your important video conference with the engineering team when pandemonium erupts. Your teenager yells from the next room that the toilet is overflowing. Your 10-year-old suddenly needs help with multiplication tables. The dog starts barking at the mailman. Your spouse walks through the room wearing only underwear.
You take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are lucky you can work from home and continue earning a paycheck during the pandemic. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that juggling work, parenting and school responsibilities from a shared workspace is no picnic.
If it is any consolation, you are not alone. According to a new YouGov survey, more than a third of Americans working from home because of COVID-19 say distractions from family members or roommates is a challenge. The lack of a dedicated workspace makes it difficult to avoid such distractions.
The survey found that only about a quarter of home workers have dedicated home office space. Most others are setting up shop in the kitchen, dining room, living room or a bedroom. Some are working from the garage or porch. They usually have to get creative to make it work. For example, many have found that ironing boards make a functional adjustable-height desk.
Eight months into the pandemic, however, many are finding that their impromptu home-office setups aren’t meeting their mental, physical and functional requirements. Coffee tables, beds, kitchen counters and dining tables are not ideal for the long term. Ergonomic experts say it is difficult to maintain good posture at such spaces, leading to neck, back and wrist aches. In addition, poor lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches.
However, there are ways to set up an efficient workspace even in homes or apartments where space is very limited. Here are a few suggestions for creating, organizing and sharing your home office:
Define Your Space
In the ideal home office, you’d have a dedicated workspace that would offer some degree of privacy for you and others in the household who may also be working from home. If a separate room isn’t possible, a desk or table in a corner can suffice if it is properly organized and equipped. Keep the space free of clutter and ensure that phone chargers, laptop chargers, headphones, storage devices and other gear are always available. Make sure roommates, partners, spouses and children understand that your office equipment needs to remain in the office.
Invest in an ergonomic office chair. Sitting in a kitchen chair or a barstool all day can lead to chronic back problems. If possible, also get a desk or table designed for computer work. Folding desks are affordable options that don’t take up much space.
Establish A Schedule
Create a schedule and stick to it. That’s essential for maintaining work-life balance and ensuring your workday doesn’t bleed into your private time. Consider a split schedule if you are sharing limited workspace with someone else. That can be particularly effective if there are children in the home. Working in shifts allows one person to have the privacy to concentrate on work while the other supervises the kids and their schoolwork.
Get the Right Gear
A single desktop PC probably won’t be sufficient if the household has multiple adults and children who require computer access. Consider investing in an extra laptop or two. It’s also a good idea to upgrade to business-grade Internet service to ensure you can run essential applications even if others in the house are browsing the web, playing online games or streaming video.
Most people need a certain amount of quiet to focus on their work. If you are sharing a small office space, try to keep disruptions to a minimum. Wear headphones when you have to listen to audio. Step into another room or go outside to make phone calls, if possible. Set your phone to vibrate for text message alerts. Communicate with your office mate if you have upcoming video conferences so they can adjust their schedule accordingly.
The pandemic has dramatically changed where and how we work, and we’re all still trying to figure it out as we go. Cerium Networks can help you with many of the technical requirements for establishing a flexible, secure and efficient work environment. Give us a call to learn more.