As we celebrate the beginning of 2022, it’s a good time to take stock, look at your home office arrangements and check that you’ve set your home office up properly.
In March 2020, many of us set up home offices thinking that they would be a temporary thing. Yet here we are, heading into 2022, and lots of us are still working from home, at least part of the time. The hybrid workplace, as it’s increasingly known, looks like it’s here to stay.
Many people don’t realise that in Australia, WHS laws still apply when you’re working from home. You must follow any guidelines or specifications that your workplace gives you in relation to how to set up your home office, but you also have a duty of care to take care of your own health and safety when you’re working from home. Here are five top tips to consider when you’re setting up (or refining) your home office arrangements.
Have a dedicated place to work from home
It’s not always easy to find a dedicated workspace at home, particularly when you’re living in a shared house with flatmates who are also working from home, or if there are other family members working and studying from home.
If you can, choose one space where you do all your work (and sitting on your bed with your laptop on your lap isn’t a good choice). It can be the dining room table if that’s the only option, but it’s important that you set up the space around you properly.
Set your workspace up ergonomically
Set up a spot with a desk (or table if a desk isn’t available) that is at the right height. Arrange your sitting position directly in front of the desk and use an appropriate chair.
Some workplaces provided employees with adjustable desk chairs for their work at home and if you have access to such a chair, you should use it.
If you don’t have an adjustable chair, choose a chair that supports your back and allows you to work with your elbows level with the height of the work surface. If positioning your chair at this height, means that you can’t reach the floor, use a footrest.
Position your desk at a height that allows you to work comfortably without slouching. It should be flat and ideally should be large enough for all the things you need to complete your work.
If you use a standing desk, make sure the monitor is at the correct height, so you don’t have to slump your shoulders to view it.
Your computer (or laptop)
The top of the screen should be at eye level or just below. Check this carefully if you’re using a standing desk, as many people position their standing desks too high for ergonomic comfort. Just because your standing desk elevates to a certain height, doesn’t mean that it’s the height you should use it at.
If you’re using a laptop for an extended period, connect it to an external monitor or raise the laptop to the correct height and use an external keyboard and mouse. Laptop screens are generally too low to be ergonomic.
Use a headset for your phone so that you aren’t trying to multi-task and balance your phone every time you take a call. It’s also being considerate to the others in your household who may also be sharing the workspace.
Make sure that you have good lighting around your workspace. If you can, position your screen sideways to windows to minimise glare. Some people find that blue light glasses also help with eye strain and fatigue from working long hours in front of a computer screen.
Think about others
When you set up your workspace at home, think about how others in your home also use that space. Don’t place extension cords in walkways that are commonly used by other household members. Think carefully about whether anything you’re setting up in your workspace could be a potential trip hazard. If you can’t avoid running an electrical cord along the floor then tape it down safely with duct tape, just as you would do in an office environment. Make sure when you push back your chair to get up from your desk that you’re not impinging on a hallway or someone else’s space.
Use your electrical equipment safely
A lot of office equipment in your home (your printer for example) may have been designed for home office use in the days when a home office was something that you used occasionally, not every day. So, your electrical equipment is getting more of a workout than perhaps was intended or envisaged by the manufacturer.
Because you’re working from home, you have a duty of care according to Safe Work Australia to ensure that you take care of your own health and safety – and that includes electrical safety. Apply the same rules that would apply if you were working in your office. Don’t use extension cords permanently. Don’t overload double adapters or use them with power boards. Keep your cords tidy around your workplace and be careful of plugs that are out of sight (such as behind a bookcase).
Now that we’ve been working from home for almost two years, perhaps it’s worth considering getting your electrical office equipment tested and tagged, just as it would have been if you were in the office. Jim’s Test & Tag offer a free quoting service and have franchises in most parts of Australia.
When you’re working face to face in an office environment, even if you are sitting at a computer for most of the day, you still tend to move around a lot more than you do when you’re working from home.
There’s the walking you do when you travel to the office even if it’s just from the bus stop or train station. The walking that you do within the office – to meet with other staff members or to attend a meeting. And there are lots of little interruptions when you’re working in an office that give you a break from your screen and intense focus on your work.
So, when you’re working from home, you may need to artificially introduce movement – thinking about moving on a regular basis because you aren’t getting that incidental movement. Set a timer on your watch to remind you to get up and move every hour. You could also use a focusing method such as Pomodoro (25 minutes on, five minutes off) to force yourself to look away from the screen and at least stretch and stand up regularly.
Take a walk around the block at the beginning and end of your day to simulate going to and from work. It might sound silly, but it also helps you to mentally switch off from work and create a separation from work and home life. These techniques are important to help you maintain the work-life balance that sees you working from home, not living at work.
Setting your home office up safely should be a priority, not an afterthought. By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to a safe home office set-up. Contact Jim’s Test & Tag for advice on electrical safety, or phone 13 15 46 for more information.