Everyday Work From An Everyday Home: Simple WFH Setup Inspo For The New Year
Finding your comfort space while working can be very daunting. Fighting through the travails of irritated parents or roommates and finding a room where you can concentrate on doing the work is a job in itself. But, for many people, the past year has been an exercise in compromise. We reached out to professionals in various fields to know how they’re handling their setups for work-from-home.
Gunjan works out of his home in Bangalore and Odisha, and his philosophy is to keep his workspace clean and tidy. While the focal point of the exercise is to keep the laptop stable and the back supported, he also puts some flowers in his work environment to make it feel a bit more comfortable than it is. Switching between two significant points depending on work needs means he does not have an elaborate setup. He said, “I have set up both places for my comfort. So, plug points are easily accessible. Chairs are the right type (I have back pain so with support) and also a certain degree of seclusion from the rest of the house.”
Luv Mehta lives the half Bengali life in Kolkata, and his work philosophy lies closely with comfort. He works out of his bedroom. According to him, “I draw a sofa to my bed and prop my feet up on the bed as I put the laptop on my lap. There is a comfort in it, of course, because I barely have to move to start working - no commutes and stuff.”
Most of young India is moving into this kind of workspace. Given the cramped space in most Indian apartments, the bedroom is the only space that offers enough seclusion for people to work in. For Luv, this means he is constantly confronted that his work life and home life mirror each other. He says, “I don't have any distinction between a working space and living space, so my mental state of being at work versus being at home basically gets disrupted.”
This is an ongoing problem in the lives of young professionals. In 2021, a broad paper-based survey in the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine” concluded that, “Having a dedicated room for work, having an ergonomically correct workstation, knowledge of how to adjust a workstation, and increased satisfaction with indoor environmental quality (IEQ) factors in the workspaces were associated with a lower chance of experiencing new health issues.”
One of the problems workers face in their WFH setups is optimizing productivity. While the “sunshine and roses” version posits that people work throughout in the comfort of their home, most homes are not optimized for a work environment at all. Aniket lives in a studio apartment, where his one room is the space where he has to work, live and sleep in. As in Luv’s case, the delineation of the workspace versus a home space goes missing, making his everyday day-to-day life difficult.
He says, “Yes, I exclusively work on my table. But that’s simply because my laptop is too heavy to keep on my lap and use. Earlier, I would work from my bed too. I live in a studio room, so I cook, sleep, relax and work all in the same room. It’s tough to define which space is for what, and I end up being lazy with my boundaries. And I used to be a person who would segregate work and personal space pre-lockdown.”
It’s important to understand that this image repeats itself in most WFH scenarios. Boundaries becoming blurred can have an outsized impact on mental health. A study in “BMC Public Health” suggested that “work-home boundary management support, role clarity, workload, performance indicators, technical support, facilitation of co-worker networking, and training for managers” should be a part of the policies that come alongside work from home.
Varun shares his workspace with his cat, often lying beside the keyboard. He prioritized the books that he needed for work. According to him, “I have a specific space which is a simple table chair set up in the corner of the spare room. I didn’t have much of a choice and haven't done anything, in particular, to spruce it up apart from building a mini fort of reference books that I require for work. It's comfortable because cats and dogs often wander in and settle around me.”
Having pets might hamper the work a bit, but, overall, they are very beneficial for workers who need comforting. And the cute cat and the dogs around Varun are a comfortable solace for him during the long workdays.
Brajesh is a high-flier, moving from his work life in France to his home turf in Dubai. According to him, he keeps moving around in his home and takes meetings moving around. He hasn’t set up a workspace and works out of wherever he feels good. His decision to move around makes sense, given the problems around sedentary lifestyles that have become compounded during this period of WFH.
Managing the workspace is very important. But, the ever evolving trends with regard to WFH amenities and home decor, striking a balance proves to be a challenge especially for younger workers who may not have the financial ability to keep up. In the best-case scenario, you have a space that you can call the office, but, for most people, there’s no difference between a workspace and the home they live in.
But, there are some ways to make your work from home life more accessible than before. Some of the primary ways you can make the most of it are by implementing the following:
1. Comfort, comfort, comfort
Start working towards getting an ergonomic chair and taking frequent breaks between assignments. Try to get a nap in and keep a bed close to constantly get back support.
Unlike the office, where productivity tools are constantly present, WFH doesn’t offer the same comfort level. So, using apps that allow you to schedule work and breaks and make sense of deadlines can be very useful. Social work apps like Slack and Trello can be especially beneficial for people with hectic schedules.
A superb keyboard that allows you to work without disturbances and a comfortable mouse pad can also be beneficial for wrist and back health.
3. Desk it!
An excellent desk with enough space to rest your legs and hands can make WFH feel better. Also, a desk that doubles up as the workspace in full means that the boundaries between home and work can be more nuanced than before.
4. Light it up
Good lighting can make or break a workspace environment, so try to get some soft lighting. There are also LED lights that adjust themselves according to the background, making your work easier. The lights are also an efficient tool for when you need to burn the midnight oil for that career-changing project.
5. Spruce it a bit!
Flowers can spruce up the area around your workspace. Plants and flowers have come into vogue with the pandemic, and part of it is because they’re a great way to focus on something that is not the screen.
Watering plants and tending to them is a great way to spruce up your work desk. According to researchers, a proper work-life balance needs to be a part of the policy regarding WFH. Even after nearly two years of WFH, we’re not closer to these support points, and that will keep on weighing heavy for the working population that continues to work through these tumultuous times.