COVID-19 Working In the Closet? Car? Kitchen? Let us help!

Over the past 3 weeks, we have given umpteen webinars and conducted another umpteen virtual evaluations and I can tell you this first hand, there’s working from home and then there’s COVID-19 working from home which is an entirely different creature.

So, to help everyone navigate these unchartered waters, I created a FAQ sharing real questions and challenges that have come our way. Hopefully, this will help you work more comfortably, help you be able to focus and not mention, help you stop sticking your head in the fridge every 15 minutes!

I can’t seem to find a work rhthym at home.  Everyday is Blursday.

I hear you. In the best of times, working at home has focus challenges.  But a sudden transition from working at the office, to working at home amidst a worldwide pandemic is a shock to the system on so many fronts.

So, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to create a routine.  It doesn’t matter what the routine is, just stick to it.  And if you are doing this work-from-home dance with other household members, coordinate with everyone to establish a rhythm that works for everyone.   It may not be perfect, but it’s one of the most important stakes in the ground to get placed in order to have some structure.

I don’t have a designated place in my house to work.  Help!

For most of us, the mandate to work from home happend very abruptly, leaving us unprepared to work from home.   If you don’t have a set up, then it’s time to get creative.  Here are a few real life work areas that people have carved out for themselves:

  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Patio
  • Dresser top
  • Converting a closet into a workspace
  • Using a folding table in the corner
  • A pull down ironing board
  • Ironing board as sit/stand desk
  • Dining room table
  • Car (for calls only)

It does not have to be perfect, but it has to be a designated work place, used for your focused periods of work.

I don’t have an ergo-friendly set up.  What do I do?

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get set up in a way that will allow you to work more comfortably.   A few key principles apply, which once you understand allows you to successfully rig up a makeshift work area.

  • Healthy Posture: Posture is not reliant on outside equipment or gadgets.  It is something that you have to get to know within your own body.  And the tenants of comfortable posture are simple:

  • Screen Placement: Whether it is your laptop screen, external monitor (or both), keep your screens at about eye level or slightly below and about an arm’s distance away.  The real rule of thumb is to place your screens so that your head balances beautifully over the rest of your back and avoid craning your neck forward, looking up, looking down or off to one side.
  • Keyboard and Mouse Placement: Your keyboard should be at, or slightly below elbow height with your upper arm hanging vertically.  Your mouse should be level with your keyboard and within easy reach.

Problem: I am using my laptop at my kitchen counter to work on and I can’t adjust my chair to go high enough which is causing me to reach up and forward with my arms.  My shoulders and back are starting to hurt.  What can I do?  (BTW, This also applies to dining room tables and any other surface that is too high.)

Solution: If you have tried using pillows or padding to raise your seat height and you still can’t get comfortable, try propping up your laptop so that it is at eye level.   That is really important to help work comfortably and avoid slouching.   Then, you’ll need to get your hands on a keyboard and mouse.  Lastly,  find something flat and stable to bring your keyboard a mouse onto your lap.  This could be a store bought lap desk, or home made one.  (Ideas: Piece of firm cardboard, styrofoam, a cookie sheet, notebook binder, large thin book, you get the idea).  This will allow your upper arms to hang vertically with your elbows under your shoulder and close to your sides.


Problem: My chair is not adjustable, do I need to go buy one?

Solution: In most cases no.  Most chairs can be doctored up to provide you with a comfortable sitting height and back support.  Be creative with your use of pillows, seat padding (think dining room chair pads, folded towels or blankets) for support.  If you are really struggling to get comfortable, talk to your employer to see what your options are.


Problem: I’m working on my couch, using my coffee table as my desk.  But it’s uncomfortable. What advice do you have?

Solution: This answer has a few parts.  The first, it that if possible, use the couch as a respite from working at a desk or tabletop and limit your couch time to no more than 30 – 45 minutes.   When you do work at your couch, make sure to use pillows for back support since couches often have deep seat cushions and if needed, support your feet with a folded towel or small pillow.

Once you are comfortably seated, do NOT use your coffee table as your desk.  It is low and will result in you leaning forward, slouching and putting strain on your lower back, upper back, neck and shoulders.  Instead, what you can do is prop up your laptop with a laptop riser or on some books, a box, anything that will raise the screen to eye level, and use an external keyboard and mouse on a lapdesk – store bought or homemade.   You can also use your laptop on your lapdesk and tilt the screen far back so you can see at a glance without craning your head forward.

         I miss my teammates and I miss, well, my life.  Any Advice?

 We can all relate.  The best advice is to stay in touch with everyone.  Whether it is Facetime,  Google Chat, Zoom, House Party or any other video platform, setting up face time calls helps   to feel connected to colleagues, friends and family.    Take it one day at a time and know that there is an endpoint to this.   We’re all in this together!

 

Now it’s your turn.  I’d love to hear from you and hear about your experience.  Please leave a comment and tell me how you are doing!

Until the next time,

 

Vivienne

 

 

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