Working from home: Upgrading your home office set-up for ultimate efficiency.

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Ah, working from home. Once a luxury, now a necessity. With the COVID-19 outbreak expected to last till 2022, the government has made WFH the default for many of us. Hands up those of you who were just as shocked about the sudden announcements of MCO a couple months back! Homes were definitely NOT made for working (
*thinks fondly of bed and TV*)!

For those of us stuck in WFH mode, here are some tips on how you can upgrade your WFH set-up easy peasy:

The Essentials: Basic tips on how to work from home productively

The Upgrades: Pointers to take to enhance work efficiency

The Extras: Bonus suggestions to up your WFH game 

The Essentials

Hardly worked from home before? If you’ve been finding it hard to stay productive, consider adopting these tips to work comfortably:

You can’t find that piece of paper with notes about what your boss said.

Yes, that super note with everything you need for your upcoming meeting 😰 An exclusive work area without distractions is essential, whether you’re taking meetings or typing furiously on your laptop. Keep it clutter-free so you don’t find yourself staring into the abyss of your mess. You don’t want to suddenly spark a desire for a cleaning frenzy halfway through the workday!

Your posture has only gotten worse since WFH started.

“Eh Mat, how come you keep slouching ah?”

Besides brushing off your mom’s comments, having a proper work desk is crucial. Did you know that the industry standard for the appropriate table height is approximately 73.5cm from floor to work surface? Depending on your height, you might find yourself slouching over your laptop or straining to type, which can cause neck or back pain in the long run. Try investing in a work desk with adjustable height, since it’s highly likely you’ll use your work desk for reading, gaming, crafting or journaling anyway. Plus, second hand ones usually cost below RM150!

Consider also adjusting the height of your office chair such that your elbows, when they reach your desk, rest at a natural 90-degree angle. If your feet don’t rest comfortably on the floor, get a footrest or footstool! These shouldn’t cost more than RM50.

You find yourself squinting at your screen for hours on end.

Face it: we’re not getting any younger. So if things on your laptop are looking blurry, a monitor is a godsend! A monitor can either mirror your laptop screen or feature some windows for larger viewing. Ultimately, they’re meant to relieve stress on your eyes and neck for maximum comfort at work, so do ensure that it’s on par with eye level. 

If you’re not looking to get something as bulky as a monitor, laptop stands also create a better environment for productive work. MOFT laptop stand  is super popular if you decide to go premium (but also super expensive), I personally just use the IKEA equivalent which can be found for as low as RM10

Pro tip: Charles <@sureshcharles>, a financial analyst, managed to snag this for only RM300. With a secondhand keyboard to go along with it, say tata to neck and arm strain.

The secondhand Dell monitor Charles scored for RM300.

 

With my Mac and monitor set up at home, I got a great deal for an Apple Magic Keyboard AND Trackpad at only RM200 because the seller was moving back to her hometown! The high resale value of Apple products also assures me that I can cover any losses if I do eventually go back to working in the office.


My RM300 secondhand Magic Keyboard and Trackpad, courtesy of Carousell. Hi boss, look at how much more efficient I am now!

The Upgrades

Ok, basics covered – now how do we turn Economy into First-Class? Here are some tips that’ll be worth your time to note:

You can’t concentrate at work because your body is not what it used to be at 18.

It’s likely that you’re battling backaches more often at home than in the office. That’s because the chairs in your office probably cost more than RM1000 each! Investing in a good computer chair with state-of-the-art lumbar support might just be the best treat you’ll ever give yourself. Otherwise, using back support with your chair might do the trick just as well. 

Your mom walks into your room as you’re hosting a meeting. 

“Mat! remember to eat the cut fruits on the table later.”

Gotta admit, this happened a few times to me while working from home. And if you’re praying your laptop’s in-built microphone didn’t pick up what your mom said, you’re wrong. This is where a good external microphone can come in handy to avoid picking up background noises! In fact, a headset with a microphone attached can help you block out those sounds as well.

The wifi fails you.

Ugh, tell me about it. Not helpful when you’re in the middle of a meeting or when you have a deadline to meet! Some wifi issues can’t be resolved, but if your house is considerably big, you risk having low internet transmission to your dedicated workspace. A wifi booster can’t promise a speedy connection all the time, but it will ensure that your wifi is stable enough for you to meet that deadline. Woohoo!

You’re working longer hours at home than in the office.

No more lunch breaks to gossip with colleagues and running from meeting room to meeting room? If the lines between work and leisure are getting too muddy, try this method – make the switch to your leisure time, literally, with a USB-HDMI switch that can integrate your work setup with your home setup. You can toggle between Slack/Skype for Business to DOTA with a click of a button. Thanks Benjamin <@benheng>, for the tip! Trust a backend engineer to know how best to practise work-life balance!

 

The Extras 

It’s good to get the right equipment to work more efficiently, but, keeping your desk clean, tidy, and appealing totally ups the game. 

 

You finally found that note- oh wait, it’s a supermarket shopping list.

Dang, still can’t find it? Besides a clutter-free workspace, one that is organised can save tons of precious time when you’re looking for the things you need. Especially if your work stuff and leisure stuff are all jumbled up together. Luckily for you, here’s an easy solution: get some desk organisers and categorise your work-related and leisure-related items. You’re bound to find things you don’t need while doing so, so you can just list them for sale too!

 

You’ve forgotten how good fresh air smells like.

Another underrated tip: don’t underestimate the effect nature can have on your workplace too. Transform your workplace into a more peaceful and tranquil place. The right plants don’t need much care and attention, can purify the air, and boost your mood. Peace lilies and money plants are popular choices with those with green fingers because of their tolerance of low light. However, if you’re looking to care for rare plants, cacti or succulents require the least attention (you only need to water them once a week!) and can still brighten up your work area. 

Pro tip: keep your senses clear with good scents. Essential oils and a diffuser can lift spirits, keep mozzies away, and lower those stress levels!

And don’t forget small personal touches, such as this hand-drawn illustration Jing <icypixie>, keeps of her dogs on her desk. Surrounding yourself with the things you love gives you good feels all around.

 

Now that you’re all set to WFH with a vengeance, rejoice that working from home is likely not going to last forever. And no regrets on your new WFH set-up – because you gotta do what you gotta do to keep going! All the best!

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