Try this: 10 tips to make your WFH experience as ‘painless’ as possible

Published September 2, 2020, 2:14 AM

by Johannes Chua

It comes like a thief in the night. Without warning and without signs, it robs you of your patience, productivity, and peace of mind.

That thief may appear in various forms—a sharp pain inside your head, a sudden strain on your eyes, a heavy feeling on your neck, tightness inside your chest, or numbness of your palms and fingers. It may even affect your legs or toes, robbing them of sensation.  It sneaks in at any time of the day. It doesn’t mind who you are talking to over Zoom, or whether you’re rushing to beat a deadline or dilly dallying on your tasks.

That “thief” is shaking (and warning) you that you are seated incorrectly, or that you have arched your body in a wrong position for much too long, or that you have missed too many meals and snacks. Pain, after all, is just a manifestation of the “abuse” that you subject your body to, even when you’re just working from home.  

After a prolonged quarantine where work-from-home (WFH) becomes a necessary means for employees to work and for businesses to survive, here come the aches and pains from months of wrong practices and working in an unconducive environment. So before that numb feeling becomes a case for the hospital’s emergency room, try to follow these tips, which we have culled from our interviews with architects and interior designs on the best practices for WFH.

1. First and foremost—declutter  

Before you start with any work, clear that space of any clutter. Experts have said that clutter can affect mental health, cutting your productivity and making you prone to irritation and restlessness. Remember this adage: “A clutter-free space makes for a clutter-free mind.”

2. A chair is your new bestfriend

There’s a big chance during WFH that you consume most of the time sitting in your chair. Hours pass without you being aware that you are slumped on that seat in a wrong position. Architects and interior designers, who spend a lot of time doing work on drawings and sketches, advise those who do WFH regularly to invest on a reasonably priced ergonomic chair.  These chairs are designed to support the natural posture of the back and help reduce stress points on your body.

The back of the chair is full-length, cushioning your neck and head when you lean backward to take a quick break. Ergonomic chairs may also come with armrests, to lessen the strain of your elbows hanging without support for a long time. Support your leg with a foot stool.

What about comfy seats? Can they be used for a WFH setup as well? It’s okay to use a chair with a plush seat or even a leather-bound back. But home experts say that it may be too close for comfort that instead of working, you may be tempted to relax and sleep.

As much as possible, avoid a chair that is uncomfortable as it can strain your spine, leading to a host of aches and pains. Make sure its height also supports your arms properly when you type on a keyboard. A chair that’s too low, or too high, would make typing strenuous after a long while.

3. Desk takes the burden

Depending on your line of work, a work desk should bear the burden of carrying all your important work-related things. A desk that’s too small would make work impossible, while a desk that’s too large would be impractical for space considerations (unless you live in a mansion).

There are a lot of work desks in the market now, sold at cheap prices by online furniture retailers. It is advisable to get one with storage, so that you can use it to keep office supplies and documents.

Those who do WFH on their dining table can do so. Home experts recommend, however, that you properly delineate “work” from “eat” by having an “exclusive” desk just for work. This also prevents fragments of food or drops from beverages to stain your laptop or work papers.  

4. Don’t stay in one position for a long time

Time flies for those who WFH and spend hours on online meetings. Sometimes, a restroom break is delayed or even forgotten. Make a conscious effort to take a 10 to 15-minute break each hour of work, whether it is by shutting your eyes or by enjoying a snack. Even though you are comfortable in your own seat, shift your body toward a different direction.  

5. And stretch those legs

After sitting for hours, it is advisable to stretch those legs, walk outside for a few minutes, or go up and down the stairs. Aside from promoting blood circulation, walking “refreshes” the mind and gives you new inspiration. There is no canteen to go to or an office tambayan, so better head to the nearest sari-sari store for some good old-fashioned walk.  

6. Greens can literally help

These days, greens refer to indoor plants that a lot of homeowners have snapped up during the pandemic. These indoor plants do wonders for wellbeing, as they promote good air circulation and can stave off harmful viruses in the atmosphere. 

But green here also refers to the literal green color. Studies claim that dark green or pine tree green are among the most relaxing colors. Green, as they say, is very restful on the eyes as it is at the opposite end of the spectrum to red, which is the most emotionally charged color.  It can also absorb harmful UV rays of strong light and can also reduce glare. So before you strain your eyes by looking at your computer or laptop screen for a long time, take an instant break by looking at anything green. 

7. Lighting lightens the mood

When it comes to lighting, a WFH space can have day-light fixtures, though it would look like a typical office light. To add a touch of “mood,” homeowners can choose between cool-white to warm-white. It is not advisable to have a dark golden light as it promotes relaxation, which is more apt for game rooms or man caves. 

If your work is quite technical such as crunching numbers or doing detailed designs, you can put a nice functional table lamp, which has a cool-white bulb, on one corner of your work desk to help your eyesight. Concentrating on a work with dim lighting is a recipe for vertigo. 

8. Set a schedule and stick to it

The problem for a lot of WFH employees these days is the blurring of personal and work time. Do a schedule, which you should follow to the dot!  Put in rest in between long online meetings, set a specific time for eating, and draw a boundary between work and rest. Stick to a plan so you mustn’t sneak in that Netflix film during work time.

A WFH that’s so “sabog” would not only ruin your schedules and delay your work, it also disturbs your sleep patterns. Don’t forget to observe weekends like it is Sabbath for your sanity and your soul. 

9. Enjoy WFH as this may be a long-term thing 

As long as that elusive vaccine remains like a unicorn, this WFH setup may drag on for long. So better enjoy the experience instead of complaining and ranting over and over again on Facebook. 

Put some snacks at your desk, pump up some music, put some “motivational” knickknacks all over your WFH area such as travel photos and souvenirs (to remind you of that dream trip). If you love coffee, start that mini-roasting corner. If you are still working, there is so much to be grateful for!  

10. Your bed is for sleeping, not working

Yes, you may stuff two to three pillows behind your back while you are in a sitting position, while you type on your laptop placed over your legs. But do you know its negative effects? 

For guys, putting a laptop over the pelvic area is linked to a reduced sperm count due to the heat emanating from a laptop. Second, our brain associates a bed with sleep, so the very simple act of getting into bed cues the body that it is time to wind down. That “mental link” is broken once work is brought to the bed. When the brain is disturbed and stressed, it sends out pain signals, which is the last thing you need in times like these.