Challenges of working from home (2): equipment

Anthony Haynes writes: Yesterday afternoon’s post suggested that, for all its advantages, working from home (wfh) entails some challenges too — of four types, namely those concerning:

  • place
  • equipment
  • people
  • time

Yesterday we considered place; here we consider equipment.

Getting equipped for working from home

Much discussion on the blogosphere concerning wfh focuses on information technology. Specifically, many bloggers identify the need for:

Though such technology may be fine in itself, three challenges arise concerning the contexts in which it is used.

First, it can be difficult to  persuade your stakeholders (for example, clients, associates, or suppliers) to use your preferred platform.

Second, there may be a need to establish usage guidelines — for example, to avoid expectations that you will work 24/7.  For example, Carrie Bedingfield has published a series of posts concerning her relationship to email, including ‘How I’m leaving email behind‘. My own policy is here: ‘Solving the email problem‘.

Note that it can be useful both to (a) have such a policy — for the purposes of self-management — and (b) to share them, in order to manage your stakeholders’ expectations.

Third, the background can intrude unintentionally. For example, if using video comms such as Skype, it is worth considering what will be showing on camera behind or around you. Precisely because direct eye contact is not possible, your interlocutors are likely to spend some call time looking at your surroundings — and decoding the messages they send about you. If have a dedicated work space, it can be worth constructing a backdrop specifically designed to communicate the right impressions during video calls.

Beyond IT

Ergonomics stores offer all manner of equipment for healthier, more comfortable, working. These range from small (though far from valueless) items (ergonomically designed mice, for example, or scissors for left-handers) to large considerations, notably:

  • ergonomically designed chairs
  • adjustable desks

— to which should be added the question of the position of the computer, relative to the user and the light source.

Various recommendations are available online concerning each of these factors. For example, John Soares has provided detailed tips concerning the ergonomics of writing. They are available here:

I’ve consulted some physiotherapists about this advice. They have tended to endorse it (though some dissent concerning the angle of the upper legs/torso) — but have emphasised that, however advantageous the recommended posture, no single posture is ideal.

Better by far is to vary the posture by working with a variety of pieces of equipment (for example, moving between laptop and desktop)  in a variety of places (for example, different rooms in the house, or sometimes at home and sometimes in a cafe or library).

The same caveat applies to advice from Life Ergonomics on sitting at a desk ( and setting up a desk:

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