The ultimate guide to your home office

Everything you need to know – from ergonomics to interior design to legislation.

Home office

Your home office

The pandemic has changed how we work. Despite society opening up, most workers do not expect to be back in the office full-time, stressing the importance of establishing a proper home office.

To ensure effectiveness when working from home, you and your employer must be aware of the regulations concerning taxes, gross salary scheme, occupational injury insurance, and other relevant legislation. Otherwise, you run the risk of the home office becoming an unpleasant surprise for both parties.

Also, your home office needs to meet your physical requirements and be ergonomically designed. Furniture and equipment should suit your needs and support 7-8 hours of sedentary work daily without provoking bodily injury.

By reading this article, we can help you get a home office that supports physical well-being and healthy working life.

Happy reading.

Table of Contents

Home office

The ergonomic home office

As working from home and flexible working becomes more accepted, the need for ergonomic solutions increases.

Poor working positions cause significant damage over time. For instance, it is proven that over 20-25 hours of computer or mouse work per week increases the risk of pains in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.

If you used to work from home a few days each year, you could settle for a setup that was not optimal. However, when you work from home every week – maybe several days a week – that changes dramatically. Here, the working conditions begin to take their toll on your physical well-being.

When you start to have a setup where you work from home or a flexible solution, you should make a rigid inspection of your home office. It is important that you pay attention to whether you have the furniture and equipment to support a healthy and ergonomically correct working position. In this chapter, we take a closer look at exactly that.

The ergonomic home office

Decorating your home office

When decorating your home office, always start with the general principles. Despite a fixed set up behind a laptop, there are some well-founded rules for keeping your body healthy and pain-free.

You need to arrange your home office so that you have room to move. Changing working positions is critical to being physically healthy when working.

You must decorate your home office so that it is easy to get up and stretch. A height-adjustable desk is ideal, but your position should always be relaxed and convenient. Avoid placing your chair so that the backrest is directly against a wall. It should be easy to get up from your chair, as you will be encouraged to move and handle tasks standing up

Your home office must match your needs. Ensure that your chair, table, and equipment (keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc.) all have the correct dimensions and details to provide the best working environment for you.

The points mentioned above are based on recommendations from the Danish Working Environment Authority.

The ergonomic home office

Work zones

The Ideal Working Area:

  • Everything you can reach with your hands in a seated position is in the ideal area.
  • Your primary work tools should all be placed here.
  • Tools you use less often can be placed in the secondary area indicated in the image. Meaning, at a distance that you can easily reach with your arms but without twisting or stretching the body.
  • Your work tools should not be in the tertiary area, where you keep lights, plants and similar objects that you don’t need to use daily.

If you need help setting up your ergonomic workstation, you can download our checklist – it will guide you step by step.

home office

Furniture for your home office

In this section, we review what you need to be aware of when designing your home office with furniture and equipment such as a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You can also become wiser about the optimal space conditions for your home office.

Furniture for your home office

What chair to choose for your home office

What makes a good chair?

A good chair must be stable, and it must ensure that you have freedom of movement to support different appropriate working positions.

You should be able to change the height of the seat. Similarly, the seat’s angle should be adjustable. The same things go for the chair’s back, where it must also be possible to change both height and angle. Also, you must be able to change the seat inclination and seat depth.

It must be able to adjust the different parts of the chair, such as the seat, backrest, and possibly the armrests, independently of each other.

Source: Unison – Are you sitting comfortably?

What should you be aware of when setting up a chair?

  • Set the seating height to flat feet on the floor, so your arms may, rest easily on the desk.
  • Place yourself in the back of the seat, so your thighs have support. For the best position, you have to fit a hand between your knees and the front of the chair.
  • Adjust the chair’s back in height, depth, and angle, so it supports your lower back.
  • The armrests are correctly set when they allow your arms and shoulders to relax.
  • Make sure the armrest allow you to sit close to the table. Keep a 90-degree angle in your elbows, knees, and hips as it secures proper working position.

Find a good chair for your home office here. 

Furniture for your home office

Finding the right desk

What makes a good desk?

Your desk should be broad and deep enough to allow you to properly position your monitor, keyboard, and mouse, as well as other work tools (such as documents, desktops, folders, etc.).

The height of the desk should suit you and the tasks you perform. Having an adjustable desk is an advantage, as you can set it at the most optimal height that fits your individual needs.

Finally, a suitable desk for your home office should have a surface that does not reflect light, so you avoid disturbances in your vision.

Source: Unison

Find a great table for your home office here 

What to be aware of when setting up  your desk

  • It is ideal if you can raise or lower the desk, as this allows you to work standing up.
  • Avoid using a table with a drawer for your keyboard, as it should be possible to move your arms and hands freely.
  • You need roughly 1 meter of spacing between the edge of the desk and the wall.
  • Place the desk away from windows to avoid disturbing your vision with heavy sunlight. It works best if the sun enters your desk from an angle.
  • You must be able to work sitting down with lowered, relaxed shoulders while your arms can rest at a 90-degree angle.
Furniture for your home office

Space conditions

What are good space conditions? 

  • You must have plenty of space to perform all your work functions, so you can move without restrictions.
  • You must have plenty of space to perform all work functions in different ways. Variation in movements and positions is essential for keeping healthy, when working from home.
home office

Equipment for your home office

In this section, you can learn more about the three most important devices for your home office: keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
You can also see examples of ergonomic keyboards and mice. 

Equipment for your home office

Keyboard for your home office

What makes a good keyboard? 

Variation and customization are key when choosing a keyboard for your home office. A keyboard with adjustable legs and tilt functions is a must. It allows you to work on your keyboard in various positions, reducing the strain on your hands, fingers, and wrists.
 

With adjustable legs and tilt functions, you can adjust the keyboard to fit the individual task you are working on. When typing, for example, it is optimal to set the keyboard to a negative tilt, as it will help you relax more in your fingers.

The keyboard’s design should also support an ergonomically correct working position with arms placed in front of the keyboard. Shortcut keys limit the use of the mouse, thus reducing the strain on the hands and fingers. See an example of an ergonomic keyboard here.

 

What should you be aware of when working with a keyboard?

  • Fold the keyboard’s feet together to lie flat on the table – the more negative the angle, the better.
  • There must be space in front of the keyboard for the forearms to rest on the table.
  • Position the keyboard so that you sit directly in front of it and avoid twisting your arms and wrists.
  • Avoid sitting with your fingers raised – in the so-called “ready” position.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce mouse usage.
Equipment for your home office

Mouse for you home office

Choosing an ergonomic mouse for your home office can prevent strains and tensions that can develop into injuries over time. 

You can choose a traditional one-handed mouse with an ergonomic design. Here, you get a mouse that promotes correct hand positioning. You will have a relaxed grip and avoid bending your fingers when holding the mouse. Another characteristic of the most ergonomic one-handed mouse is the adaptable design. It makes it possible to adjust the mouse’s inclination and thumb support, so you get precisely the mouse you require. 

That way, you limit the strain on your wrists and fingers.

Unimouse with illustrated functions: 

Unimouse with illustrated functions
  • Offers the ability to alter the vertical angle allowing for pressure to be taken away from the wrist
  • Possible to adjust the angle of the mouse to anywhere between 35 and 70 degrees
  • The thumb support can be adjusted in all directions: in/out, up/down, forward/backwards, inclination and rotation
  • Six programmable buttons and a comfortable scroll 

You can also pick an ergonomically centred mouse

This innovative mouse is located in front of the keyboard, reducing your workspace. You can work with small, light movements and thus avoid overloading the neck, shoulder, elbows, and wrists.

You can find the ergonomic one-handed mouse here.

You can find the ergonomically centred mouse here. What should you be aware of when working with a mouse?

  • Must be as close to the body as possible and not to the side
  • Feel free to switch between right and left hand to control the mouse so you relieve and create variation
  • Stretch, bend, and shake your hands and arms once in a while
Equipment for your home office

Monitor for your home office

What is the right monitor for you? 

A good monitor should be 24 inches or larger. With such size, you can have multiple windows open simultaneously, so you do not have to click around between different windows. Ultimately, it reduces the strain of using a mouse.

A matte screen that is non-reflective and protects your eyes from glare is preferable. You should choose a monitor that can be tilted and adjusted in height so that you can adapt the location of the screen to your needs.

ergonomic seating position at computer

What to keep in mind with your monitor?

  • The screen should be an arm’s length from you – approx. 60-70 cm
  • Your eyes should be aligned with the top edge of the screen
  • When using several screens, they are placed in a V-shape to prevent movement in the neck
Home office

Legislation on home office

If you work from home regularly, a number of different rules apply, which you and your employer must be aware of.

In this section, you can learn more about the requirements you can place on your employer in relation to your home office. You can also read about taxes and what deductions can apply when you work from a home office.

Legislation on home office

Legislation on working from home

Working from home is a flexible work environment, where employees work from home some or all of the time. Some workers may find certain benefits in working from home, such as added productivity, better work-life balance, increased job satisfaction. From an employer angle, the benefits are higher staff retention and reduced office rent and travel costs.  

If you are working from home – either full time or as part of a hybrid model – there are different legislations and responsibilities that you and your employer must be aware of in terms of the working environment and tax. 

It is both the employee and the employers’ responsibility to ensure that working from home happens in a safe environment and can be conducted according to both parties wishes. 

Employers must always: 

  • be open to conversations on hybrid working arrangements 
  • consider which jobs can be done flexibly 
  • discuss with the worker how to find a suitable solution  

Source: ACAS 

In this section, you can learn more about the demands you can put forward to your employer regarding your home office. You can also read more about available tax claims when you work from home consistently. 

Legislation on home office

What can you ask of your employer

As a worker, you can always make an informal request for flexible working or a formal proposal. If your employers grant you the opportunity to work more from home, you may demand that certain conditions be met to secure a safe and healthy environment. 

Employers have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of all workers. This includes both those who are consistently in the office and those working under a more dynamic arrangement. 

Employers must assess a workers’ work and workplace if any arrangement regarding work from home has been made. The law requires that this assessment must be “suitable and sufficient”. 

If the assessment concludes that changes must be made, the employer is responsible for ensuring that they happen accordingly. Regular check-ups must be scheduled to ensure that the working environment is consistently up to code.

Find out more about what employers should do from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Equipment and technology 

Employees need to have the right equipment and technology required to work from home effectively. It secures a smooth transition and reduces the risk of stress and physical ailments if conditions are poor. Things employers, workers and any representatives should agree on include: 

  • What is the essential requirement, for example, a reliable and secure internet connection and a fitting desk and chair 
  • Who will provide equipment and repairs 
  • Technical support for setting up equipment and IT 
  • What is needed in terms of ergonomic solutions to avoid injuries such as specialised mouse and keyboard 

 Employers must have clear policies on equipment and IT, including: 

  • how to report possible issues to, e.g., the IT team 
  • how to monitor, use, and handle information 
  • data protection and cyber security 
  • protocols if a device is lost or stolen

Source: ACAS 

Legislation on home office

What is your responsibility?

Workers have a responsibility to take care of their safety and general health while working from home. Anyone who is under a hybrid working arrangement must be in regular contact with their manager and tell them about: 

  • Physical or mental health challenges and risks 
  • Any amendments to the working conditions that need to change 

It is essential with frequent communication between workers and managers to ensure a smooth and safe solution. 

Source: ACAS 

LEGISLATION ON HOME OFFICE

Working from home and tax claims

The legislation regarding working from home and tax claims depends on being forced to work at home regularly. Either for the whole week or as part of a hybrid model. If you choose to work from home voluntarily, you cannot claim any tax relief from your costs related to doing your job. 

If you are working from home involuntarily, you may be able to claim tax relief for: 

  • Gas and electricity 
  • Metered water 
  • Phone calls and internet access (if not provided by your employer) 

You are not able to claim for total bills, but rather the part relates to work. If you have bought equipment to do your job, such as a laptop, a chair, or a keyboard, you can also claim tax relief. 

You will get tax relief based on the rate at which you pay tax. You can choose to either claim tax relief on: 

  • £6 a week.  
  • the exact amount of extra costs you have incurred above the weekly amount – you will need evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts 

Source: UK Government 

Legislation on home office

Checking insurance cover

If working from home, you are not covered by your employer’s insurance similarly as you would be in the office. Therefore, workers must always check there are no issues with them working from home, with their: 

  • home insurance provider 
  • mortgage provider or landlord 

It is always a good idea for employers to remind workers to check this. Employers should also make sure their insurance covers workers working from home. 

Who covers inventory? 

How inventory such as furniture and equipment is covered depends solely on who owns the respective units. Your insurance will cover if you are working on your privately owned computer in your home office, whereas your employer’s insurance will cover if they have provided a laptop for you. 

Who covers possible injuries? 

Employer’s Liability insurance offers some cover for remote workers, but this will ultimately depend on the available policy.  

An Employer’s Liability insurance policy covers all ‘clerical activities’ done at home or remotely, but there are a few grey areas. For instance, injuries or illnesses sustained during office hours may not be ‘in the course of employee’s work’.  

The law on working from home and the policies that go with it is often difficult to navigate, why it is recommended to get an overview from the insurance provider.

home office

Being efficient when working from home

When all your stuff and no colleagues surround you, it can be challenging to refrain from getting distracted and not lose momentum in the workflow. It is easy to get caught up doing the laundry, mopping the floor, or getting to those low tasks on the to-do list.

So, what can you do about it?

In this section, you can learn more about how to work effectively at home.

Efficiency AT HOME

How do you work efficiently from home?

There is a big difference in how people work efficiently. Here, you will find seven fundamental principles that can help you have an effective days work at home, regardless of how you otherwise thrive best when working.

When you work from home, you save transport to and from work. However, people tend to get started a little later than usual due to the freedom of taking a slow morning. 

Make sure you get started at the same time as usual. You could also enjoy the liberty of not having to transport yourself to and from work and start a little earlier. Who knows, maybe you even finish earlier as well? 

Make sure to set up a good working environment with a proper chair, work table, ventilation, plenty of light, etc. It may feel comfortable to work from the couch, but it is only a matter of time before your body begins to object.

Meetings, deadlines, lunch breaks, etc. By having some fixed, time-bound appointments during the day, you avoid the hours getting mixed up and you spend too much or too little time on certain tasks.

One of the things lost when working from home is impulsive conversations with colleagues, which can help with problem-solving and create a greater connection to the workplace. It is difficult to take this into the home office, so try to schedule some video meetings during the day. They do not have to take long or have a planned purpose, but it gives you the opportunity to “chit-chat”.

It is a good idea if you and your colleagues keep a public work calendar that everyone can follow. This allows everyone to understand what you are doing in terms of meetings, tasks, etc., as it stimulates conversation that otherwise risks being lost.

Stretch your body and take mental timeouts. You do not get the same natural pauses, when you work from home, why you need to plan your breaks.

Vacuuming, shopping, cooking, etc. There are lots of things that are tempting to fix around the house. Our advice is that you should concentrate on work and postpone the chores. If not, time runs out, and your day can become stressful when you have to compensate for the time you spent washing clothes.

You need a clear line between work and leisure time. It can be stressful and unfulfilling if you consistently have one foot in each mode.

Efficiency in your home office

Best home office space: Living room, utility room, or bedroom?

If possible, always choose a room or area with privacy and quiet.

Most home spaces are not designed to be a workstation. The sofa, armchair, dining table, bed, etc. Comfortable places to stay for a few hours, but rarely ergonomically supportive for 7-8 hours of sedentary work.

The best space for a home office is always where you have the room to set up a proper workstation. It includes a table with the right height and size for your needs, a work chair, sufficient distance between computer and chair, etc.

Having a study or your own office is nice, but far from necessary. It can easily be a corner of the living room where you find space to set up. While it might mess up your interior design a little bit, if you are setting up your home office in your living room, it beats back pain ten times out of ten.

Also read: The ideal home office – decor with a focus on job satisfaction, ergonomics, and efficiency

Home office

Inspiration for the home office

In this last section, we take a closer look at two important things that can inspire you to make working at home a better experience for both body and mind:

– Exercises in the home office (“lunch gymnastics”)

– Inspiration from like-minded workers

Inspiration for the home office

Exercises when working from the home office

Physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy and pain-free body when you have sedentary work. This is especially true when working from a home office, where the natural, physical breaks such as a walk to the coffee machine, a meeting room, or a colleague’s table do happen at the same rate.

You need to ensure that you stay active when working from home. You can do this with small, easy exercises:

  • Stretched forward bend
  • Kneeling with chair
  • Bend and swing
  • Main turn to the side
  • Standing rotation of the back

On our YouTube, you will find several small clips with exercise inspiration that you can do at home.

You can learn more about preventing strain injuries here and find useful inspiration for office exercises at Contour Designs YouTube channel in the playlist, Be Active. Below you have an excerpt from the list.

INSPIRATION FOR THE HOME OFFICE

Inspire each other to set up great home offices

You are not the only one at your job that sometimes works from home. Most people now have their own home office (in one form or another) and have gained experience with what works well and what does not.

Share experiences about your favourite home office set-up and help each other get the best out of working from home. There are plenty of learnings to share in terms of optional ergonomics and an excellent work-life.

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