The Ultimate Guide to 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.
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.
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.
Having room to move
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.
Getting up easily
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.
Having furniture and equipment that suits you
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 ideal work zone
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mouse for Your 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:
– 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
These innovative mice are 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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.
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 chairWho will provide equipment and repairsTechnical support for setting up equipment and ITWhat 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 informationdata protection and cyber security
– protocols if a device is lost or stolen
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.
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
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.