Why did it take me 16 years to create a healthy homeworking space?

Going back to 2004, when I was training and development manager for Travelcare, you’d see me head down in my garden office, writing training courses for the company’s 380-branch network and call centres. I loved homeworking and my workspace. Along with my team of trainers based all over the UK, we won two national training awards and worked incredibly well – remotely.

So why did it take me 16 years to recreate this fabulous homeworking workspace?

In all honestly, the main reason? I was being too busy. How crazy is that? Since 2004, I’ve worked from home on and off, however, since joining Progressive Travel Recruitment in 2015, my travel recruitment role has been based at home permanently.  We’ve been so busy that making a work space for me in a full house (I have four children) didn’t seem a priority, even though I’d endured regular back pain from poor posture sitting at the dining table, spent the day moving my laptop from the glare of the sun, and during school holidays suffering a persistently hoarse voice as I repeatedly screamed “be quiet” all day, to a Tik Tok-obsessed daughter who sounds like she’s coming through the roof during her dance routines.

On a weekend before lockdown, one of my best friends, homeworking Gold Travel Counsellor Emma Parry-Thorpe, came to visit. I was in so much pain with my back, neck and shoulders.  She took one look at my work set-up and gave me a shopping list of what I should be doing, how I should be sitting and how to feel better.

The provision of all the equipment I could possibly want or need to work ergonomically was always available from the company, but in typical ‘me’ style, I was too busy to sort it out. Like several stressors in life, my pain was self-induced.

I knew then, as I do now, that the travel industry will bounce back, and I needed to be ready for it. I have worked in travel for over 30 years, the last five years specialising in travel recruitment, and I’ve stayed in touch with my global network of candidates and customers as we all wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, which is slowly starting to happen. In July, my new work from home office was completed at the same time four new roles came on.

So how does my new homeworking space look and feel?

I considered all the factors I needed to be comfortable during homeworking. I bought a chair that fits well into my back, a desk at the right height for my wrists, a no glare screen (it faces a wall, not windows) and away from the noise and hullabaloo of a household with four teenagers all in lockdown education.

I know not everyone can have a homeworking room in their garden, so here are my tips for creating a great ergonomic space.

Top tips for creating an effective work from home space.

  1. The best space is one that’s as distraction-free as possible. That will look different in every home, but aim to create a reliable area that’s just for work.
  2. A separate room. Do you have a room where you can close the door and work quietly? While not a deal-breaker, a door creates a physical boundary between you and distractions like family members and pets.
  3. A low-traffic area. Distractions can destroy productivity. So, pick a location that’s as low-traffic as possible. “Low traffic” means different things in each homes. For example, if you live alone, a living room might be perfect. But if you live with others, consider how background TV noise will make focusing difficult.
  4. An empty surface. Do you have a surface where you can put your computer down and spread out a few papers? Ideally, that surface will be a desk. If you don’t have one, consider makeshift ideas. Can you create an ad hoc desk out of your dining room table, kitchen island, or nightstand? Remember to make it ergonomic (see below).
  5. Once you’ve picked your location, the next step is to set up your desk. Consider what you need to be productive and gather the materials ahead of time.
  6. Most businesses are fantastic at ensuring your health and safety at work, and purchase workstation equipment that allows you to make any ergonomic changes to avoid strain or injuries. The pain from RSI (repetitive strain injuries) can be terrible and physio can take weeks to correct. Prevention is better than cure. Open this DSE Assessment and check that your workstation is not going to harm you.

For more advice on home working in the travel industry, tap here.

Take our eLearning course ‘Migrating to remote travel home working‘.

Connect with me on LinkedIn here.