Growing up, it was always expected that I would do homework in my bedroom. It was removed from the television area and my desk was absolutely awesome. Apparently, it had belonged to my grandmother and it was solid wood. To go with it, my parents had picked up a wooden chair with arms and we’d stained it so that the two pieces of furniture kind of looked like they matched. On my desk, I had a desk lamp that I would use when the sun went down; there wasn’t actually an overhead light in the room; just a dangling thing over the staircase that led to the room.
I wasn’t allowed to do work anywhere else. It was a nightly routine for doing homework. I kept up this routine at university and most of the time when I got a job teaching.
The need for proper positioning was also reinforced in Grade 9 and 10 where I took typewriting. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard:
Feet flat on the floor, hands on the home row, eyes on your copy … Begin!
Somehow, this was the key to success to learning how to type. A bigger key is practice but that didn’t fit into the generic instructions above.
Why this walk through memory lane? I read this article this morning.
There has been much said about taking care of yourself emotionally and addressing wellbeing. I think it’s equally as important to take care of your workspace and its impact on you physically with so many people teaching from at home these days.
Over the years, I’ve analyzed how I work and how it affects my productivity and have settled into a routine that is the most productive for me.
I’ll start with what is probably the worst experiment ever for me. It was at the end of a term and I had a lot of assignments that needed to be marked. I’d brought everything home is a big box and spread them out on the floor in the rec room in front of the television. There I was, sitting on the floor, picking up one assignment after another reading, assessing, and then grading. It took seemingly forever but eventually I was done. Then, after a few hours in that position, I tried to stand up and barely made it. The legs just weren’t working the way they should.
Another experiment gone wrong came from the notion that I could multi-task. In this case, it was talking a set of assignments to the arena for a 6am hockey practice. I think anyone who has ever done that in the old style arena will nod and smile when I mention that the overhead heaters don’t get turned on for practice at that time. The only thing that kept me warm was the styrofoam cup of coffee. Sadly, an errant puck going over the boards resulted in coffee landing on a piece of student work. I wonder if they’d buy it if I gave them a zero for not handing in their work?!
A couple of experiments like this and probably a few more made me return to my desk for doing work on home. My productivity went up and my aching back and legs went away.
These days, I don’t do a lot of marking but I do do a lot of writing in the form of blogging, some coding as a hobby, and just experimenting with a number of other things. When it gets serious, I go to my desk and my workplace.
I enjoyed that collection of images mentioned above. I cringed when I saw some of the pictures and felt affirmed with others. I am not under the illusion that those pictures weren’t posed for the story but, from my perspective, there are quite a few things that I would consider wrong for my work habits and productivity.
In these days, teachers and students are spending more time online and working whether it be teaching or learning or both. It’s important to take care of your physical environment.
Some tips that I would suggest:
- get a good chair that’s adjustable and yes, let you put your feet flat on the floor. Most good chairs come with lumbar support and that’s a good thing
- have a chair with arms so that you can give yours a rest. Even better, have arms that adjust to get out of the way when you’re hard at it. And, use the chair adjuster every half hour or so to give your body a break
- take formal breaks to get up and stretch, walk around, and take care of your physical needs. If you’re doing a lot of talking, refill that water bottle
- have a workspace that’s devoted only for you so that you can leave a work in progress, in progress, to easily pick up later on
- get yourself a full-sized external keyboard and mouse. Laptop keyboards are great for short term use but it’s easier on yourself to have the luxury of full size. The mouse should be at the same height as the keyboard – no reaching
- there’s some recommendation that you have two computers to get the job done; that’s a nice luxury but an external monitor so that your computer is powering two screens may be more affordable and might even be easier to manage
- buy youself an external microphone for betting audio with those you’re communicating with
- consider going into your settings and make the text size larger so that it’s easier on your eyes
- while look for something easier, consider switching to a “dark mode” if your application supports it. You may find it easier on the eyes
- consider the environment – do you have appropriate lighting? Consider your background if you’re doing video calls
We can learn a lot from typing/keyboarding teachers. Check this out.
The big takeaway here is to recognize that working at the home office is going to be around for a while so making do by sitting on the floor or at the kitchen table may cause more harm than be helpful. It’s not easy and might require some physical arrangement in your home. But, it’s an accommodation that will pay off.
For those who have made changes in their home work routine, what other recommendations can you add? Please do so in the comments.