Sunday photoblogging: tree

by Chris Bertram on December 27, 2020

Oak tree at Ashton Court

Working-from-home comforts?

by Eszter Hargittai on December 27, 2020

Fifth in this little end-of-year series I would like to exchange tips on how to make working from home suck less. This is mostly for those who work in an office type job. I suspect some of you have been doing this for years and perhaps then it was not a huge shift and may even work well. I, however, had not had a home office since graduate school (when my living room doubled as a study in my one-bedroom apartment). The sudden closure of offices was tough given zero office setup at home. It’s not that I hadn’t ever worked from home, it’s just that I had only done it by sitting on my living room sofa feet up on my coffee table, laptop in my lap (a laptop in a lap, imagine that). This was not sustainable for full-time work, however. I suffered on my definitely-not-for-constant-sitting dining room chair. It turns out that a lumbar cushion can make a significant difference. I use the Samsonite Memory Foam one and it has worked well. I have found the halfmoon-shaped one less effective. (Curiously, neither of these seems visible on Samsonite’s own Web site, I hope it’s not because they have discontinued it. It looks like lots of retailers have it though.)

Now, if you have the budget to go all out on chair supplies then I highly recommend the Herman Miller Aeron Chairs, but after ordering one in May (with which there was an administrative glitch so actually in) July, I only received it in November so I had needed other arrangements for much of the year. (I knew of the chair as it’s what I’ve been fortunate to use at work for about twenty years now.) I’m sure there are other more reasonably-priced ergonomic desk chairs out there that would also be much better than a dining room chair.

The other hardware arrangement was getting a monitor to supplement the laptop, which was a very good decision. The IT staff in my department was amazing back in March helping folks get set up especially for remote teaching. (Unlike many schools in the US that seemed to be on Spring break when lockdowns first occurred, at UZH we were told on Friday afternoon that starting Monday we’d have to be teaching online so there was some serious last-minute shuffling going on.) A friend convinced me to get a curved monitor and that’s been surprisingly helpful even though I had already had a rather large monitor in the office before.

In Zurich, we were allowed back in the office by June and I spent much of the summer and fall there so I didn’t have to keep innovating on my setup. However, as infections rose in the past few months, I started feeling uncomfortable going to the office so am again on the lookout for new ideas. I’ll have a separate post for software finds. In this thread, I’m especially curious to hear how folks made their physical home setup work well. And yes, I recognize my very fortunate position of having support for all these things and the privilege I have had of continuing a job I enjoy with ongoing support from my employer.