Working at home can throw up lots of unexpected challenges.
It's a new experience for many and it can be hard to get used to so, if you’re working from home for the first time and finding it difficult to adjust, here are five top tips from RNIB's employment team. If you’re blind or partially sighted, these tips might make it easier for you settle into this new way of working.
In March 2020, at the start of the UK coronavirus lockdown, many people were caught by surprise when they had to pack up and start working at home. Many may have left without some essential kit.
If you have had a more permanent base in an office, you should check with your office manager if essentials - such as chairs, monitors, monitor arms, keyboards etc. - can be couriered to you. Lots of office buildings still have skeleton staff who might help you get what you need.
Online shops can struggle to deliver some items, so getting your own equipment from the office can be the easiest solution.
If you do have to buy some things yourself, you might be able to claim the cost back on expenses.
Speak to your employer about your assistive technology – this should be available for use at home too. If your employer has an IT team, check to see if they can remotely access your system to help.
Key software suppliers are all keen to help employees keep working at home:
Sight and Sound is giving 45 days free access to Zoomtext and Jaws for employees working from home.
Dolphin has a full support team available to help with all enquiries about SuperNova and GuideConnect.
The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is available to give customers with disabilities support with Office and Windows product issues, accessibility questions and use of assistive technology.
Your requirements might be a little different when working from home than they are in the office. Think about what simple adjustments you can make to compensate for the new environment.
Heather Barbara, one of RNIB's employment advisors, says: “My desk at home is a lot smaller than the one at work, so my monitor is closer to me. The result is that I'm not using magnification at all now. But the downside is that the light from my screen seems unusually bright. So, I'm now changing colour contrasts to compensate and stop headaches.”
Also, if you can, move around the house to find the most comfortable lighting, which might be different in the morning and the afternoon.
Working at home doesn’t mean you can neglect your health and safety responsibilities.
You may have limited space to work at home. Create an area that allows you a comfortable place, with your important tools around you. Avoid using the bedroom or the sofa. Don’t sit with your laptop on your lap.
Make sure that the set up is safe and that there are no trip hazards around your workstation, like wires, bins or the children’s toys. If there are other people in your household, try to make sure they keep the floor clear and don’t move your things around.
Vicky Johnson, an employment advisor at RNIB, adds: “Be mindful of your posture. Touch typing can improve this and reduce the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury.”
Now could be a good time to finally master this skill. Typing Jungle has some great free resources to get you started.
Mental health is important too. This is a new way of working for many and it can cause anxiety.
Look ahead at how you are going to arrange your day. Create a structure to it. If you have childcare or carer responsibilities, understand how you are going to work around these.
Create a timetable that helps create routine throughout the day for everyone in the household. Ask your line manager about flexible working if necessary.
Slot in regular virtual coffee breaks with your team and enjoy a non-work-related chat over a virtual cuppa. It’s nice to turn your camera on as that will encourage everybody to engage better. It’s difficult to have a laugh with a still picture on the screen.
Make some tasty but healthy nibbles. It’s tempting to visit the fridge every time you answer a challenging email or get off a call. At least if your treats are healthy they will help you stay well.
Not everyone has access to a garden but if you do, why not go outside on a fine day? If your internet will stretch that far, of course. Or open the window wide. The sound of birds and absence of heavy traffic is very soothing.
Try to keep away from any media which may trigger anxiety. The last thing you need to have is extra unnecessary stress. Turn your newsfeed off and just access it for a set period.
Be mindful to work within working hours, don’t get into the habit of working longer than you should just because you are based at home.
Finally, here’s a nifty little exercise to help you relax, recommended by employment advisor Emma Griffiths.
“Take some time out every day to just enjoy the present – put your feet flat on the floor and feel the ground through them pushing up. Work up through your body, just feeling the presence of each part and how it interacts with your surroundings.
"Take note of three things you can see, hear, feel and smell. Do some deep breathing exercises with your eyes closed. You can do this for a few minutes any time and it does make a lot of difference, even if you are not fully aware it is.”