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Tips for Setting Up Your Home Workspace

Psychology professor Doug Gillan shares ideas for staying focused and productive when working remotely.

Table with laptop, smartphone and coffee cup.

At the beginning of the spring semester, you could usually find psychology professor Doug Gillan in a lecture hall in front of 150 undergraduates or meeting with graduate students in his office on the top floor of Poe Hall.

But that was before the COVID-19 outbreak changed everything.

“My life has been very disrupted,” he says, speaking by phone from his home in Cary.
But there are still classes to teach and students to advise, so Gillan is adjusting to the new normal.

“Humans tend to be pretty conservative with respect to adopting new ways of doing things,” he says. “But coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, we may find that the way we work has changed a lot.

“It’s a pretty interesting notion for those of us who study how people work. We’re in the middle of a major experiment that nature is providing us.”

For the subjects of this vast, global experiment — including NC State’s faculty and staff — Gillan shares his recommendations for telecommuting successfully.

  • Create a dedicated workspace.

Gillan says it’s important to separate your working life from the rest of your life, physically and emotionally. “It can be stressful to always be working,” he says. “For a lot of us, our work life has become our regular life.”

He advocates that you carve out a space where you can work without too many distractions. “You may be tempted to multitask and intersperse home chores with your work responsibilities,” he says. “A dedicated workspace will help you stay focused.”

  • Have resources close at hand.

When you set up your workspace, make sure you have all the tools you need nearby. “Try to have your computer, printer and other things you need right there,” he says. “You don’t want to have to jump up and go looking for a pencil in the middle of a task.”

  • Support your back.

The right seating is important, especially for people who spend hours sitting at a computer. “You need good back support,” Gillan says. “Seating should be comfortable, but not too comfortable. If you work from the sofa you could find yourself napping instead of working.”

  • Have plenty of light.

Lighting is another important factor for people working remotely. “Not only do you want to have sufficient light, you want to have window light, if possible,” Gillan says. “People like to look out the window and see the world out there, which is probably more important now than ever.”

For more information, NC State’s Office of Information Technology maintains a website with links to telecommuting resources.

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