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Back to School (from Home): Furnishing Your Home Study Area

back-to-school-part-1
400 200 Stewart Sutherland

It’s nearing back-to-school time once again, and this September will be a tad different for many college and university students. Learning from home, like working remotely, poses unique challenges.

In the five months or more since most of us were sent home, we’ve created our own little workstations. Many of these consist of converted dining-room tables, basement caves, or spare bedrooms. These ad hoc home offices usually aren’t very friendly or efficient for home learning. And with the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in the US stating the COVID-19 outbreak will last anywhere from 18 to 24 months, this will have a direct effect on how students learn and progress.

This blog series will provide info, tips, and tricks to help you create an efficient work and study space at home. In this instalment, we’ll start with the most fundamental requirement of any office, home or otherwise.

Furniture

Every architect, engineer, and construction project manager will say the same thing: you cannot build a house without a good foundation. The same can be said for a home learning area – only in this case, the foundation would be the office’s furniture.

Desks

Desks - Work from home tips

Let’s start with the most obvious piece of furniture any home study area needs – the desk.

As stated, many students are using a dining or kitchen table as their primary “desk.” Students who have returned to their family homes may be set up at the same bedroom desk they used back in grade school. Neither of these choices are ideal for working and learning.

Experts emphasize the importance of working at an ergonomically correct desk. You can learn more about these kinds of desks at The Ergonomics Health Association’s website. How spacious and elaborate of a desk you should get depends on your study preferences, your hardware requirements, and your home’s space constraints. Just keep in mind how much time you’ll have to spend at your desk and invest in one that will make that time as comfortable as possible.

One option worth considering is a stand-up desk, or one that can convert to a stand-up. Although these desks can be expensive, they can be well worth the investment. In addition to offering a number of health benefits (source: Healthline), they’re available in some fairly compact designs, which can make a world of difference in small or shared spaces.

Chairs

Chairs - Work from home tips

The typical campus learning experience sees students moving around quite a bit – between classes, to the cafeteria or food court for meals, anywhere they want during stretches of free time. In contrast, the home learning experience involves much more sitting in one place. Which brings us to the second important foundation of a good home learning area: the chair.

As with desks, students often use whatever chair happens to be on hand, even if it’s just a kitchen or dining-room chair. But these aren’t the kinds of chair you want to sit on for six to eight hours a day. They offer no lumbar support, normally don’t include padded arms (which are important for support while typing), and are designed for consuming food, not educational content.

Good, ergonomically sound desk chairs can be expensive. However, one relatively inexpensive option is a gamer chair. These are chairs specifically designed for people who play PC games online for hours at a time. They’re quite comfortable and tend to feature good lumbar support and padded armrests. They also tend to be far less expensive than the ergonomic office chairs sold at office supply stores. For more info on these chairs and how they compare to traditional desk chairs, check out this article by Ergonomic Trends.

Conclusion

Buying new office furniture to create an ideal remote-education workspace may not be doable for all students. High-quality desks and chairs aren’t cheap, and student budgets are notoriously tight (particularly in the current economy.

However, for those in a position to make the investment, it’s hard to overstate how much value there is in having a comfortable and ergonomically sound home workplace. Many of us have been learning or working from home for over five months now; many students are about to enter another semester of the same. Isn’t it time we made ourselves comfortable at it?

This was the first instalment of our blog series on learning from home. The next instalment will look at the various hardware and software configurations required to create an ideal home learning space.

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