Bizness at (Home) Work: Ryan Anderson offers tips for easing the pain of working from home

Somewhere during week two of social distancing and our transition to Michigan Governor Whitmer's Executive Order to shelter in place, I developed a (home) work injury. 

And in hindsight, I know I did this from placing my body in positions that stressed areas to the point of injury as I attempted to find the best place to work within the home.

Lucky for us, we live in a region of Michigan whose history and continuing legacy is filled with world-class business leaders who show up every day seeking to answer the challenges we face in our rapidly evolving work spaces.

With "shelter in place" looking like our new norm for a while longer than expected, I made a call to Ryan Anderson, VP of Digital Innovation at Herman Miller, who kicks off our "Bizness at (Home) Work" series as he shares a few easy-to-apply tips for working from home (and safely) during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tommy Allen, Publisher - a solutions journalism magazine


In the not-too-distant past, working from home was considered a privilege for most people, but what a difference a few weeks can make. Due to the shelter-in-place order that recently took effect in Michigan, many of us find ourselves working exclusively from home for the foreseeable future, and if working from home is new to you, you might be feeling the pain of the situation both literally and figuratively. At Herman Miller, we’ve been studying remote working for a long time, and here’s a few tips that can help you make the most of the experience. 

First, find a comfortable place to be productive

Begin by finding a location in your house or apartment that is as sequestered as possible from the chaos of daily living, but where you still get a strong Wi-Fi connection. This can be a space that isn’t very pretty, like an attic or storage area that you can convert to become more comfortable. That means finding a chair and work surface that allow your knees and elbows to rest at 90-degree angles. If you don’t have a desk chair, consider placing a blanket or pillow on a dining chair and resting your feet on some books so that your back is supported against the chair. Try to avoid hunching forward while working. If possible, position yourself looking towards a window to enjoy some natural light and bringing in some extra lighting to prevent eye strain. If you’re on video a lot, position yourself in front of a wall so that your camera points towards it instead of towards anything in the space that might be distracting. Regardless of where you work, get up and stretch or step outside regularly as the movement and fresh air can positively impact your productivity and mental health throughout the day. 

Second, adopt a sustainable routine

We need to recognize that this isn’t business as normal. All of us are balancing our personal needs with work demands, and many of us are working from homes alongside young children. As a result, each of us should try and land upon a new routine that is repeatable and sustainable. This means re-evaluating our typical working hours and balancing the demands of the day with the ability to get a good night’s sleep and exercise. While there is sometimes a stereotype that working from home can be unproductive, often the opposite is true – people can’t easily turn off their work which puts us at risk of burnout. Each person’s new sustainable routine will be different, but should start with the understanding that to best serve our employer, we must balance our demands with our personal wellness so that we can be productive over time.

Third, align on the best technologies with your team

Many remote teams quickly move towards web meetings – Zoom, Skype, Go-To Meeting, WebEx, etc. – as their primary technology tools to stay connected. Video meetings are excellent at supporting both verbal and non-verbal communication, but they are also very demanding of peoples’ time. They require everyone to interact simultaneously, which can slow processes, be a challenge for introverted team members, and further complicate the day for those trying to help children with schoolwork. 

Instead, try to use video meetings more sparingly for times of connection and use other platforms as primary communication channels. This can include Slack, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp or another project-based collaboration platform that allows people to interact throughout the day at whatever times are convenient for them. If these solutions are new to your team, this may be the perfect time to begin adopting them as you’ll find they are designed to effectively coordinate team-based work and keep projects moving without being over-reliant upon meetings. 

Finally, as you try new methods of being productive throughout your workday, be sure to share those tips and best practices with others in your organization. We might just find that the new habits we’re developing now will help our organizations be more productive in the future. 


Ryan Anderson serves as VP of Digital Innovation at Herman Miller. With over twenty-five years of industry experience, Ryan’s work has centered on how technology can enable new ways of working and how the future workplace can support positive, productive experiences. Ryan’s work has been featured in Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, Fast Company, the BBC and beyond. He lives in Grand Rapids and is active in serving our community as a Mobile GR Commissioner, a member of the Board of Directors at Meijer Gardens, and participating as a Create Great Leaders Council Member at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

Publisher's note: Follow #imgcovid19 on Twitter to read how other solutions journalism publications are responding to COVID-19 within their cities. 

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