2020 has turned out to be a roller-coaster ride. Without the safety belts. The air brakes. And the safety chain. We’ve been flying off our seats at every news update with no guarantee of a safe landing. Now five months into the lockdown we’re still wondering “How on Earth did we get here?”
But life goes on. We’ve shaped our day-to-days around a virus that threatens to kill us every second. We’ve raced to define and adjust to a new normal out of fear and then out of hope. And in this delirium, we did the one thing that we’ve always avoided doing. Bringing work home.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to still have a job. But when we moved the office to the home for good, none of us had a clue about what we had in store.
Things took off well in the beginning. I had spread out around the computer desk in the living room, designating spots for my computer, the headphone, pens, hand sanitizer and so on. TG set up camp in the bedroom. We tried to work around the setup we already had. A couple of months later, TG was back at the office and I moved in to the bedroom with my setup. The bedroom workspace was a temporary arrangement. By the end of each day after I packed up, there was no sign of office at all.
It was all working fine until one day I felt a sharp pain a tad bit above the small of my back. Obviously, I ignored it. And then I felt the pain again the next day. And then the day after. I pushed the thought of it to the back of mind expecting it to disappear on its own. Sadly, the opposite happened. The pain stood out like a sore thumb. It was threatening to become agonizing the more I ignored it. It got to a point where a pain-killer spray was my only respite. But then again in the morning I was waking up in pain unable to sit or stand for long.
Weeks passed like this and I had no luck. So I decided to take stock and do all that I could to make it go away. I changed my chair. I changed my makeshift workspace’s position. I tried modifying my exercise routine. I introduced some yoga. And then I even tried pulling the brakes on exercising for a couple of weeks. But nothing worked. The pain had no intention of going away. So I did some thinking.
I could see that the virus wasn’t going away. This meant shifting back to the office was not going to happen any time soon. I realized that I would probably be working from home for quite some time. To be able to do that back-pain-free, I needed something more concrete than a makeshift workspace. Now that was my last ray of hope before I would have no other option but to visit the doctor. But the question was, where do I put up a permanent workspace setup?
Having spent 27 years of my life majorly in small-sized spaces, I had learnt one thing. Every piece of furniture you decide to fill your living and breathing space with, should have a purpose that nothing else can fulfill. If it doesn’t, you don’t need it.
So when I looked around my bedroom, the large book cabinet blocking one of the windows stood out. Like it wasn’t situated in the context of the other stuff in the room. So we thought of doing some reshuffling. We brought out the measuring tape, did some math and found the right place for it. We decided that it would go beneath the wall-mounted TV opposite the bed. All we had to do was empty its breakable contents and get it where it needs to be.
We did it with some external help by the name of “Ram”. Then I emptied it completely, cleaned the shelves and re-arranged the books, picture frames, show pieces, certificates, medals, pens etc. I had been reading a lot on home décor recently and I have learned that stacking books vertically and then alternating with horizontal stacks increases their visual appeal and makes it easy to spot them. Books seen are more likely used and read. So I did just that.
Once I had finished, I stepped back to admire my handiwork. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed. The cabinet look so organized that it instantly became one of the focal points of the room. But more importantly, the cabinet now looked like it had purpose. It looked like a well-placed, functional media console instead of just another oddly-placed book cabinet.
Sometimes the zero-cost projects can make a big impact and freshen up a room in a new way. Moving the cabinet freed up a lot of space in the bedroom. The window it blocked became accessible. The space opened up for more possibilities. The next thing we needed was a work table.
Another thing I learnt while growing up and this lesson comes directly from Baba is that – whatever you do, take the effort to do a permanent job out of it. This will ensure that you don’t have to invest any more of your time into it a second time around just because you wanted the idea to take form quickly and you ended up doing a botched up job in that race.
So I put in a lot of thought into the table I would place in the room. TG was by then, already making headway in changing his job. We knew that he would be returning to working from home at his new office if he cracked the interview. So it made no sense getting a table for one person. Hence, that was one priority listed down – table for two.
Next up, I knew that I didn’t need a table with storage or any such frills. I was looking for a simple table with an empty base and one that would fit in the space we had designated for it. Why empty base and how did I come about this conclusion?
The living room computer desk that I was working at the first couple of months into the lockdown has a closed cabinet on the left side bottom of the desk and the right housed my CPU. So, my knees ended up banging at the cabinet door and the CPU. Since I have a pre-arthritis condition on my left knee, it hurt like hell. Also, there was no room to stretch my legs which is absolutely necessary for at least my left leg since it’s my bad leg. Therefore, storage at the table base was out of question.
So we had three priorities we wanted to use as filters:
- Table for two
- Without a base
- Is of the ergonomic height
- Fits in the designated area
We took to Amazon and Flipkart actively in search of the right table. Turns out, it’s difficult tp find a work table for two and it’s impossible to find one that fits all the other criteria. I was using the search term “office table” but none of the results fit the bill. Then I switched to “study table”. No luck there. Finally, I decided to look for “console tables”. And then one afternoon, the miracle happened. We found a table that ticked all the boxes and as a bonus, it looked good too! Given it was my second online furniture buy, I was a bit apprehensive. So we double checked the measurements, the descriptions and the images given before placing the order.
This table is a DIY product. In the box:
- The mango wood table top (with two drawers in their places)
- The four copper-coated steel legs
- Screws, drawer handles and plastic leg rests were wrapped in a cardboard paper and placed inside one of the drawers. We pried the drawer open with a screwdriver (since it didn’t have the handle yet) to retrieve them.
It was pretty much self-explanatory and putting them together was a breeze. TG, being the handyman that he is, did the assembly and voila, we had a brand new table at our disposal!
Now that it’s sold out, here are some other options that you might like:
- IKEA Desk from Amazon
- Kasper (Large) Study Table from Pepperfry (has colour variations)
- Focus (Large) Study Table from Pepperfry (also has colour variations)
- IKEA LINNMON Table from Amazon
If you are in a bind like I was, you can consider buying two small tables and putting them side by side to get a similar result. Alternatively, you can chuck the entire readymade idea and go in for a custom-made table.
Now that the table was here, we needed to look for the chairs. Our criteria for the chair:
- Lumbar support
- Adjustable seat height
- Adjustable arm rests
Another marathon of a search later, we spotted one on Flipkart that seemed fine to us. So we decided to order one and see how it turns out. Little did we know then that it was going to go downhill from here! The estimated delivery date shown at the time of placing the order was 18 days after the date of order. Now it isn’t a problem for us to wait for the good things in life. But 18 days later, there was no sign of the chair. So we called up the customer care and was told to wait another 24 hours. 48 hours later, we were right where we were. We kept calling the customer care every day for updates but none of them were able to give us an answer. A week went by like this and there was no progress.
In the end, we decided to cancel the order. But that wasn’t going to happen either. Apparently, the product couldn’t be cancelled no matter what because the seller doesn’t allow it. Obviously, we couldn’t wait forever for a prepaid product. So we took to social media (Twitter) about the problem and tagged all the right people in our posts to help sort this out. Flipkart’s social media team reached out to us through phone calls, Emails and messages with the “assurance” that something was going to be done about this. Another couple of days of waiting and guess what? Nothing happened. No surprise there.
In the meantime, Consumer Forum reached out to us asking us to register a complaint with them. We didn’t want to go that far because Flipkart had never disappointed us in the past. But this time we had no choice. We were done putting our faith in Flipkart. So we registered a complaint with the Consumer Forum on a Saturday. On Monday afternoon, the chair was delivered at our doorstep! We had heard about the effectiveness of Consumer Forum but we were wowed watching it happen first-hand.
On asking the delivery executive about the reason for the dealy, we were told that this chair had reached the local warehouse way back but was sitting there due to reduced number of sorting and delivery personnel.
We were expecting a damaged product because the harassment had caused us to lose all hope. Thankfully, the chair was in mint condition.
The chair came as a DIY but no instruction were given. In the box:
- The seat with the attached backrest and arm rests as a single unit
- The four legs with wheels was the second single unit
- The third component was a couple of piston cups
All we needed to do was put them all together. We did a basic YouTube search on “how to assemble office chair” and our home-grown handyman did the rest of the work.
The chair quality is really good. It is sturdy. It has a mesh seating and back. No tears in the mesh. Every adjustable component works like it should. If you lean back on the backrest, the seat moves up in synchronization keeping your posture correct.
However, I have noticed two downsides which aren’t major problems yet:
- I wish the seat height could be lowered a tad bit to accommodate my bad habit of sitting cross-legged on the chair at times
- The seat creaks a little while sitting on it or getting up from it
On to the second chair. We knew we no longer wanted to buy it from Flipkart. So, TG asked around at his office about the chairs that were being used there. It was the Featherlite Astro HB. His colleague gave him the details of a Park Circus dealer to get it from. Thankfully, they had a home delivery option. We contacted them and got the quotes for the chairs with and without headrest. We decided to buy the one with a headrest because we already had one without (Flipkart).
The chair was delivered 2 days after placing the order. It came in a similar arrangement as the previous chair. Since we’ve had a prior experience of assembling an office chair, it hardly took five seconds for us to get this one upright.
If you want to buy this chair, you would need the following phone numbers:
Now this Featherlite Astro HB chair is what office chair dreams are made of. It goes down to the perfect height which the Flipkart chair doesn’t. The mesh work on the seat has tinier holes giving it a smoother appearance. It doesn’t creak at all. The headrest can be adjusted for height and alignment. It’s just perfect in every aspect. If you ask me, I’d recommend the Featherlite chair hands down. Personally, I don’t prefer a headrest with my chair because my hairclip comes in the way. So TG uses it and I use the other one. I’ve been using this entire setup for more than a month now and my back pain is almost gone.
Apart from my back pain, there is another reason why I decided to go the extra length to create a workspace for home. Now that most of us are going into work from home for the long haul, I feel that designating a permanent place for work is important. Doing this has significantly changed my outlook on working from home. It has helped keep my work life separate from my personal life.
Apart from my back pain, I take this as an investment to keep my sanity. Prior to installing this home office setup, I noticed that the entire house was unknowingly becoming my workspace. I was digging through my dresser for my notebooks and then my wardrobe for my equipment! And then working from my bed hunched over my laptop was giving me this unshakeable feeling that I’m never truly working. Quickly the thin line separating my work from home life was starting to disappear and work started bleeding into too many areas of my life. That’s when I realized that separating home from work life is going to take much more than setting a specific time for work. I needed to establish a physical separation as well. I had to figure out some changes. And when this book cabinet area opened up, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and did what had to be done.
A designated area for the home office has allowed to keep my work in the workspace. So when I’m done for the day, I switch off my system, get up from my chair, push it back into its place and that’s that. I feel honouring the work-personal life boundary is important. It has helped restore balance and enabled me to keep workspace clutter under control. I am one of those people who cannot think much beyond the state her home is in. You know how the saying goes – external order bears internal order. So having an organized and separate workspace has helped a lot with my productivity and sanity.
Home Office sources:
Total cost = INR 27,105
Sadly, permanent workspaces don’t come cheap. It was hard on the pocket but I have found respite in the fact that this is a one-time investment and is also saving a lot on my medical bills had I paid less attention to the back pain. Thankfully, I can finally announce that I’m back pain free!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.