By: Emma Gardiner
Working at home is a luxury many people dream of. You might be the envy of your friends as you lay outside in the summer, laptop resting on your knee with an ice cold soda in one hand, while they slave away in air-conditioned offices. But at this time of year, the shoe is on the other foot. They’re the ones who get to ride to their workplaces every day, knowing that their employer is footing the bill for keeping them warm during this freezing weather, while you’re at home shivering. If you’re at home during the day it can be tempting to keep the heating on non-stop all over winter, but you’ll be spending your hard-earned cash on sky-high energy bills. Instead, let the Poor Girls Guide show you how to stay warm while working from home. By creating a cozy home office, eating well and dressing right, you can stay toasty while working this winter.
Choose the right workspace
The layout of your home is going to have a huge impact on how you heat your space. If you have a designer loft apartment, then it’s obviously going to be harder to heat than a small, walk-up studio. Whatever your space, take a walk around the walls, windows and doors and try to identify where any drafts can get in to your home. If you only have single-glazed windows, then consider installing some low-cost secondary glazing to double your protection against the cold. If this is out of your budget, then some heavy wool drapes hung over windows and doors will help keep the heat in and make your living space look stylish and inviting.
If possible, set up your workspace in the smallest room available. This will mean the heat from your computer and even from your breath will stay in the small space. Once you’ve hung your drapes, check that the door closes properly and think about adding a draft excluder to the bottom of the door if it doesn’t reach the floor. If you have a cold wooden floor or tiles, then a warm rug is essential for winter. A rug can also add color to a room and make it more inviting. Finally, light some candles around the room. This will fill the space with a warm glow, creating a warm and cozy atmosphere for your workspace. Just be sure to keep the candles away from the drapes and any paper – you don’t want your work to go up in flames!
Use your energy wisely
Chicago already has a great reputation for being eco-friendly and recently the city signed up to the City Energy Project which aims to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in large buildings. It’s thought Chicago’s participation in the project could lower energy bills by as much as $134 million annually. While the city watches the bottom line, you should also be keeping a close eye on your own energy bills. After such a cold start to the winter, it can be worrying to think about what you’ve spent on heating so far. However, heating is essential and by letting your home get too cold you could put yourself at serious risk of illness. The Chicago Department of Public Health advises that you should maintain a room temperature of at least 68 degrees during the day and evening and 63 degrees overnight. But when you’re working from home it can be a terrifying thought that you’re responsible for heating your own workplace. Energy bills in the US are typically lower than those paid by people in similar seasonal climates, for example in the UK and other northern European countries. Gas and electricity bills are continuing to rise in the UK prompting a drive by consumers to switch their energy companies to get the best deal from utility providers. There are lessons to be learned from this: without knowing it you could be spending more than you need to on your energy supply simply because of the provider you signed up with years ago. Once you know you’re getting the best deal then think about how you can save energy at home. If you’re working from home during the day, then consider limiting the amount of time you use your heating. An hour in the morning could be enough to warm your workspace for a few hours, and an hour in the afternoon could see you through until the sun sets, when you will need to switch your heating on until bedtime. The US Department of Energy advises that small space heaters can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room, so think about purchasing a small heater for next to your desk, while the main heating stays off.
One well-documented advantage of working from home is that your working wardrobe can be whatever you want it to be. If that means a bikini in the summer and a Slanket in the winter, then so be it. However, putting some thought into what you wear at home could help keep you warmer. It might be obvious to put on a sweater, but what you wear underneath is just as important. Layer up with some thermal layers, or if you don’t have proper thermals, then just layer a vest top and a long-sleeved cotton top under your top layer. Wearing thick tights can also help, and cozy woolen or thermal tights look good while keeping you warm. If it gets extra cold, then you can even wear tights under your jeans or sweats to give you an added layer. Invest in some toasty warm socks, with a layer of fleece inside, as most heat is lost through your hands, feet and head. Fingerless gloves mean that you can still type while keeping warm, and in the depths of winter don’t dismiss wearing a hat at your desk. It will trap the heat in your body so you can stop shivering and get on with your work.
Ditch the salad
Exercise will also make you feel warm, giving you all the more reason to go for your morning run in the wintertime. You’ll return a hot sweaty mess, but after having a warm shower, all that blood pumping around your body will keep you warm for hours. Being outside first thing also makes coming back inside seem much warmer than it actually is, so even if you don’t want to run, a quick walk around the block should help you to feel the benefit once you’re back inside. Your body burns more calories when it’s cold, so enjoy regular hot meals and drinks to keep yourself going throughout the day. A hot bowl of porridge for breakfast will act as an internal heater, and follow this up with a warming bowl of soup or stew for lunch – winter is not the time for salads. By creating a warm winter wonderland for yourself this season, you’ll soon be the envy of your friends again in your cozy home office.
Emma Gardiner, Budget Guru, Poor Girl’s Guide Chicago