Thanks to the internet, email, and online meeting software, more people are working from home than ever before. However, working in the same space where you and your family live isn’t always as easy as popping open the laptop on the couch. Whether you’re self-employed or working from home for a company, you can design your own home office to maximize your productivity and get a better work-life balance.
Separate your space
Even if you don’t have a whole room to create a productive home office, a dedicated space in your home that will be used only for work related tasks is the first step to designing an effective space. Find a quiet space where other people in the house or the noise from the dryer won’t distract you. If you can’t close off your workspace with a door, consider a curtain, screen, or bookcase that can physically divide your workspace from the living area.
Set up a workspace that includes the necessities for an average work day. If you have everything you need within reach, you’ll be less distracted by looking through your living space for work items. On the other hand, resist the urge to store non-work items in your workspace. Having a desk cluttered up with holiday wrapping paper or bins of summer clothes stacked around your files will interrupt your workspace cleanliness and keep you from being productive.
Make your workspace enjoyable
You spend about a third of your life working, so having a pleasant space to spend that time makes it easier to get started and stick with work when the tv is so close. Decorate your workspace with a few meaningful items, but try to change up your style from the rest of the house to keep that separate space feel. Prioritize purchasing a comfortable chair: at least 50% of workers have back pain each year, especially those who spend many hours on the computer each day. Having a chair that supports good posture will keep you feeling good and focused on your tasks, not on your back pain. If a new office chair isn’t in the budget, at least invest in a seat support to upgrade your current desk seating.
If you can, design your own home office in a room that gets plenty of natural light from a window. Exposure to sunlight during the day improves mood and helps you regulate sleep, two benefits that will also increase the quality of your work. If you can’t work near a window, get multiple types of lighting that will make reading and using the computer easy.
Keep it simple
It’s easy to get excited about organizing your home office and cram it full of drawers or long to-do lists that suddenly make keeping up with the organizational system more work than your job itself. If you’re spending a lot of time getting ready to get to the real work, pick one or two simple organizational tools and keep things basic.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your desk clean and keep “stuff” to a minimum. Keeping only a few urgent jobs where you can see them will help you get started on your highest priority tasks first thing each day. Spend the last part of your work day putting away your files and supplies, and setting out the most important materials for the following morning.
The power of cleanliness
Outer order creates inner calm. Having a clean space improves your mood but also frees up mental energy for a productive work session. It’s far easier to enter your dedicated work space and put in a full work day when it’s clean and welcoming. Having a clean office area can also reduce the germs and dust you come in contact with on your keyboard, phone, and office furniture, reducing the work time lost to colds, viruses, or allergy headaches.
These workplace cleanliness tips are even more important in a home workspace where an untidy living space can be a constant distraction from the work you should be doing. When you work from home, it’s tempting to take a quick break to do the dishes or mop the floor while no one else is home and a boring project is looming on your laptop. Trying to multitask as a full-time employee and full-time homemaker is rarely efficient and you will likely end up doing subpar work and making common cleaning mistakes. Hiring home cleaning services can help you separate your domestic duties from your workday. It may be more affordable than you think to hire a professional to keep the rest of the home clean so you can focus on work and not procrastinate by handling little chores when you should be working.
Keeping a dedicated, enjoyable and clean home office is a process. Take stock several times a year to reevaluate how you’re using your space and what you need to keep it cleaner and more efficient. Follow these tips for working from home effectively and you’ll be enjoying your professional work space in no time.