Create a home office that is an organized and helps you be more productive with these 9 best practices!
By: Catherine Perry
More and more people are working from home these days. From remote corporate employees to people running small businesses from home, there is a growing population of folks working out of home offices. Relative to Americans who work remotely (not including small business owners), the New York Times reported in February this year that “43 percent of employed Americans said they spent some time working remotely” in 2016, which “represents a four percentage point increase since 2012.”
Even though there are many benefits to working from home–having no commute, not having to dress in office attire, and being in your comfortable home space–there can be some downside as well. At home there can be many things that distract you from being 100% productive. Things like playing with the pet too much (can that even be “a thing?”), doing household chores (you have to do them, right?), and watching Netflix (that last episode of “Stranger Things” left you wanting to see the next one) can impede your productivity during work hours.
All of these activities are nice to be able to do while working, and are good ways to take breaks when you work at home, but it is very easy to let them become distractions. And, when you spend too much time on these distractions, you become less productive. Less productivity during the week may find you having to work more hours in order to get your to-do lists accomplished. And, spending half your weekend making up for time you were less than productive during the week is probably not something you want to do!
If you are one of the lucky ones who find that you are working from home and need to set up an office, here are 9 best practices you can use when you are setting up that space to help ensure the time spent in the office is as productive as possible.
Best Practice #1: Keep Office Space Separate From Personal Space
According to www.entrepreneur.com in the article “How to Design the Ideal Home Office,” if your office isn’t effectively separated from your personal home space, then peak productivity may be lost. You need to set up your office space so that it is separate from your home activities in order to decrease the normal home sounds and interruptions. We recommend setting up your office in a separate space like a spare bedroom or bonus room for maximum productivity.
It is important to set up an “off limits” environment around your home office both for yourself and other family members who may not be mindful of the territory. Even if your home office space needs to be in the dining room or the kitchen for the time being, you can have signage that says “Working—Stay Away,” or something to that effect, to inform others who may want to interrupt your work time.
Best Practice #2: Keep All of Your Work in the Work Space
It may be easy when working at home to let some of your files, mail, and papers spread out to the other places in your home space, but you should be aware that this makes you less productive. You can lose a lot of productive time looking for important information that has left your office. Keeping work in your work space and out of your personal space promotes a healthy work-life balance. Even though you are working at home, you still need work-life balance. Work when you are in your office; relax and take care of personal things when you are in your home.
Best Practice #3: Have Storage Space in Your Office
It’s important to have good storage in your office for all of your work-related items. Organizers like filing cabinets, storage bins, or shelving are necessities in staying organized and self-contained in your office space. Placing items you use regularly close by so they are readily available increases your productivity. Office supplies like pens, paper clips, printer paper and printer ink, as well as repeatedly used files should be positioned near your desk for efficiency.
Best Practice #4: De-clutter
We know people work in different ways—some like stuff on their desks and others like everything put away neatly—we get that. However, a key factor in being productive is de-cluttering your home office. What this really means is that you have what you need to work on the present project or task and other extraneous stuff is put out of sight. This keeps you focused on that task and not distracted by the next one or other things.
Best Practice #5: Have the Right Equipment
Spend some time thinking about the tasks you need to accomplish at work and the equipment you need to get that work done. Make a list of the equipment you will need to work. A computer is a definite but do you need one with graphics capabilities, or fast processing? Do you need Skype? Does your printer need to print a lot of pages fast? Does it need to have scanning and faxing capabilities? Do you need a land-line phone or can you use a cell phone? Have the equipment that is appropriate for your job to ensure you are as productive as possible.
Best Practice #6: Create a Work Routine
Having a routine for your work day is important in being focused and getting tasks done on time. Joanna Douglas, owner of Clean Affinity, advises home office workers to write up a schedule and adhere to it. In the article “Home Office Setup—27 Practical and Design Tips” on www.fitsmallbusiness.com , Joanna shares her personal schedule to suggest a routine. The 2 steps are 1) setting a routine and 2) following it.
Best Practice #7: Have Proper Lighting
It is essential to have good lighting in your at-home office. The ideal is to have a lot of natural daylight, so if your space has at least one window, that is great. Depending on the time of day, the season, and your geographic location, you may not have enough natural daylight coming in even if you have windows. If the natural light isn’t enough, be sure to have lamps in your work space. Most overhead house lighting is not adequate for work, so have lamps on and around your desk. They offer a warm, soft glow and decrease eye strain.
Best Practice #8: Have a Desk and Chair
Having an appropriate desk and chair for work is important for productivity. You need a desk that is comfortable for you to spend time on the computer or doing paperwork; this means proper height and workspace footprint. Even if you need to create a make-shift desk from a piece of plywood and cinder blocks, you can set it up so that it is the right height and has sufficient work space.
A chair that is comfortable and supports your back is well worth the investment. If you need to, put a few pillows in the chair to make it more comfortable. If your desk is too high, you can add pillows to the chair. Or, if the table is too low, you can buy leg risers and use books beneath the computer to raise the screen. (source: www.lifehack.org) Finally, spending countless hours on the computer can cause major eye strain. So, to reduce eye strain, position your computer screen so that it is level or just below your eyes.
Best Practice #9: Bring Color to Your Walls
Your office should have a wall color that is pleasing to you yet not distracting. If you are soothed by neutrals, then your office space should be a neutral in greys or beiges. If you’re happy when you are surrounded by brighter colors, then go for it! That might be colors like orange and lime green or a calm shade of sea foam blue. The main point is for the wall color to not be so bright or overwhelming that it becomes difficult to concentrate on your work.
You should make the space comfortable with family photos, pictures of places you’ve visited or want to visit, and other meaningful art. Again, keep it balanced. Don’t put so much in your office that you are constantly looking at your things and not focusing on your work. We hope these 9 best practices can help you set up the ideal work space for you—a place of comfort and efficiency where you can be productive and get things done.
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