Whether you’ve been working for 30 years or you’re a millennial just getting into the game, many people are choosing to work from home instead of a traditional office setting. Working at home has many benefits — you don’t have your boss literally breathing down your neck, for one. You can stand up and stretch, and maybe even take a short walk every once in a while, you can snack without judgement, and you can set your own schedule, just to name a few.
In fact, if you tell people you work from home, most of the time they’ll probably regard you with a look of silent envy. What those nine-to-fivers don’t know is that, despite all of the benefits, working at home comes with some real challenges as well.
You have to be able to keep a strict schedule on your own, you have to be self-motivated, and you can’t let yourself get distracted when you really need to get some work done.
So, have you weighed the pros and cons of working at home? Have you decided to take the plunge and are looking for some tips on how to set up your home office to boost productivity? If so, this article lays out some helpful tips, so you can be just as productive at home as in the office, if not more so. When setting up your home office, it will be imperative to keep some of the following things in mind:
Lighting is everything
If you can, try to choose a space that has plenty of natural light. If natural light isn’t available, or if you need to put in some hours on the night shift, make sure to have bright area lamps that don’t shine directly into your eyes. It is also important to have the main light source coming from behind your computer screen to avoid potentially damaging glare.
If you do have windows, make sure they are behind or on the sides of your work station, not in front. And it’s very important to invest in a supplemental desk lamp to project direct light onto your work surface.
There is almost nothing that hinders productivity more than being uncomfortable while you are working. The main thing you can do to ensure comfort during long seated hours is to buy the right office chair. There are plenty of chairs on the market, so with a little searching, you can definitely find the right home office chair for you. Make sure your chair has plenty of adjustable features, so you can set it up in the right ergonomic position for your body. Lumbar support is a must, and it’s also a plus to have breathable mesh fabric along the back so you don’t get too sweaty.
If you have a lot of sciatica issues causing you pain when you sit for a prolonged period of time, you should probably consider investing in a standing desk ask well.
Choose the right space
Another thing you are going to need to do to begin working at home is to turn the thought into a physical space. If you live in a big house with spare bedrooms, it may be pretty easy to designate your office space. Choose a room with natural lighting and a nice view, away from the front door and in a quiet area of your home.
If your dog is in the backyard barking intermittently throughout the day, you should probably choose a space away from windows that face that part of your property. Are your neighbours’ children home on summer holiday and constantly engaging in water fights? Again, choose a space that doesn’t border the property line.
Do you live in one of those homes that has a constant stream of people coming in and out? Then maybe opt for a spare room on the top floor, or even in the basement.
If you don’t have an actual spare room, you’ll have to get a bit more creative:
Large closet: Turn a large closet into a small home office by taking out clothes and hanging racks, and using shelves to store office supplies.
Dining room: Many people only use their dining room a few times a year for special occasions. If this is the case, use the table as your desk and you suddenly have a whole lot of surface space to work with.
Just say ‘no’ to distractions
When you work from home, you’ll find that many people don’t take your work schedule very seriously. You may find that retired neighbours stop by to chat, or your kids pop in every few hours to ask you for something.
You need to treat your time spent working from home just as, or almost as strictly as you would if you were at the office. That means gently telling your loved ones and friends that you are working and their requests for conversation will have to wait until you get off work for the day.
If someone calls you on the phone or rings your doorbell, just pretend like you are literally away at your office and aren’t able to respond.
Dress for success
If you work from home, you’ve probably been asked at least once if you work in your pyjamas. And the truth is, many people don’t bother to take a shower and get dressed in the morning. It makes sense, right? Why put on your nice clothes if you’re just going to be sitting at home all day and no one is going to see you.
You need to prepare yourself mentally to work. And a professional attitude requires professional clothing as well. If you dress professionally, you will feel more professional, and you will get your work done more efficiently, and probably with higher quality.
Organize and declutter
Unless you are a meticulously organized person (and good for you if you are), then you probably are aware that your home can get a bit messy sometimes. Mail can pile up, dirty dishes go unwashed, socks seem to have the tendency to wander around the house.
If this is the case, you need to stop right now and look around your office. Do you see anything there that isn’t serving a professional purpose? Ok, it’s fine to have some artwork on the walls, a family photo on the desk and some plants, but besides that, is there anything that isn’t serving a professional purpose?
If you answered yes, then that item needs to go to another space. Do not use your home office as storage space or the laundry room. In fact, pretend that your co-workers are there with you. Would you really have that pile of dirty clothes lying there for everyone to see?
You should especially make sure that your surface space is clean.
Speaking of which, and be honest — do you have an empty coffee or tea mug still sitting next to your computer from this morning? Go ahead, take a minute to bring it to the sink and then come back and finish reading this article.
Add some green
Green is a revitalising colour, and the best way to get some green into your office? Plants. Don’t go overboard here, you don’t have to bring your whole garden inside. But a couple of floor plants and a colourful flower will refresh the air and give your eyes a nice break when you look away from the computer screen.
Due to the ambitious nature of the modern workplace, taking breaks if often frowned upon, especially in large corporate workplaces. But if you want to maximise your productivity, then taking breaks will actually help with that.
You should make sure to take a break every hour. Get up, stretch, and if you can, take a 10-minute walk around the block.
The benefits of taking breaks are numerous — just to name two, it helps keep your metabolism up, and that means burning more calories, and it helps you refocus much better when you do sit back down and return to work.
In fact, studies show that sitting too long is just as bad for your brain as it is for your body. So even if you don’t have physical discomfort, that doesn’t mean that your brain doesn’t need a stretch or a short walk.
So, in the interest of wrapping this up so you can get back to work: there is no reason you can’t be just as, if not more, productive at home as you are in an actual office. And there are plenty of excellent reasons to work at home — less stress, more breaks and you can work around your own schedule.
If this list of tips to maximise your productivity in your home office seems overwhelming, try just choosing one tip to begin with, like decluttering your home office, or adding the right light. You’ll find that even small changes can make a big difference.