There’s something to be said about the correlation between your environment and your productivity. Very simply put, your surroundings can have a positive or negative impact on your mood, your drive, and your sense of accomplishment. Nothing makes this point more clear than your work from home office. As Marcus likes to say when it comes to design, it should be: “Practical. Purposeful. Profitable.” As soon as you add practicality and purpose to your home office, the profitability will come in the form of productivity.
Whether you live alone or with roommates, a partner, children, or even extended family, if you’re working from home, you may have to get a bit creative when figuring out how to balance your work vs home responsibilities. And a good work from home office setup can be the key to making it or breaking it when it comes to productivity. It can help you stay focused, avoid distractions, and help those around you know when you are busy with work or available to them.
That last point is a big one because everyone’s living situations are so different; so it is essential for you to set clear boundaries for the people with whom you share your home.
Whether it’s children, roommates, spouses or family, it’s always a good idea to have a conversation about what work hours are going to look like and set expectations of what your work days will entail. It’s also important to talk about what are acceptable and unacceptable interruptions and to have some sort of signal to indicate when you are working or when you’re available.
That’s where selecting a clear space for your work from home office setup comes in handy. When the people you live with see that you are in your office, they can recognize that as a sign that you’re busy getting work done and that it’s better to wait to chat once you leave your office and step into your home and your home life. If you have an actual work from home office with windows and doors, you can use something as simple as your door to communicate to the people you live with whether you are available or not. For example, when you have your boundaries conversation with the people who live with you, you can tell them: door open means “you can come in and chat”, door slightly ajar means “I’m busy but available if it’s important”, and door closed means “I’m in meetings (or on a roll); please do not disturb.”
If you don’t have doors to separate your work from home office setup from the rest of your house, then you can use headphones as your signal; when headphones are on, it means please do not disturb; if headphones are off, it means “I’m here if it’s something important.”
Having these conversations and boundaries will benefit everyone. It will be easier on those around you when they know what you expect from them, and it will help to make working from home more seamless and improve productivity for you. Win, win.
So, here are a few ways to maximize your work from home office, minimize your stress, and get your home office looking great while you’re at it.
If you have a spare room or an area of your house that you can designate as your office, then you’re already on your way.
1. Make Your Work From Home Office Feel Like Your Traditional Office
Take the time to decorate your home office as if you were doing it in your regular office at your place of employment – you can add pictures, drawings, and little things that will keep you motivated.
This will also help your brain to feel like you are in a familiar place and get to work quicker.
2. Keep It Free of Clutter
Make sure you always clean your desk after your day is done. Keeping your work from home office setup organized and looking pleasant will help you get into the right mood for work, starting your day stress-free and with a clean slate.
3. Lighting is Everything
Being near a window is a great way to get natural light and even some fresh air; but if you can’t be near a window, make sure you have plenty of bright and non-harsh lighting in your work from home office.
4. Create a Routine to Symbolize the Beginning and End of Your Workday
Try lighting a candle during your working hours, making sure you close and/or turn off all your screens before you leave the office, and open and turn on all the screens when it’s time to go into work. Doing these little rituals in your work from home office will help send a signal to your brain when work is getting started and when it’s over for the day so you can begin to unwind.
5. Switch Out Your Chair For a Stability Ball
It will help to keep you on your feet, keep you energized, and most of all keep you focused. It’s a great tool to help you maintain your posture, keep your core engaged, and believe it or not, make you feel less tired at the end of a long day. Also, it’s a lot of fun and prevents snoozing.
Sometimes you might not get so lucky as to have a spare room that you can turn into an office; this is when you have to get creative. When making a space in your home for a work from home office setup, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Never, Ever, Ever Work on Your Bed
It’s a slippery slope into losing your focus, and it’s also terrible for your back and neck and your overall posture. Make sure no matter what you do, that you keep your bed separate from work, as you don’t want your brain to confuse work and sleep. You want to make sure your work from home office setup leans more towards feeling like work than home. Don’t get too comfortable or you’ll lose your productivity to distractions.
2. Find a Low-Traffic Place for Your Work From Home Office Setup
You want to minimize distractions, and without a door, that becomes a bit harder, so make sure your area is a quiet one where there’s not a lot of foot traffic.
3. Stay Consistent
Switching up your work area every day can be very distracting. Pick one location and stick to it. Try it out and see how you do; if it doesn’t feel right you can try a different location, just avoid constantly going from area to area in your house. Your brain works better when it knows where you are and what you’re there to do.
4. Get a Nice Pair of Headphones or a Headset
If you are not afforded the luxury of full privacy, then you have to make it work the best way you can; a good set of headphones and/or a headset will be indispensable. This will help you focus and tune out the surrounding noise from the rest of the house or apartment. It’s also a great sign to tell the people you live with that you’re busy and it’s best not to interrupt. Make sure your headphones are comfortable and that they block out noise. And when you get a break from calls in your schedule, you can always listen to something you love; just make sure it’s not too distracting.
5. Let the Light Shine In
When you don’t have a small spare room to call your office and you have to use a space around your home as your work from home office, lighting becomes even more important. If you can manage it, make sure your work area is near natural lighting; it will improve your mood and your productivity. If you can’t, make sure you have your area well lit; lighting is going to play a huge role on the way you feel and the work you get done, so keep it bright wherever you are.
Whether your office is in a room or a small nook around the house, it’s always a good idea to make sure your work from home office setup is comfy, welcoming, and filled with essentials like work supplies, a good desk, a comfortable chair (or stability ball) and decoration that’s pleasing to your eye. You should also make sure your monitor is at a good height so your neck and back are not working extra hard. You can even try a stand-up desk so that you’re not always sitting down. This is great for staying active, alert and maintaining good posture.
Another thing to keep in mind: don’t underestimate the importance of breaks. In an office you get them all the time chatting with coworkers, catching up on life, partaking in breakroom small talk, or walking to get a snack or some coffee. All these constitute small breaks that you need in order to stay productive. Make sure you implement them at home as well.
Sure you can’t have your regular “watercooler chats” but it’s a good thing to let your mind take little breaks to catch up with coworkers on your work chat or even go for a short walk to breathe in some fresh air. When you feel like work is really getting to you, step out of your work from home office and give yourself some time to disconnect.
Setting yourself up for success starts with your surroundings. When you give yourself a clear, organized, well designed space to get to work with boundaries, a schedule and a plan, you give yourself the ability to focus, minimize distractions and take your productivity to the next level.