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Whether you’re working from home temporarily or it’s your everyday gig, a home office is essential to your productivity. There are a lot of distractions at home: your favorite TV shows are just a click away, pets and other household members seek your attention, and there’s no one enforcing the “no cell phone at work” rule. Plus, there’s probably a list of projects or chores you need to address. Creating a makeshift home office where you can meet professional obligations with fewer disruptions will allow you to work smarter and stay on track.

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Identify a space

More people than ever are working from home and creating a home office in even the smallest of spaces. Rule number one is to find an area away from your relaxing space where you normally enjoy your downtime. Whether you’re on a laptop or working from your desktop computer, identify a space that is not too confining, yet creates a sense of separation from the rest of the household. Alcoves are a great option. Don’t forget to choose an area with plenty of outlets nearby.

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Choose a desk

Chances are, you’ll probably find it easier to stay on task if you have a desk as your workspace rather than your coffee or kitchen table. If you don't have a regular desk at home, get creative: If you have two sawhorses, or a pair of matching filing cabinets, bedside tables, or small storage cabinets, you’ve got a base for your new work desk. Use a piece of plywood or a single shelf from a bookcase or wall shelves as the desktop. Any stable, flat surface will do. A sheet of plexiglass or glass from a coffee table works great as well. Repurpose a console table, dresser, cafe table, or another piece of desk-like furniture for your workspace. Just make sure your setup is stable.

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Office chair necessities

If you already have an ergonomic office chair at home, you’ll no doubt use it for your new home office. The best office chairs for ultimate comfort and spinal support have adjustable heights and backrests and lumbar support. If you don’t already have an office chair, look around the house for a sufficiently padded chair with a back high enough to support your hips and lower spine. Avoid overly cushioned chairs or novelty chairs that encourage slumping or lounging. Your body will thank you at the end of the day.

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Light sources

A home office space that’s close to a window is a great choice. It’s easier to stay alert and invested in your work in a room filled with natural light. Sunlight not only enhances focus but increases productivity. Studies show that working in a dimly lit room interferes with the brain’s ability to remember and learn. Harsh overhead or ceiling lights can cause glare on the computer screen which leads to eyestrain. Combine a small, adjustable task lamp with window light to diffuse light and create a comfortably lit space.

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Storage options for office supplies

Keep office supplies nearby with unique storage options. Look around your home for baskets, stackable bins, or stackable boxes. Appropriate pieces of furniture that may have a unique feature for storage, like an ottoman with a compartment under the seat. Jewelry armoires can serve as a makeshift storage cabinet. Hanging closet organizers and over-the-door shoe racks are easy to repurpose as tidy storage for home office essentials. Honeycomb drawer organizers for socks or ties are also an excellent way to store extra USB cords and cables.

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Organize for feng shui

If you have some space to work with, try organizing your home office using feng shui techniques.

  • Arrange your desk so that it faces the door, but not too close to it. You need to see the door and most of the room.
  • Air circulation is important for feng shui. Try a fan to create a calm breeze through the room or add some air-purifying plants to your decor.
  • Keep things clutter-free. Schedule a day of the week to organize and address problem areas. Clutter drains energy.
  • Add inspiring decor with images that make you happy. This is your office, in your home. Express your creative side without fear of workplace restrictions.
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Add a bulletin memo board

Sure, you keep tons of important information on your phone, but when you work from home, it’s important to keep handy information nearby and ready at-a-glance. Bulletin and memo boards allow you to keep track of important dates, to-do lists, project submission guidelines, format changes and updates, meeting reminders, or other useful info. Make your own from objects you find around your house. Cover a piece of styrofoam with some decorative fabric. If you don’t like the look of a bulletin board, hanging clip or clothespin photo holders can be commandeered for displaying memos and work tips.

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Check your headphones or headset

Anyone who works from home will find it useful to have headphones or a headset. If you take incoming calls, you’ll need a headphone-mic combo or a headset, which always means the microphone is built-in. Not only should you be able to clearly hear the person on the other end of the call, but they also need to hear you. Don’t depend on an old pair of headphones you bought five years ago. Lower your stress levels and invest in newer, higher-quality options.

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Prepare for video conferencing

A makeshift office requires functionality. Because you’re off-site from your workplace, you’ll likely need to video conference at some point. This requires a webcam or a device with a built-in camera. A well-lit room is important. Your camera should be an arm’s length away and at eye level. Check audio quality before the call and make sure your mic is working properly. To eliminate echoes and background noise, hang curtains, add a rug, or look into inexpensive soundproofing. If your co-workers will see an unmade messy bed in the background or other undesirable home scenery, hide it with a room divider or clean it up.

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Set up a break space

Most people get breaks every few hours in the workplace and that shouldn’t change once you’re working from home. Schedule work breaks every couple of hours if possible to keep productivity levels high. Create a space where you can relax, away from your home workstation. Establish a peaceful area outdoors on a patio or porch or in the backyard for fresh air breaks. Rejuvenate yourself, enjoy a healthy snack, or catch up with a friend on the phone. Make it your regularly-scheduled “you time.”

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