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