You’ve taken the plunge. You’re working from home.
You’ve started your own business, fully prepared to enjoy being your own boss.
But, you need room to work, a place to take care of all those details. Sure, businesses have been run from the kitchen table. But let’s be practical.
Your home office must help you use your time well. Here’s what you need to consider to design your home office for productivity.
Where you put your office depends on your work style and how you plan to use your home office. Building an expensive addition to your house isn’t practical. But neither is trying to tuck your work life into a windowless closet. Most work-from-home people choose something between those two extremes. Here are some points to consider:
It’s a Good Idea to Separate Your Office from Your Living Space
A separate office gives you advantages in four areas: productivity, privacy, focus, and work-life balance.
Keeping all your work—and the materials and equipment that go with it—in one space is more productive than scattering it all over the house. Locating files, materials, equipment, and storage in the same area makes finding things faster and more efficient.
Having a separate workspace helps minimize distractions from family, pets, household chores, and other things that can grab your attention. You may think you can “tune out” that plasma screen, but in practice? Not so much. If you can’t manage a separate room, portable screens and divider bookcase walls can help avoid visual distraction. White noise and headphones may help keep sound distraction to a minimum.
Going to work in a dedicated workspace helps you keep your mental boundaries clear. You’ll associate your office space with work and get more done. Having the “work” mindset will make you more productive.
Separating workspace from living space will let you relax when you’re not at work. Because you’re working from home now, you’ll need to work even harder to keep a healthy balance between work and life.
Before You Start Moving Furniture, Assess Your Needs
Answering these questions will help you find the best location for your home office:
- What will you do in your office? Do you need quiet to concentrate? Will you be on the phone?
- Will you meet clients or collaborators there? You’ll need a quiet space with enough seating
- How much storage do you need? Plan for sufficient storage on the spot.
- What equipment will you need? Make sure you have the necessary room and electrical connections.
- Will you be making conference calls or video conferencing?
Layout and Organization
You’ll need a desk, space for your computer and other tools as well as storage space. How you arrange it is your choice, but you do need to organize your office for productivity.
Whether it’s color-coding your paper files or backing up your electronic ones, you’ll need to plan how best to store and retrieve information. You’ll need a system for managing client information and documents. In addition, software and stations for mail, printing, and other routine tasks can help keep you organized.
Think about your workflow. Your home office should make it easy for you to communicate with clients and manage your projects.
For efficiency and safety, consider details like how to deal with the usual spaghetti of cords and wires.
A comfortable workspace does more than ease the pain in your back. Studies show that good ergonomics increase your productivity.
Set up your workspace with ergonomics in mind. Choose furniture that’s adjustable and fits you well. When you’re at your computer, make sure that your elbows are at right angles and your screen is at eye level. Hunching over your laptop in turtle pose will hurt your health and your productivity.
Get a task chair that works for you. Consider footrests, a mouse that fits your hand, and an adjustable height or stand-up desk. Your mind will work better when your body is comfortable.
Office design gurus agree: lighting is a crucial element of a functioning office. You’ll be spending much of your time in front of a computer screen. Glare leads to eye strain.
Plan for as much natural light as possible and keep your blinds open. Natural light decreases eye fatigue, increases alertness, and makes you feel happier. Looking out at a view is great for your eyes. It allows them to relax and recover.
Your monitor should be parallel to the window. If you need to use overhead lighting, don’t put your monitor it directly under it. Tilt the screen so there’s no glare and you don’t have to bend your neck.
Supplemental desk lamps should light your paperwork, not your screen.
Before you buy furniture or storage units, consider your workflow. What do you need to keep nearby? Your desk and storage should serve your work style.
Also, consider what’s essential for your work and what would increase efficiency and speed. A wireless hub and a separate phone line with messaging, conferencing, and speaker functions are likely necessities.
Invest in the best and fastest technology you can afford. You don’t want to spend your time waiting for your equipment to work.
Consider finding a local computer support team that makes service calls. Knowing you can rely on your equipment will preserve your sanity.
And don’t forget insurance in case of a disaster. There’s special coverage available for at-home workers.
There’s more to life than work, and it’s OK to express those things in your workspace. The colors you choose, the personal items you display, the way you express your personality are all legitimate factors for designing your home office.
As an entrepreneur, you will need to tap into your creativity. Being surrounded by art inspires, motivates, and boosts creativity. So hang photos and art that you love. Family photos, posters, a favorite quotation—art is good for your mind as well as your spirit.
A cherished souvenir, a favorite photo, or a print of a beautiful place you want to visit someday can inspire you and should have a place in your home office.
Color has a psychological impact. Certain colors make us feel certain emotions; they impact our mood and energy level. Color even affects our physical reactions and responses. (That’s why they paint drunk-tanks pink.)
Choose colors that help you accomplish what you want to do in your home office. Choose colors you like. Reaction to color is individual, so the accepted wisdom may not apply in your case. But consider what the experts say about color when you’re looking at paint swatches for your home office.
Cool colors, like blue, green, and violet suggest peace and relaxation. They can make you feel cool or sleepy. If you want more energy and action in your home office, cool colors may not the best choice.
On the other hand, because is found in nature, green makes us feel comfortable. It can foster concentration. If your office is the place you go to think and concentrate, green may be helpful.
Purple and lavender stimulate the imagination. They can be either warm or cool and may be good choices for encouraging you to focus.
Bright colors like red and yellow grab your attention, catch your eye. Yellow makes people happy and optimistic. But too bright a yellow could overpower and even make you anxious.
Red is energetic and keeps you moving. (Notice how it’s used in fast-food restaurants?)
But too much excitement can make you too restless to settle down to work. Touches of red are best.
Neutral colors like white, gray, and tan can have warm or cool overtones. Neutrals don’t distract. You can combine them with bright accents to give the zing you need.
To keep the planet in mind when you’re designing your office, you can practice a “green” mindset.
- Buy local and regional materials to avoid shipping and freight costs and resources.
- Use recycled materials and wood from sustainable forestry.
- Take advantage of natural light.
- Activate power-saving features of computers.
- Keep equipment turned off when it’s idle to save electricity.
- When you trade up for a new computer, recycle your old one.
- Don’t get rid of office equipment in the trash.
Your Home Office
Whatever you decide, your home office should meet your requirements and reflect your values. Location, layout and organization, ergonomics, lighting, equipment, and décor should put you in a position and mood to tackle your work with enthusiasm.
Lucky you! You get to work from home. Make sure to design your home office for productivity.