We’ve all thought it: working from home is the dream. What a blissful and stress-free alternative to the daily commute; how great to be able to pick the kids up from school and it’s better for the environment too… But this euphoric dream can easily turn into a nightmare if you don’t set yourself up for success with a proper home office. Trust me, battling with spreadsheets whilst your perched on your mother-in-law’s spare sofa is not the route to success. Follow these expert tips to create a positive office environment at home.
Don’t get side-tracked
It’s so easy when you are working at home to let work slip down the priority ladder to somewhere below descaling the kettle and fitting a new wardrobe. But once you are working, you need to keep yourself on track, even with all the distractions of home life around. Here are some things to do in your home office to facilitate a good attitude to working and to keep you from procrastinating:
- Face your desk away from the room, either looking outside or facing a colourful picture or noticeboard. Don’t face into the room as you’ll get distracted by dirty washing and other things lying around.
- Have a calendar or planner out by the phone, preferably above your desk. This means that you can easily keep track of your time and scheduling, especially when you’re on the phone and arranging meetings.
- Try using a whiteboard. A whiteboard is a great way to keep track of daily tasks, as you can just wipe them away at the end of the day.
- Have all your office supplies to hand. This means you won’t get distracted by things running out- nothing eats into a working day like hunting around for staples at the local corner shop!
- Keep all the tech nearby. Don’t get waylaid as you go find your printer, set everything up around your desk to keep the focus on the task at hand. And remember, just because it is at home, doesn’t mean that you won’t have tech issues from time to time. It’s easy to get frustrated with deadlines looming and no IT helpdesk in sight, but nowadays most small issues can be solved by following online guides and support pages.
- Schedule in a housework routine. Agree a time of day, like first thing in the morning, when you will dedicate some time and effort to doing housework. Stick the laundry on, tidy the bathroom and email that courier. Then get back to work and don’t keep thinking about it.
- Keep meetings short. Encourage shorter, more productive meetings, by meeting in a local coffee shop or bookable meeting space. This means the meeting will be less likely to run into a lengthy social call and also means you don’t have the stress of a full office clear out before a client sees the messy piles of paper you’ve accumulated.
Office design tips
Pale colours reflect natural light better, so you might want to favour a pale palette in your home office to let the light in. Green is calming and relaxing so sprinkle it around the office in your carpets, pillows and curtains.
Your home office does not need to be bland, in fact far from it, but don’t cram it too full of mementos and pictures. A clean, sleeker look will make you much more productive.
A cute vintage writing desk might appeal you aesthetically, but think about the way that the space needs to function in a practical way. Often simple designs stand the test of time better, so don’t feel the need to invest in the newest design fads.
Don’t let the office become the dumping ground for the rest of the house. Keep it work-specific; though it will be tempting to utilise the space for extra storage, fight the urge.
Gadgets and tech
You will need a good laptop or home PC with a high quality screen if you’re looking at it for long periods of time. If you’ll be using it every day, it’s worth investing in a powerful machine.
You might want a tablet, especially for taking to meetings, and a smartphone is probably essential to keep you connected on the go. It’s a good idea to sync all your devices and utilise free cloud sharing software to keep all your documents accessible and backed up (for free!).
Invest in an external hard drive and back up your whole computer every now and then to avoid losing client data/that manuscript/priceless photos. This is a really really good idea. Trust me.
Data is a big security risk, so consider investing in an office shredder to dispose of everything such as invoices, addresses and emails safely. Here are some guidelines on how to handle sensitive data.
Health and safety
If you are sitting down for long periods of time, you’ll need an ergonomic office chair. Some people prefer to use large exercise balls when sitting down, as it helps them sit up straight (good for the spine, bad for credibility…).
Avoid trailing cables: these are ugly trip hazard. Invest in cable clips and ties to keep them out of sight.
Keep the office well ventilated, as stuffy air will give you headaches. Have plenty of fresh water nearby to sip on during the day; it’s an idea to have a jug or thermos handy to stop you from constantly traipsing to the kitchen.
Out of the box, in to the shed
Often your home office will be in your spare room, or in a heated garage. But have you ever thought about setting up shop in a purpose built garden shed? The physical distance between house and shed means you get more stuff done as you aren’t as easily distracted by home stuff. Especially creative work benefits from a bit of distance from home life.
If you can’t build yourself a shed, then just try to recreate that physical distance by dressing up smartly for work and setting up a clear boundary between office and home.
Have you got experience of working from home? Share your thoughts and tips on staying productive with us below.