More of us than ever are working from home, either partially or full-time. Those who fall into this bracket are having to take responsibility for their entire working environment, and if designed well, a home-working space can boost productivity, concentration and well-being. If you’re one of the many people this applies to, here are six ways to make your home the perfect working environment.
Keep Your Work and Living Environments Separate
Although it might be difficult for some people, if you work from home and have the option, try to keep your work and relaxation spaces separate from one another. This is particularly important if you’re easily distracted, but can be of equal benefit to those who have no trouble focussing.
If you intermix your leisure and workspaces, it can be difficult to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day, and equally difficult to get going with work in the morning. Similarly, if you have family members or housemates living in the same space, it’s easy to get in each other’s way.
To solve this, once you’ve chosen your workspace, make everyone aware of the change. Explain to loved ones that you shouldn’t be disturbed at work, and be strict with yourself – during office hours, remain in your workspace; and out of hours, try not to return. Doing so will create a physical and psychological barrier that will help you keep your personal and work lives clearly separate.
Make Your Workspace Inspiring
While a lot of useful advice on designing home working spaces is practical, aesthetic is also a really important factor. One of the most liberating things about working at home is that you get to completely design your own surroundings – you don’t have to put up with a stuffy office or workplace, and you get complete say over how your whole working environment looks and feels.
Include artwork, posters, or other cultural paraphernalia to provide a bit of inspiration, and add a personal touch to your space. You’ll feel a real sense of ownership over your workspace, and doing this can prevent any feeling of a ‘clinical’ environment.
You could even consider painting your working room in a ‘productive’ colour (research has found that certain shades of blue stimulate creativity, for example). Science has shown that different colours stimulate different parts of the brain, and you could consider a scheme that will help you maximise the thought processes you use most as you work.
Immerse Your Workspace in Sunlight
Natural light is one of the most important factors in our overall wellbeing, providing us with vitamin D and helping our body achieve its natural circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that office employees working in an environment with natural light are 8% more productive, and the case is clear for how important it is to our workplace efficiency.
If you work from home, you have the benefit of being in control of how much natural light your workplace is exposed to. You should make it a priority, and there are plenty of things you can do to ensure you’re making the most of daylight.
Position desks and workspaces close to windows, and remove any obstructions like blinds or curtains from these as you work. If working from home is a long-term arrangement, it may even be worth thinking about constructing a dedicated office space; a growing trend is the work-centric glass office, which immerses the occupant in light as a way to boost productivity and focus.
Declutter Your Workspace
Cluttered workspaces can be a problem for everyone, not just those working remotely. The difficulty for those working from home is that the clutter you have to deal with can sometimes originate from non-work-related places; children’s toys, household items, and even washing up can accumulate quickly.
Set clear boundaries with your family members or those you live with, and explain that your workspace needs to be treated as a separate entity to the rest of the home. Any mess building up on your desk should be yours and yours only.
Ensure you regularly declutter your desk/workspace yourself. Invest in a waste paper bin, and shredder if you need one, set time aside to clean up any clutter, and stick to it. Similarly, if you’re cleaning your home anyway, don’t leave out your workspace – use the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you next sit down to your job, which will boost your mood and your productivity.
Use a Separate Computer for Work
If possible, avoid using the same computer for your personal and work lives. This can be an easy trap to fall into, but speak to your employer or set some money aside and obtain a separate work computer or laptop.
Home computers are highly personal, and can provide all kinds of distractions like social media notifications, games, or targeted advertising. If you work for yourself, set aside some business income to invest in a work-specific computer or laptop; if you work for an employer remotely, speak to them about if there’s a possibility of arranging this – the long-term benefits are numerous.
Know Your Distractions, and Eliminate Them
If you work in an office, it can be difficult to eliminate certain distractions. Radios and televisions, fire alarm drills and even just the presence of colleagues are some of the many things can get in the way of productivity, and often you have little say over them.
If you work from home, you have a lot more control over what distractions, if any, are present, and more autonomy in eliminating them. A few of these are obvious (i.e. not leaving the TV on), but to make your workspace the ultimate productivity paradise, it’s important to ruminate a bit on your individual tendencies.
Make a list of the things you know can distract you from work, and take steps to remove them. For instance, if you don’t like extraneous noise, get rid of radios, phones or other noisy devices from your space. If you have a penchant to take tea/coffee breaks, think about positioning your desk further away from the kitchen, to reduce the temptation of making multiple drinks throughout the day (though the occasional one is fine; we all need a pick-me-up cuppa from time to time.)
One of the great benefits of working from home is that you can change your workspace whenever you like. You can redecorate, rearrange and restyle. You can move desks, or relocate to an entirely different room without having to worry about repercussions with management or HR. The most important thing is to always be aware of how your home-working environment is impacting your performance, and be willing to make changes as necessary.