In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s becoming more and more common for employees to work from home (WFH) part-time or even remotely full-time. In fact, some companies are entirely made up of remote workers with no physical office space at all. This ability to work outside the office has led to the rise of the “digital nomad” lifestyle, where employees are traveling with their remote work all over the world.
Though remote work allows for flexible schedules and freedom of movement, it also comes with a few drawbacks. The main downside to remote work is that it can be too easy to blur the line between work and life without a physical workplace to commute to every day.
If you work for a company as a remote employee or operate a business from your home, it's important to create a distinct home office space. By setting aside a specific location for work, you ensure a healthy work/life balance and disregard household distractions to maintain optimum productivity. Below are our top home office organization tips for setting up the perfect workspace.
1. Identify the most productive area of your home
It can be tempting to just set up shop at the kitchen counter, but a dedicated home office space may get you into the right mindset for work effectively. Identify a room in your house (or a corner of your apartment) that will fit your productivity needs.
If you need complete silence to fully concentrate, choose an inner room with a door. If you need a little white noise, setting up near a street window or closer to the front door could be a good choice.
2. Make sure you have what you need
Even if all you technically need for remote work is a functioning laptop and smartphone, it pays to invest in other items to build out your home office. If you run your own home business or are a full-time remote worker, purchase at least a desk and comfortable office chair so you’re not tempted to work from bed every day. Other items commonly found in offices, such as organizational drawers, a printer, or a second monitor, can also be worthwhile additions.
3. Declutter your workspace
In order to prevent your home life encroaching on your work time, keep your workspace and the surrounding area clutter-free. Make an effort to clear your desk every evening when you finish work so that you have a fresh start for the morning.
It’s important to pick up anything around your home office that might be a distraction, such as kids’ toys left on the floor or dirty dishes from last night’s dinner. This way, you aren’t tempted to clean when you should be focused on your work.
4. Prioritize natural lighting
Another major issue with working remotely is loneliness. Offices are naturally social environments, and many remote workers report missing the daily camaraderie with coworkers. Because of this, it’s important to make your home office as pleasant and inviting as possible, so it’s a place that you enjoy visiting every day. Taking advantage of natural light is a great way to brighten up your space: try to choose a location with south-facing windows if possible for maximum sunshine.
In addition to improving your mood, natural light works wonders on productivity levels. A study from the Daylighting Initiative showed that students exposed to larger amounts of sunlight actually progressed faster than their peers in both math and reading. A Carnegie Mellon study linked brighter lighting with increased productivity. Working in the dark can further stress your already screen-strained eyes.
5. Liven up the space
In addition to natural lighting, incorporating your own decorating style can help make your home office feel comfortable and work-conducive. In fact, a study from the University of Exeter found that personally designing a workspace actually increased participants’ productivity levels by 32 percent. Take a trip to your local home goods store to choose a few plants, candles, posters or any other decor items that fit your unique style. You might even try a fishbowl!
6. Invest in an office phone
Though it may seem like overkill when you already have a smartphone, there's something to be said for a standard office phone. Setting up a second phone line for your home office is another important way to separate home and work life so you’re not taking work calls during your personal time.
If you are talking to clients or teammates every day for long durations an office phone is better equipped than a cell phone. Plus, there’s a good chance that your company will foot the bill for a work-exclusive line.
7. Take real breaks
When working from home, it can be easy to take a “break” by tidying up the bathroom or throwing in a load of laundry. However, these are not real breaks: you just trade one type of work for another.
Add breaks into your schedule that get you out of the house so your mind can decompress. This could include taking a walk around the block or drinking a cup of coffee in the backyard, as long as it gets you up and moving.
8. Keep office hours
In addition to the previous tip, it’s extremely important to set home office hours and stick to them. It can be tempting to nip back into your home office to finish up a project after dinner or to skip the morning workout and head straight to the computer. Sticking to office hours can help keep you sane by ensuring that your work life doesn’t overrun your home life.
This goes for mobile communication as well. Make sure your clients and coworkers know that just because you’re home, doesn’t mean you’ll be answering messages at all hours. Try creating an open/closed sign for your home office door to help you stick to your office hours.
9. Consider a standing desk or exercise ball
Studies show standing desks may increase productivity, in addition to providing health benefits. If you work full-time from your home office, a standing desk could be a worthwhile investment for years to come. If you aren’t ready to fully commit to an electric standing desk, less expensive desktop setups can be used to turn a standard desk into a standing desk.
Another excellent alternative to sitting in an office chair is a large exercise ball. You can avoid sore feet and instead work on your core strength while typing away. The best part is you probably won’t even notice the workout since you’ll be so focused. Alternating between the two is ideal for maximum productivity; try working up to four hours each per day.
10. Create a dedicated work playlist
Many office spaces play background music, a practice proven to increase concentration and make repetitive tasks more engaging. Take advantage of this by creating a work playlist you can switch on when you start your day. Choose music that you enjoy, but that isn’t too distracting.
It can be helpful to create two separate playlists — one with lyrics and one without — in case you need to really concentrate on something. Investing in a Bluetooth speaker can be a great way to ensure the music stays at a comfortable level, and listening to the work playlist through headphones can be a good option for those who are sensitive to outside noises.
Now that you have some home office organization inspiration, take a look at the graphic below for some more specific tips and tricks.
Working from home has numerous benefits when compared to a traditional 9-to-5. You save money and time by skipping the commute, enjoy the flexibility of working from multiple locations, and completely customize your space. Proper home office organization can keep you productive and motivated day after day.
After investing time and money into making the perfect home office, make sure that you protect your investment with home and renters insurance. Not only is this a good idea for you, but it can also help ensure that your employer stays safe from any liabilities.