People are beginning to prefer working from home at an alarming rate. According to statistics pulled from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, working at home among regular employees has grown by 103% since 2005. That’s not counting self-employed workers (entrepreneurs, freelancers, etc.)! We are living in a time where people have the option to work remotely and get things done from home without having to worry about falling behind. This dramatic shift in preference of choosing where to work was not available to many people a decade ago.
If you are on the fence or have already taken the path of working at home, you are going to need to prepare yourself for the tough challenges ahead. Even though you are still accountable to your boss and other employees, you are going to find that things just simply aren’t the same. Nobody is peering over your shoulder to check if you are getting your work done. Unless you are using a work laptop, only you will know how your time is being spent.
By and large, the number-one complaint about working from home is the decreased productivity that tends to come with it. It’s a dramatic change for many workers who have spent their lives cramped in a cubicle, and it takes some time to get used to. There are many things that you can do to adapt to this change but optimizing your home office is the best thing you can do.
As a remote worker, you are going to be spending a large portion of your day seated at your home office desk. Therefore, it only makes sense for you to set it up so that you can work productively for long hours without being distracted or feeling uncomfortable. Your environment plays a huge role in your behavior, and you need to design your home office with this in mind.
Before we get into the details of how you can build a productive home office, the most important thing to remember is that your home office is for work and nothing but work. If you start using your home office for entertainment and leisure, your mind will follow. What does that mean? It means that you won’t be focused on your work because you know that you can use the room for other things besides work. That mentality needs to be erased.
When you are in your office, the only thing that you are allowed to do is work. That’s it. This trains your mind to do nothing but work. When you enter your home office, your mood will change and you will instantly be in a productive state of mind.
Make sure the basics are in place.
Your home office needs to have a couple of essential items in place. You are going to need your wireless setup installed so that you have access to high-speed internet. Research, communication with other team members, checking email – there is only so much that you are going to be able to do offline. Make sure that everything is working and, if you have the time and resources, have a backup location ready for when your internet goes down. You can even take it to the next level and have an Ethernet connection ready in case your Wi-Fi fails.
Computers and other things will be discussed in detail in the later sections of this article. The majority of workers already have some kind of setup in their home and do not need to worry about them just yet.
Make sure you are comfortable.
When people work at home, they have a bad tendency to exhibit poor posture as the hours pass by. Their shoulders slouch over, and they look like cavemen as they type away. They start feeling some kind of pain in their wrists after typing a 20-page report. They begin to feel stiff all over.
This issue can be explained by the fact that we are mostly unaware of our posture when we are working. This holds especially true for those who are intensely focused on the task at hand. However, a large part of it has to do with equipment that is not built to ensure proper posture.
For this reason, you should invest well in ergonomic furniture that is designed to help you keep good posture without much effort or thinking. You will want to buy a chair that will have you feeling comfortable when you sit up straight. If you have to put in serious effort for good posture, keep trying out different chairs until you get the result that you want. Other people have had good results from sitting on large exercise balls, building their core muscles throughout the day.
The same thing goes for the desk that you use. The best desks that provide comfort are height-adjustable to account for different body sizes and preferences. A good desk will also have ample room for your monitor and other tools that are essential to getting your work done. When in doubt, it is better to have a desk that is slightly too big than a desk that makes you feel cramped.
Keep your workspace organized.
A big mistake that people have when setting up their home office is using it as a place to store all of their clutter and other miscellaneous items. The truth is that you do not need any of these items to stay productive and get your work done. Once you sit down and take an honest account of what you need to finish a task, you will be surprised at how little you need. More often than not, clutter tends to induce stress because it is a visual reminder of all the things that you need to do in the near future.
Remove all of the little “good-luck” trinkets. Discard the huge stack of papers – they can be sorted through and dealt with later. You also don’t need 20 different pens; just the one that will get the job done if you need to write anything down. If your workspace consists of multiple cables, you should purchase something that will help you keep them organized.
A clear workspace in which you know where everything is located will lead to a clear mind. A clear mind is a productive mind that can work without worry or stress.
Many home workers are surprised to find how prone they are to distractions when they start working at home for the first time. It is very tempting to relax for half an hour with a game of Solitaire, get an extra snack or two from the fridge, lie down on the couch with your laptop, and many other things other than the task that you are supposed to be doing.
Your home office should not have any distractions present. You need to physically remove them from your office so that you are not tempted to use them during working hours.
This means that you should not have any kind of entertainment around. No TV or video games should be present. You don’t have to throw them out – they can be simply moved into another room that is designated for leisure. They just simply need to be kept out of sight and out of reach when you sit down in your home office.
Invest in the best technology you can afford.
This is not an invitation to blow the rest of your savings. Rather, you should view it as money well spent on products that are going to last you for a very long time. For some of you reading this, you might already have everything that you need. Most laptops built within the last couple of years have enough power and memory to complete the tasks that you need to get done. For those of you who need to upgrade their current equipment or need something new, now is the time to do some serious research to see what best fits your working circumstances.
Some laptop owners prefer to purchase a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor so that they can replicate the feel of an ordinary desktop computer. In this case, it is easier for them to maintain a normal posture by looking at an elevated monitor without having to slouch over so that their head is level with a laptop screen. Alternatively, some people purchase a laptop stand and a separate keyboard so that they can type while keeping the laptop screen at face level.
Many keyboards and mice are now being designed with ergonomic comfort in mind. They will be designed so that your wrists will be in a neutral position while you are working. Don’t be afraid to try multiple devices until you see what works best for you.
Some people also swear that changing the monitor they use made a big difference in their productivity. This change came in the form of using a larger monitor or using multiple monitors at once to keep several windows in eye’s view. If you take a look at the set-up of stay-at-home day traders, they often have more than one monitor to keep track of multiple stocks and patterns at the same time.
A productive home office should have good lighting. You don’t want it to be too bright, so that you can’t see properly, but you also don’t want it to be dimmed to the point where you are struggling to see things on your desk. Play around with the lighting until it is at a comfortable level where everything is visible.
Some people have attested to the benefits of having a nearby plant at your desk. It’s difficult to say what it is about the plant that makes it a valuable desk addition but it works for some people. Try to see if that is the case for you.
Finally, make sure that you have something to drink while you are working. It feels good to reach over and grab a sip from your cup of water, coffee, or tea when you are feeling a bit dehydrated. When we work long hours, we get dehydrated easily and forget to provide our body with the fluids that it needs.
There are a million things that you can do in order to build a productive home office. This guide was designed so that you can maximize the few things that matter and get to work right away. You don’t want to spend so much time fixing every nook and cranny of your home office that you end up spending more time designing than working. Buy what you need, set it up, and get to work!