You might have seen a bright silver lining when you got that first call or email from your boss announcing the new work-from-home order. Maybe you had visions of sleeping in and working on the couch all day long with the TV playing in the background (maybe even in your PJs), being more productive than ever with no coworkers to interrupt you every five minutes.
As reality has set in, many of us have come to realize that working from home can be difficult. Combining your professional and personal lives can cause tension and stress. Working at home can also be distracting, leading to a sense that you’re working all the time but less productive than ever.
How to Design a Productive Office Space at Home
Creating an office space that motivates you to work efficiently and set healthy boundaries can help you separate work time from home time and maximize productivity throughout the day.
1. Take Inventory
Ask yourself the following questions to start thinking strategically about the kind of space you need to design for higher productivity.
- What type of work do you do?
- What will you need to accomplish in the space?
- What equipment do you need?
- What materials do you need to store and organize?
- Will you ever have coworkers or clients in your space?
- Will you need to make conference or video calls in your space?
After assessing your needs and figuring out what type of layout and equipment you need, you can start setting up your home office.
2. Set Up Your Home Office
First, choose a location that accommodates your needs but is separate from the rest of your home. It could be an extra bedroom, a room in the basement, a large closet, or even a separate building like a hobby shop.
Next, order the right office furniture to fit your space. You’ll probably need a desk or table and a comfortable chair. Consider an ergonomic chair, footrest, mouse, and mousepad to keep your body in proper alignment as you work. Don’t forget to get up and move around throughout the day!
You may also need shelving or storage space, filing cabinets, a computer and printer, adequate wire management, and noise-canceling headphones. Make sure you give yourself enough surface area to work. Feeling cramped can make you feel stressed and distract you from your work.
It’s crucial to have equipment that works well. A slow computer or internet connection, for example, can cause frustration and inhibit productivity. Also consider insuring your home office equipment, so you’ll be reimbursed if anything is suddenly lost.
Good lighting is another essential component of working successfully at home. Natural light is the best. If it’s unavailable, use a combination of general lighting and task lighting; yellow is ideal for creating a comfortable working environment. It’s best to have lighting fixtures you can adjust throughout the day to reduce eyestrain and control brightness.
Last but not least, don’t even think about hanging up that new plasma screen TV you just bought. It will only distract you from your work. Keep extra gadgets out of sight as well, like personal cell phones and tablets. Try turning on instrumental music or white noise in the background to help you concentrate better.
3. Set Physical Boundaries
Keep all of your office supplies, equipment, and work-related materials inside your office space. This will help you create healthy boundaries so you can leave your workspace at the end of the day and enjoy a more relaxing home environment in the evening and on weekends. It will also help you work more efficiently if everything you need is in one area. Just make sure to keep everything organized and tidy. A cluttered workspace can cause unwanted stress and chaos. If your family is at home with you during the day, make sure they know when you need privacy to avoid excess noise and interruptions.
4. Set Time Limits
It’s wise to establish your work hours before the day begins. Maybe you went into the office and worked from 8 am to 4 pm. At home, without a commute, you may be able to work from 7 am to 3 pm. Setting up a timeframe for your workday will help you avoid overworking and help you stay on track better. You can even create an outline to compartmentalize different parts of your day so you feel more organized and productive.
5. Personalize Your Space
Once you cover the basics, it’s time for the fun part: decorating. Consider painting the walls of your office space to help you feel energized, motivated, and positive. Different colors elicit different emotions. Green, red (as an accent), white, gray, and purple are good office colors. Consider combining a more vibrant color with a subtler tone for an energized yet relaxing work environment. Just be sure to test the colors you’re considering before you paint entire walls.
To create the right ambiance, you can take things a step further. Set a unique tone by sprucing up your space with items that reflect your personality. Here are some home office décor and design ideas to get you thinking:
- Consider warming up your furniture with throw blankets and a adding cozy rug to help absorb sound.
- Add plants, extra mood lighting, candles, or an essential oil diffuser.
- Invite your dog to be your office buddy throughout the day.
- Add artwork to your walls.
- Add a standing or floating desk near a window.
- Set up a coffee, tea, and snack bar.
- Add a shelf filled with books about your career, industry, work productivity, or creativity.
- Add colorful curtains.
- Install a large whiteboard for brainstorming and a corkboard for posting notes.
While working from home can be more comfortable than in an office space with coworkers, avoid making your environment isn’t too casual. If you stay in bed or on the couch instead of moving to a separate office space, it’s easier to get distracted, end up with a crick in your neck, or even fall asleep on the job.
Making your space your own can motivate you to get up and “go to work” every morning. If you follow these home office ideas, by the end of the workday, you might not want to leave. For more tips on creating a space you love—for work or pleasure—subscribe to the Pro-Line blog!