Running a truly productive home office requires much more than setting up a chair and desk in a spare room or corner and getting to work.
There’s a very good reason that organisations around the world are spending more and more money on workplace strategies to enhance performance, health and wellness of their employees. And it all starts with workplace design. It’s now widely acknowledged that your work environment can have a direct affect on your physical and psychological state, meaning your health, happiness and productivity. The home office is no different.
If you are serious about achieving results at home, follow my tips for a highly effective home office below, and remember as Aristotle says, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Don’t just try to implement one tip – they are all equally important and will make a difference to how you function, what you achieve and how you feel every time you step into your home office.
Whilst it’s not always possible to create a perfect home office space, it is possible to take the time to ensure it’s as close as you can get.
1. DEFINE YOUR WORK
Are you running a full business from home or are you doing overflow work? Will you be working days or nights and how many hours do you expect to work each session? What profession do you work in and how will that affect your space requirements? Will you see clients in your office? Do you need to phone or video conference? How do you need to feel each day at work – energetic / calm / focussed / creative…? Think about exactly what you do for a job and what you require to be on your best game and be most efficient. The answers will provide the blueprint to your office space.
2. CREATE YOUR BOUNDARIES
Once you have defined your work requirements, define how much space you will realistically need – again this will be determined by your profession. For example, if you generate lots of paperwork, you will need ample storage for filing. If you are in IT or design, you might need extended desk space for several monitors and so on. Make sure it’s an area where you will be comfortable and is practical based on the tasks you need to do and your home environment – partners, housemates, children and even pets can all affect this. Try to create a space that provides you with some privacy and is away from distractions, including the TV. It’s amazing how much house cleaning / clothes washing / drawer sorting and sock matching you can achieve when you are procrastinating in a home office. Trust me, I’ve been there. And no, apparently watching Ellen at midday is NOT considered research!
If you will need to hold phone or video conferencing, or see clients or patients, you will need a room / area that is as soundproof as possible. If you don’t have the option of turning a spare room into an office, try to create a division between your workspace and the rest of the house. Consider a screen or open bookshelf if all else fails.
3. CONSIDER THERMAL COMFORT
If possible, choose a room or space that can provide you with a comfortable temperature and an option for fresh air. If you don’t have much of a choice and you find yourself in a particularly cold or hot area, then install the necessary equipment to bring the temperature to a comfortable level. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can contribute to fatigue and decreased productivity.
4. FOCUS ON LIGHT
Aim for a space with as much natural light as possible. If you have an option that provides a view, take it. Combine this with good general and task lighting. Always choose LED where possible. Light sources affect tiredness, eyestrain, and energy levels, not to mention the simple psychology of being in a lovely light space versus a dark one. To avoid glare, don’t place overhead lighting directly above computer screens, and don’t put a computer screen directly in front of a light source to avoid eyestrain.
5. THINK ERGONOMICS AS WELL AS STYLE
Well designed, ergonomic office furniture is a must to allow your body to function happily alongside your mind. Most importantly, invest in the best ergonomic office chair you can afford. A dining chair as an office chair just won’t cut it if you plan to spend considerable time in your home office. Neck, back and shoulder pain as well as eyestrain and headaches can all arise from sitting in the wrong chair or wrong position for a long period of time. There are plenty of stylish desks and ergonomic chairs on the market, both high and low end in price. Consider a desk that is adjustable, allowing you to sit or stand.
6. CLEAR THE CLUTTER
My ongoing mantra… declutter, declutter, declutter. Crowding can create stress. Not many people can operate at their peak surrounded by piles of objects, books, paperwork and household items.
7. INVEST IN STORAGE
Focus on streamlined storage that looks good as well as working efficiently. Try to get as much storage behind closed doors as possible, keeping only the most necessary items at hand. Streamline the aesthetics to create a sense of calm – there are some beautiful stationary & storage options available now across all price brackets that allow you to choose one ‘look’ for boxes / desktop storage etc and stick with it throughout the space.
Limit your items on your desk and in open storage to what you really need. Keep close by and hide the rest.
8. UPDATE EQUIPMENT
It’s a false economy to use that cheap old printer you have had for years if it takes forever to print and breaks down constantly. That’s not effective use of your time or your client’s / employers time. Invest in updated, efficient equipment so you can work at optimum speed causing you the least amount of aggression! Also think about what you really do and don’t need. For example, if you are predominately paper-free, your printing and photocopying might be more easily and cost effectively outsourced at Officeworks. Take the time to secure and hide all your electrical wires and cords. Have a separate, wireless phone line for your office.
9. CONSIDER COLOUR
The psychology of colour is very real. Colour has been shown to have a clear affect on mood, energy, productivity and health. Getting colour right in office spaces can directly affect business. Having said that, when considering colour for your home office, you should consider how you want to feel and also your own associations with particular colours.
Blue and green, both nature’s colours, are calming and restful and provide a sense of well being. Blue is said to provide mental control and clear and creative thinking. Green is restful on the eyes.
Red is intense and energetic, associated with vitality and ambition. However it can raise blood pressure, so don’t go overboard.
Yellow is said to trigger innovation and could be good for creatives. Don’t forget to think about shades.. one shade of yellow might energise you whilst another might make you feel ill.
It’s also quite a good idea to use colour to give your office a slightly different feel to the rest of your home so you are creating an unconscious boundary between work and home life.
10. CREATE YOUR VIBE
My final tip is simple. If you don’t like being in the space, you won’t want to work in it and you wont be operating at your peak. Take the time to not only implement as many of the tips above as possible, but also give your office space some personality. Buy something beautiful that you love to have by your side every day. Bring in some plants, art or whatever it is that makes you want to be in the space. Have music on hand to create different moods. I use spotify and change the music around dependant on whether I need to be in a highly focused mood or on a creative high. Once have taken the time to get your space right, the rest is up to you!