Not everyone is still working from home--but a wide percentage of the population is. Some businesses have even shifted the majority of their workforce to a remote environment on a semi-permanent basis. Even more people are working from home at least part-time, limiting the amount of time spent working from the office. Working from home has become more popular than ever--and now, you can make it cooler by updating your home office.
When you first transitioned to work from home, you may have settled for whatever spare space you could find: a corner of the bedroom, a guest bedroom office, or even a section of the playroom set aside just for your home office needs. As work from home orders have dragged on, however, many people have discovered that they're tired of staring at those same old areas.
That old ceiling fan makes too much noise, or just doesn't fit with the décor of your room. That old play kitchen, which your kids haven't touched in months, is the last thing you want in the background of your next Zoom call. Perhaps you've found that your guest bedroom is outdated and too cramped for you to work in on a daily basis.
The solution? Upgrade your space! Increasingly, people are buying home office furniture and other upgrades for their home. A comfortable, fresh working environment can work wonders for your productivity.
Are you designing your home office for the first time or updating it to account for the fact that you're going to be in your office long-term?
Follow these steps to create a better, more effective home office.
Creating the Perfect Home Office Setup
1. Consider what you're using the space for.
Pre-pandemic, you may not have had any need for a home office. You might, at most, have connected to the office from home when you had a sick child or needed to be at home to intercept a critical delivery. Now, however, you may need a dedicated home office space.
In some homes, that doesn't prevent your office space from needing to do double duty. For example, you might still want your space to double as a guest bedroom, or you might need the kids to have playroom space while operating your home office in a specific corner of the rooms. In other homes, you may choose to clean out unwanted items and repurpose your space completely. Consider:
What are you using the space for most often?
If your "guest room" is a home office every day and an actual guest room only a handful of times a year, it may be more practical to shape the space around your home office needs. Consider an air mattress or a futon instead of a full-size bed, for example, to make your guest room seem more like a home office. Remember, extra clutter in your space can decrease productivity and make it harder for you to focus on your work tasks.
How can you set aside specific space for an office?
If you're using a corner of a larger room, you may need to dedicate a desk or table specifically to your work tasks. You may need a neutral backdrop that you don't mind people seeing in virtual calls. As your home office becomes a permanent fixture in your life, rather than one that you use only sporadically, it's important to have a dedicated space for it. This simple strategy can help you prioritize work tasks during the work day. You may also need a specific space where you can get away from your kids and spouse and focus on work, handle calls, or take on other tasks related to your work day without interruption.
Partitions can help you make a "room" within a larger space, separating you from your home gym equipment or the kids' toys. If you need to work out of a guest bedroom, you may want to shove the bed against one wall and dedicate the other half of the room to your home office. Look for creative ways to make the most of your existing space, especially in a multi-purpose room.
2. Make temperature control a priority.
If the temperature rises above 80 degrees in your work space, you may notice as much as a 4% drop in productivity. Uncomfortable temperatures make it hard to focus on work tasks. You may have trouble keeping your attention on what you're supposed to be doing when you're sweating or shivering!
Make temperature control a priority. Depending on where your home office is located, especially if it's in a basement or attic, your HVAC may not control the temperature as well as it does throughout the rest of the house. You may find yourself getting hot and uncomfortable. If that increase in heat, as it so often does, coincides with that natural after-lunch drop in productivity, you may have a lot of trouble finding the motivation to focus on work again.
Luckily, temperature control isn't as hard as you might think. Try some of these strategies to make the most of your home office space.
Install or update your ceiling fan for your home office.
A ceiling fan can help move air through the room, making it more comfortable. In summer, that means a cooling breeze. In winter, your ceiling fan can push down the warmer air that often hovers near the ceiling, making your office space more comfortable without the need to change your temperature.
Modern ceiling fans incorporate smart technology that can make it easier to adapt your temperature controls. Sometimes, you may want to connect it to your smartphone or other device, making it easy to flip the fan on or turn it up or down directly from your desk. Other times, you may prefer to use a remote, which can also make it easy to control temperature without having to get up or break your concentration and flow.
Use individual temperature control options.
A small space heater or window unit can make it easier to warm up your space, especially if you're operating in an area of your home that doesn't get great airflow. If you have trouble controlling the temperature in your home office space, consider adding those options to your room to make it more comfortable.
3. Focus on comfort.
When you only work from home occasionally, you may not need to worry about having the right office equipment on hand. You'll be back in the office within a couple of days, after all. As you make that transition to working from home on a regular basis, however, you may want to seriously consider updating your equipment to make you more comfortable. This might include items like:
A desk large enough for your equipment and paperwork.
If you need to spread blueprints across your desk on a regular basis, you may need a larger table or space than if you typically need only your laptop. Likewise, you may need space for a large monitor (or two), a keyboard, and speakers. You don't want to constantly have to shuffle piles around, so make sure that you have a desk big enough for your needs.
If you work with a large number of tabs on a regular basis, you may find that it's much easier to complete your usual work tasks with a second monitor. Some jobs may even require three or more monitors to keep up with your usual job tasks. If you know that you're going to be working from home long-term, investing on those multiple monitors could be a great way to improve your overall productivity and make it easier to work from home.
A good desk chair.
In the early days of working from home, you may have contented yourself with working from your couch or at your kitchen table. As that work-from-home process drags on, however, you may find that working from a soft chair leads to increased back pain and other problems. As you set up your home office space, invest in a good, comfortable desk chair with appropriate ergonomic support.
4. Organize your work space.
87% of workers admit that a disorganized work space has a negative impact on their overall productivity. When you first made the transition to working from home, you may have done it abruptly. You may have ended up with papers spread everywhere or shuffling through stuff in your briefcase in an effort to find the specific items you needed at any given time.
As a short-term option, that can be workable. As you work from home more often, however, you'll find that organization is critical, both to reducing stress and to improving your productivity throughout your work day. Try some of these strategies.
Create a filing system.
Use folders, file folders, or notebooks to control the paper mess that often accumulates as you do your job. It doesn't have to be an organization system that makes sense to anyone else, but it does need to make sense to you so that you can easily lay hands on exactly the papers you need.
Set aside specific places for work items.
Before you transitioned to working from home, your laptop might have lived in its bag, often in your car. You might not have needed to travel with a headset or other items critical to accomplishing your job. Now, however, you need those items to have a specific place in your home, both to help keep your space organized and to make it easier for you to find them when you need them.
Organize at the end of your work day.
Tidy up your work items and put them away before you make the shift to your home tasks at the end of the day. Taking a few minutes to organize is especially important if you're sharing space: if, for example, you're working out of a corner of the playroom or your home gym. You want to make sure that anything sensitive is put away, where prying eyes cannot see it, and that you can find everything you need for the beginning of your next work day.
5. Make sure you have a clean, professional backdrop.
Zoom calls, Slack meetings, and Google Meets have become the norm for many employees as they work to connect with the office or with clients in spite of mandated distancing. While many platforms and programs offer artificial backgrounds that can help create a more streamlined appearance, you may prefer to use your personal space as a backdrop--or your specific platform may not allow those options.
Create a clean, professional backdrop that you don't mind your colleagues and clients seeing. This may include:
Updating your space.
Are you working in a space with outdated walls, old carpeting, and a ceiling fan from the 70s? If so, you may want to upgrade your space. Aim for clean, professional lines and high-quality equipment that will help impress.
Cleaning up the background.
Take a look at what your space looks like in the background. Connect your camera and see what can be seen in that space. Look for anything that could prove distracting. This may be the time to install partitions that will help block your office space from the rest of the room, especially if you're working out of a playroom or other space.