There are many benefits to working from home – no commute, more flexibility and it’s socially acceptable to wear tracksuit pants, providing you look presentable from the waist up on a Zoom call.
But, it also means you don’t begin your job with the luxury of someone else having already fitted out a commercial office space for you.
Whether you’re working remotely or you’re running your own business out of your home, there are certain things you can do to set yourself up for success and ensure you’re both happy and comfortable in your work environment.
Here are 15 tips for designing a home office setup that will help to maximise your creativity and productivity.
1. Create a dedicated office space
Whether you have a spacious home or a small apartment, it’s important to carve out a dedicated work area, that is separate to your ‘home life’. If you’ve got the space, a dedicated room set up as an office is brilliant, but at the very least a desk or even a specific place at the kitchen table that you associate with work-purposes only is essential.
This will help you feel as though you’re ‘going’ to work every day, even if you’re actually only a few steps from your bed! When you’re in work-mode rather than just sitting around your house, you’ll undoubtedly notice an improvement in your focus and productivity.
2. Stay organised and clean
They say a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind, and for most people this saying rings true. Put simply, having mess in your work space can range from being distracting for some, to downright stressful for others.
So, make sure you don’t have piles of washing and dishes lying around and treat your desk the same way you would if you were hotdesking with other people in an office – tidy it up at the end of each work day and create ample storage space for bills and other work related documents and items.
3. Design the layout of your space based on your needs
Research is showing that workplace setups are adapting to their employee’s personal preferences, with multiple environments set up for different requirements – collaboration, focused, meetings, etc.
How you design your home office space will not only be dictated by how much space you have, but also the needs of your business. Will you need to host meetings or have clients to visit? Will you need a couch or other areas for guests to sit in?
Do you need wall space, whiteboards or pin boards for planning? How many computer monitors and other devices are required for you to do your job and how will they all fit? It’s important to consider all these factors and ensure the setup allows you to set out what you want to achieve each day.
4. Ensure you have the appropriate technology
One of the biggest blockers to a productive home office space is whether you have the technology you need to do the job. If possible, set your home office technology up exactly as it would be if you were in a commercial office. This will change based on the needs of your job but might mean setting up items like a phone headset, multiple monitors, a printer or photocopier/ scanner.
It’s also important to make sure you have the computer programs you need to do your job. If you’re on a budget and don’t have access to all the programs you’d ideally like, you’ll often find great free or cheap online alternatives online (such as Canva instead of Adobe Photoshop for example), so be sure to spend some time exploring your options.
5. Bring the outside, inside
There’s a reason people pop outside for fresh air when they need to relax or recharge: human beings have an innate desire to connect with nature. So, if you can possibly set your home office up near a window with views of outside, you’ll automatically feel better than if you’re stuck inside all day.
If this isn’t possible, consider hanging some photos or paintings of outdoor settings or landscapes you enjoy looking at. And of course, indoor plants are all the rage, so even if you don’t consider yourself a green thumb, having greenery around you will help your overall feeling of wellbeing, increasing your creativity and productivity.
6. Ergonomics are important
It might sound obvious, but if you’re uncomfortable or in pain, you’re unlikely to feel very creative or be as productive as you possibly can. That’s why a good desk chair and appropriate desk set up is crucial. Ideally, you want your screen to be about 75 centimetres from your face, at eye level.
When you’re typing, your hands and wrists should be angled slightly downwards, while your feet should be flat on the floor – if you can’t reach, consider getting a footrest under the desk or lowering your chair (as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the rest of your setup).
7. Be comfortable, but not too relaxed
When it comes to productivity and creativity, there’s a fine line between creating a stress-free and relaxed environment, but still maintaining a level of professionalism.
Working from your bed is probably taking the relaxation level too far but ensuring that your home office atmosphere is inviting and comfortable is key – just like you would if you were organising your desk in a commercial office with personal items like photos or a favourite mug, there’s just a lot more flexibility and potential to have fun with it when it’s your own space in your home.
8. Choose colours and décor that make you feel good
Whether you consider yourself an amateur interior designer who loves the task of decorating a space, or someone that doesn’t know their minimalism from their Hollywood glamour, it’s worth spending a little bit of time creating a nice vibe.
At a minimum, perhaps choose a colour palette or theme that will make you feel good – typically green is thought to be a soothing, neutral tone that can restore balance to a space, whereas purple is thought to stimulate imagination and concentration. Or, if you think you have an eye for it, spend some time on Pinterest and go to town designing a home office space that represents you and your work.
9. Keep the space well-lit
It’s not only more energy efficient to utilise natural light, but much like sitting near a window to feel closer to nature, natural light will increase your overall feeling of wellbeing too. If your home is naturally quite dark or you can’t position yourself as close to a window as you would like, try to make the lighting cool and white, as this is the closest tone to natural lighting.
A well-lit room can also be achieved by using different sorts of lights to suit the space, so think about whether a few additional lamps could benefit your home office.
10. Too hot, too cold, or just right?
We’ve all been there: a long meeting or lecture when the room was stuffy and warm and before you know it, you’re struggling to keep your eyes open. Much like the importance of comfort from an ergonomic standpoint, the temperature in a home office is a vital factor in creating a suitable working environment to boost productivity.
Too cold, and you’ll feel unsettled and distracted (not to mention how hard it is to type when your fingers feel stiff and frozen) and too hot and you’ll feel uncomfortable, lethargic and maybe even unwell.
Finding a middle ground with appropriate heating and cooling is key, and when achieved, will likely have the additional benefit of improving the overall comfort of your entire home too.
11. Noise levels
When it comes to noise in your home office, it’s not a dissimilar story to temperature – it’s a bit of a balancing act and too much or too little noise can be equally disruptive. Everyone is entirely different when it comes to their optimal noise levels while working.
For some people, total silence can be distracting and draining, so ambient noise or even quiet music can increase productivity and stimulate creativity. For others, background noise can distract from your focus, so figuring out what is right for you might take a little trial and error and change depending on your mood and what you are working on.
12. Keep it fresh
Air quality in your home office space is intrinsically linked to your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re working in a room where windows can be opened (and the weather permits), there is nothing better than letting fresh air into your home.
If this isn’t possible, consider in investing in a small air purifier or humidifier to ensure the air isn’t contaminated and your brain is able to fire on all cylinders.
13. Create a signature office scent
It might sound crazy, but the smells you surround yourself with can have a huge impact on your mood and productivity. Consider investing in some scented candles or essential oils to help you focus when you need a boost.
Different scents are widely accepted to elicit different responses in people, such as lavender being used for relaxation, citrus or pine keeping you alert and awake, cinnamon improving your focus and peppermint lifting your mood. But ultimately, choose a smell that you love, and you’ll probably feel pretty good.
14. Ensure you have easy access to snacks and drinks
There is no better way to procrastinate than wandering to the kitchen for another cup of tea or deciding to whip up a few snacks throughout the day – so being organised with meal preparation and having access to drinks at work is just as important in a home office as it is if you were going to a workplace every day.
If you’re a big tea drinker, consider making a pot of tea in the morning you can keep on your desk. Or, if you love your coffee, try and keep the coffee machine as close to your office space as is feasible. Preparing snacks and lunch in advance so you aren’t going out for hours to buy or cook anything from scratch in the middle of the day is also advisable.
15. Get an office pet
Okay, so this one obviously has implications beyond your office hours, but even if you aren’t quite ready to commit to a dog or a cat, other living creatures in the office (besides you) are a good little morale booster and play into the idea of bringing nature indoors. Start small with a goldfish or hermit crab and then consider graduating to a furrier friend if you enjoy the company.
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