Even though we are about to enter the second quarter of 2021, the vast majority of us are still working from home full time. This is due to a number of things, the COVID-19 Pandemic is the biggest reason, but even if some employers are starting to transition to normal work practises again, they may still be letting employees work from home if they choose to.
With this in mind, creating a dedicated home office space is incredibly important! However, a lot of people do not have the space to dedicate an entire room in their home to become their office. This is especially true in cities where space is at a premium such as London, New York City, Chicago and Manchester.
In this article, I’ll go through some tips for you to create the perfect home office space for you, even if you are like the majority of us and do not have the space to create a full home office room in your home.
The Design of your Home Office
When coming to design your home office, the design of the office is crucial. A home office space designed incorrectly can be detrimental to your productivity, stress levels and overall happiness when working from home. Here are some tips to designing your home office space for maximum productivity and Happiness. Afterall, a happy worker is a productive worker in almost all cases.
When it comes to adding a space to your home to allow you to work more effectively from home, getting lots of natural lighting is absolutely key! Whether you are in the fortunate position of being able to set up a home office in the spare room of your home, or whether you are like me and have to create a set up in an existing room, the tip remains the same. Ensure your desk is positioned facing a window. This will allow you to benefit from all the natural light pouring through your window during the day!
One thing to note, especially if you have a point in the day in which the sun is pointed directly at your window, is to ensure you have some blinds/shutters/curtains available to close when the sun is directly pointed at you. Whilst you would be benefitting from lots of natural light, of course, you would be less productive as you’d be fighting to keep the sunlight away from your eyes. And let’s be honest, no one wants to have to work in sunglasses, do they?
Find a Quiet Spot
This tip is absolutely crucial. Unless you live alone, then the chances are there is going to be noise throughout your home thanks to family members. This can be a huge distraction, and one that needs to be eliminated if possible.
One of the best ways to ensure you are working in the peace and quiet, is to find a room in your home that is normally quiet during the day, and get your desk set up installed in there. Some great examples are hallways and studies! Do not be fooled into thinking that bedrooms are a great place to set up your desk as your brain will struggle to find the difference between a working space and a relaxing space. This is why I always advise against setting up a desk in your living room as well.
Choosing the Right Colours
We are all aware of the effect different colours have on our mental health, and this is no different for home office spaces either! The colour we choose for our home office set up will have a dramatic effect on how productive we are when working from home.
There is a reason when you see images of other home offices that bright colours are used, and that’s because bright colours are best! In actual fact, the best colours to use for your home office are:
Blue and green are also great colour options for your home office space, but it is important to remember that these need to be in lighter shades, and they shouldn’t overpower the rest of the space. Think about painting one wall (or section of wall) that colour to help boost your mood. Painting not an option? Laying down a great rug is another option as well.
Focus on YOUR Needs
Here’s another hugely important tip for you here. It is vital that you don’t design your work from home space around someone else’s design purely because you like it. Of course, you can go with some of their design elements, no problem! But avoid copying entire designs. One of the main reasons for this is you need to ensure that your work from home space is suited to you, your best practises when working and the equipment you need to do your job effectively, even from home!
For example, if you are a product designer then you are going to need multiple screens in order to do your job more effectively. A lot of designers also tend to use other devices such as mobile phones as well. I have also seen some designers make use of ultrawide monitors to maximise screen real estate. Whilst multiple screens are useful for designers, they may be less useful for writers who need to concentrate on one piece at a time, so one screen may only be required here. Writers, however, need to ensure they are as focussed as possible so a great wireless speaker would be great for them to be able to play some productivity and focus inducing music.
Whatever your job, ensure your working space is suited to your needs, not that of someone who does a completely different role to you.
By now, we have all seen the articles that talk about biophilic design in offices, so why not think about incorporating some plants into your home office space as well? It is a well-known fact that even investing in a few plants for your space can increase productivity by as much as 15%! Great when you need to knuckle down and focus on your work!
Plants are also great at increasing feelings of happiness and reducing stress levels within your environment, great for office spaces! So, why not take the design elements from your normal space and introduce them to your home? If you have followed the first tip as well, you will be able to allow the plant to bathe in natural light as well, helping it to grow and prosper!
When investing in plants for your home office space, why not think about their air filtering as well? Specific species of plants such as the spider plant, Ficus, dracaena and Boston fern are all really well known for their specific abilities in the world of air filtration.
Your Working Habits
We know that transitioning from being based in an office full time to working from home full time is a huge change, and many people will struggle with this transition. With this in mind, it is important to try and bring in any many habits from your old working environment as possible to help you feel more at home, in your home! Businesses thrive on high productivity numbers, so these tips are useful to help your employees feel better working from home, even if they prefer working in an office.
Replicate Regular Office Hours (If Possible)
Working from home gives you the freedom to choose your own hours, and this can be a huge benefit to some people, especially parents! When children need to be looked after, it is a great benefit to be able to take 2 hours away from your work, and come back to it and finish your day when your children are asleep or relaxing by themselves.
For people without children however, what is first huge freedom can turn into a massive productivity sucker! It starts off slow, maybe you start your work day at 10am rather than 9am to get an additional couple of hours in bed. Then it slowly starts to manifest by taking hours away from work to watch Netflix. What starts as one quick episode during your lunch break quickly turns into an entire afternoon wasted.
Working your regular office hours, even from home, will allow your brain to create a clear divide between being in “work mode” and not being. This is great for productivity as it means whenever your start time arrives, you will be ready to work! Another added benefit? Working from home means you no longer have a commute! Meaning you can normally get some extra sleep in before starting your day anyway! So, stick to your contracted hours and make sure you are productive within these hours.
Organise Timings with Family Members
As I have mentioned above in this article, family members can be one of the biggest distractions you will face during your time working from home. This can be horrible, especially when you are on a Zoom call with management and need everything to be nice and quiet. We have all seen the amazingly funny videos of people walking in on their family members on Zoom calls. But would we want to be in that situation? No!
To counteract this, share your calendar with your family. Show when you are on Zoom calls, or need periods of quiet in the house so you can concentrate! What’s worked for me? I have separated my day into red zones and blue zones and added these into my calendar. A red zone is where I need to find time to really knuckle down and work, so my family know not to distract me. A blue zone is where my schedule is more relaxed so if they need to ask me something, they can do. I make the rule that I’m only to be distracted when in the middle of a red zone during actual life or death emergencies. Of course, I’ve exaggerated a tad, but you catch my drift.
Keep Distractions Out of Sight
One of the biggest distractions for me when working from home is, somewhat expected, my TV. It gets difficult for me sometimes to stop myself from putting Netflix or Amazon Prime on in the background. I know, deep down, I will stop looking at my PC and end up transitioning onto the sofa and letting my entire afternoon go to waste. Sure, I can catch up in the evening but I know that this really isn’t going to happen.
This is why I have my home office set up under my stairs in my hallway. I am away from any TV screens so I know I am not going to be tempted to switch off from my to-do list and waste a day watching Netflix or playing video games.
No matter where you are going to set up your home office environment, you need to make sure you have your essentials in place.
A Great Desk
No matter what your job is doing, or where you are working from in your home, you need to make sure you have a proper desk! I have seen so many people make the transition to working from home by working from their breakfast bar, their beds, their sofas or their dining tables. The reality is that you are not going to be as productive working from these spaces than when you have a proper desk set up!
With a proper desk, you can ensure you have enough space for all your screens, required peripherals and in a lot of cases you can have some storage built in as well! This is without even mentioning sit/stand desks which will allow you to become even more productive by reducing barriers to happiness such as neck and back pain!
A Great Chair
To go along with your desk, you need to ensure you invest in a chair that you are comfortable sitting in for 8 hours a day. In some cases, you’ll be sat there for more than 8 hours a day! Many people, when they start working from home, find that they are starting to work longer hours during the days.
This may be down to a number of reasons, both positive and negative. Some people may find that they enjoy working from home more so will naturally put more hours in, and some people find that their employers expect them to be available at all hours when working from home so end up doing more hours for a less than positive reason.
Whatever your working hours, you need to ensure you have a chair that can support you for as long as you are sat in it!
When looking to complete your desk set up, do not forget peripheral devices. When transitioning to working from home, a lot of people make the switch to laptops as it gives them the chance to move around more. However, let me tell you now that working from a trackpad 8 hours a day is not comfortable at all and will result in excruciating hand and wrist pain. Ensure you are investing in high quality mice and keyboards as well to ensure you are as comfortable as possible.
So, there we have it, a comprehensive guide on setting up your home office that does not depend on having an entire spare room dedicated to the space. My home office, as mentioned above, is set up in the space below my stairs at home and I could not be happier with it. I have space for my laptop and two additional screens, a holder for my mobile phone and tablet and room for my keyboard and mouse as well. I am as productive from there as I ever was in an office.
Ryan Jones is SEO and Digital Marketing Executive at Land of Rugs, one of the UK’s leading online rug retailers. Like many people, Ryan found himself working from home full time almost overnight from March 2020, so dedicated himself into maximising productivity no matter where he was working from. Ryan now says he can be as productive from home as he can in the office, perfect as it seems more jobs will be made remote permanently now.