Make it work!
The transition from an “office-office” to a home office isn't easy. Neighborhood noise, household interruptions, lack of dedicated workspace, and odd hours are just a few of the difficulties telecommuters experience, and these challenges compound when two or more people in the household are working from home.
Establishing work-life balance is super important when work and life happen in the same place, often at the same time. A key to successfully making the switch, and reaping the benefits of a work-from-home lifestyle, lies in constructing your workspace with comfort, focus, and productivity in mind.
Choose a quiet location.
Quiet may be a relative term if other family members are home while you set up shop, but in most households, you have some choice where you work. Avoid noise and other distractions by working in a location where household traffic is minimal—ideally a spot that can be separated by a closed door. In an open floor plan, consider assembling a screen around your workstation to reduce visual distractions.
Related: 10 Tips for Creating a Home Office That Works for You
Eliminate noise from outside.
There are numerous ways to reduce outdoor noise, typically by closing gaps and adding insulation in the form of higher-quality building materials. Replace a hollow interior door with a solid door. Use a draft guard to seal the gap at the bottom of the door. Add an acoustic mat on the floor or acoustic ceiling boards to block noises from below and above. Reduce street noise by replacing single-pane windows with double panes.
Enlist help from home decor.
If noise inside the home office seems excessive, the problem may be that sound is bouncing off the hard surfaces in your room. Add an area rug and canvas art on the walls to dampen the echo.
Related: 10 Ways to Boost Productivity at Home
Use helpful gadgets.
Noise cancelling headphones can help you focus on the task at hand, even with barking dogs and noisy kids in the background. Cover up distracting street noise by turning on a fan, or use a white noise machine (available on Amazon).
Maximize natural sunlight.
Natural sunlight has health and productivity benefits. Establish your work space near a window, even a small one, to gain an advantage. Keep the curtains open while you work. If your windows are small, hang a mirror on the opposite wall to bounce the light around the room.
A strong internet connection is absolutely necessary for video conferencing, file sharing, and countless other office tasks. Communication barriers can make you seem unprofessional to clients and colleagues, and lead to frustration and reduced productivity. Don’t settle for a weak or inconsistent internet connection. Contact your provider to see if you can get a service plan that more closely matches your needs, or boost your signal with a WiFi extender.
A good office chair is a wise investment. Narrow your search to one that will be comfortable enough for a full work day while also promoting good posture. Look for furniture that allows you to control the tension, lumbar support, seat and back angle, seat back width and height, and arm width and height.
To avoid body stress that could lead to injury, adjust the chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are in line with your hips. Sit up straight and keep your hips back in the chair. The chair back should be slightly reclined, between 100 and 110 degrees.
Related: The Best Office Chairs for Your Home Office
Don’t buy office storage.
Rarely do commercial office desks and credenzas function well in a home office. Home offices are usually smaller, and may pull double-duty as a spare bedroom, craft room, or home gym, at which point bulky furniture only gets in the way. Look for furniture that affords functionality and flexible use. Creative use of tables and bookcases, built-in shelving, portable screens, and other home furniture will cost less, and be more useful than a monolithic office desk.
Ensure comfortable keyboarding.
Whether you work on a desktop or laptop computer, it’s important to set it at a height that eliminates neck strain and to facilitate good posture while typing. The monitor should be positioned with the top of the screen at or slightly lower than eye level, and at least 20 inches from your eyes. The keyboard should be about 2 inches above your thigh while seated in your chair.
Use helpful gadgets to achieve these ergonomic ideals. Place your monitor on a riser or shelf. Use a pull-out keyboard tray beneath the desk surface. Use an adaptor and a second monitor for more comfortable keyboarding from a laptop.
Use a standing desk.
While the calorie-burning benefits of using a standing desk may be minimal (standing burns about 8 more calories per hour than sitting), standing can provide other benefits like reduced back pain, improved mood, and increased energy levels and productivity.
Tame the cables.
Electronic wires and cables easily become an unsightly, jumbled mess. They are also a tripping hazard and a magnet for dust. Keep them out of the way by using double-sided Velcro to bundle cables into a manageable mass, or use a special cord management system.
It's very simple: Paper clutter wastes space and looks bad. Use a document scanner to store your papers as electronic files. Shred and recycle unneeded paper documents frequently. If you must keep a hard copy, consider using offsite storage so you can keep your papers safe and out of the way.
Use high-quality equipment.
Think about each piece of office equipment you use, and consider how they affect your ability to get work done. Small equipment upgrades can boost work satisfaction and productivity simply by making it easier to do your work. Upgrade from a clunky wired mouse to a comfortable wireless mouse to reduce clutter and increase convenience, or swap your old keyboard with sticky buttons for a newer model.
Put it away.
When work is over, it’s time to close up shop. Use drawers and cabinets to stow away the office when the work-life balance tilts toward life. Make it easier to step away from the office and into your family role. Besides, if you put everything away, your work is also safe from curious kids and pets.
Related: 11 Ideas for Working Remotely When You Don’t Have a Home Office
Now, get to work.
Make working from home the best it can be.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!