Eleven years ago my home office became my primary work location.
Sure, I’ve worked from my laptop in bed, on the couch and while reclining in a bean bag chair, but none of those were great options for me long-term. Today I’m sharing some background on my home office space so you too you can get down to business and make magic happen.
Let’s Discuss Location
I live in a big, old house. My home office has occupied three of the four bedrooms randomly over the past ten years. I’ve learned, if possible, use a dedicated room for your office. Being able to close a door on the world outside makes it easier to stay focused during work hours.
If you don’t have a spare room, carve out a corner of a room that’s not the bedroom (in case you need to work late and your significant other wants to sleep.) Maybe there’s space in a workout room, basement, guest bedroom, unused dining room or kitchen breakfast nook that could work.
If you live alone, set up shop wherever you want!
The Surrounding Environment
If you have the option to alter the office space a bit, I suggest making it conducive to the type of work you do. I need to be creative, so I like a mellow, relaxed vibe. I have a Himalayan salt lamp glowing, my tank of turtles nearby, upbeat classical music streaming from Pandora and a rocking chair flanked with bookcases for quiet reading.
I also feel like I’m most productive when my office is tidy. I know they say a messy work environment is a reflection of creativity (Boy, am I creative today!), but I find that I can focus on my tasks more thoroughly when I’m not eyeing dusty shelves or a stack of unsorted paperwork. I think the Marie Kondo decluttering trend is starting to grow on me. Less is more.
All About the Desk
Yes, you do need a home base and for me, it is a desk. It mentally triggers you to know it’s time to work. It may sound silly, but once you live and work in the same place, it’s super easy for the lines to blur. Is it work time? Is it personal time? Well, if you have a desk that you use only for work, you naturally transition into a work frame-of-mind when you sit down and get going for the day.
If you haven’t already, buy yourself a good computer chair with lumbar support, adjustable armrests, height adjustments and any other fanciness you want (like built-in speakers, massage settings, heat pads or USB ports). You’re going to spend hours in that chair, so it might as well keep you healthy.
I finally made the investment in a deluxe chair after getting tennis elbow in my right arm from working at an improper height for an extended period of time. Take a minute to learn about ergonomics and set your desk, chair and monitor at the optimal heights and distances.
Finally, I voluntarily wear eyeglasses when I’m working at a computer or on my phone. I used to get headaches often, so my husband bought me a pair of Gunnar gaming glasses (I call them my magic writing goggles) to help reduce eye strain. They are amazing and work wonders for reducing eye fatigue, twitchy eyes and headaches.
I’ve since invested in another pair of glasses from the optometrist that doesn’t have any vision correction, but instead are designed to reduce eye fatigue by blocking blue light when working at a computer. The series is called EnergizeMe from ZEISS if you want to ask your local eye-care center about them.
Getting Work Done
Finally, once you have the ideal set-up, you have to be diligent about getting your work done. When you don’t have a boss over your shoulder, you have to crack your own whip and make things happen, even when you’d rather catch up on that Netflix series, take a three-hour lunch or throw a load of laundry in the wash.
Stay focused! I minimize distractions by putting my phone on the Do Not Disturb setting for small chunks of time so I can work uninterrupted, especially when I have a short deadline. I also set hours that I’m working so when family or friends want to do something I can say, “Sure, I’m off work at 6. Let’s catch up after that.”
When you live and work in the same place, others don’t realize that you actually separate your time between being available and working. They just know you’re home, which means you should be accessible. My advice: squash their assumptions ASAP if you want to get anything done.
If things are chaotic and you must get things done, toss on a pair of headphones and earbuds, play some soothing music and put those hands on the keyboard. You may need to hire in-home childcare or send the spouse/roommate/live-in buddy to a movie with friends to get your work done, and that’s OK. Your home is your workplace.
Be a Digital Nomad
So, you’ve read this far and are thinking, “Angela, why don’t you just set up shop at the local library or coffee shop?” Well, I do sometimes. But then I have to pay for drinks, food and parking. Plus, I’d rather be home with my dog and the ability to work at any hour of the day. What if I have an amazing idea at 3:00 am and want to dive down that rabbit hole? I go to my home office and type away.
Working off-site can be very disruptive with customers or patrons coming and going, loud children carrying on or annoying overhead music derailing your thoughts or making it hard to hear on conference calls. And for some, the time spent commuting to and from a location away from home could be better spent…working!
With that, I do have a favorite coffee shop getaway. They make the most incredible homemade hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. There’s very little pedestrian traffic. And, best of all, it’s close enough to my home that I can walk there. It’s pretty perfect and is my go-to when I need to get out of the house for a change of scenery. I also like tapping into our WiFi in the backyard next to the azalea bushes.
And one more tip: If you will be working remotely for an extended period of time, make plans to leave your home at least once a day. It could be for a walk around the neighborhood, to go to the gym, meet a friend for lunch, run an errand or walk the dog. It’s easy to become lonely or wear the same clothes three days in a row when you don’t have to leave home. Getting out and about is good for your mental and physical health!
So, that’s the rundown of what works for me. Do you have any lingering questions about the physical set-up of a home office? I’m happy to chat in the comments below.
Next week in the final and third part of this work-from-home series I’ll talk about websites, apps and software to help stay connected to your colleagues, employer or co-workers when you’re away from the office. That post will publish on Thursday, November 8, 2018. If you’d like an email notification when that goes live, join my email list HERE.