Whether you have a job where you get the opportunity to work remotely or run your own business from home, your environment can have a huge impact on your happiness and productivity. Having been lucky enough to have a job where I work from home all the time, my work environment has gone through several evolutionary steps from a desk in an unfinished basement to a decorated office on the main floor with a big window. Here are the factors I’ve found that have the biggest impact on my overall outlook and how much I get done. Keep in mind these are just my views but I think they apply to most of us.
There are several things to take into account when planning your home office. I’ve arranged them in the order I feel is important.
Remember, you’re working! One of the biggest struggles people have when working from home is distractions, whether that be tasks around the house, kids, pets, or TV. The most important thing is to isolate yourself from these time-wasters as much as possible.
You’re going to be in this space for hours at a time, you want it to be a warm, comfortable, inviting space. If you find yourself thinking “Darn, I guess it’s time to sit down at the desk and get to work”, it may be time to take a close look at your office environment. Or find a new job, whichever.
Do you have easy access to everything you need to do your job effectively? This will depend a lot on what you do for a living but some examples might be:
Let’s get this one out of the way right away. Just don’t do it. The most important thing to consider is how much time you’ll spend there. Assuming you work from home full time, do you really want to look at concrete, insulation, and piles of various household “valuables” for 40 or more hours a week? If the basement is truly un-finished, do you really want to go up and down the stairs to use the bathroom or grab a snack?
If the basement is really your only option for some reason, maybe lack of space elsewhere, I highly recommend spending some money to build a nice office down there. Some drywall, flooring, paint, etc. is worth the investment. In my case, my wife ran a babysitting business so working upstairs just wasn’t a viable option. I tried it but it was hard to get anything done not to mention have a professional meeting. I’m fortunate that my brother is a carpenter and all-around handyman and helped me with a bunch of the work. I really only needed to hire someone to put up the drywall. It was well worth the investment.
To illustrate this concept, let’s use the example of the desk in the bedroom. You’re sitting at your desk, writing a report for your manager or maybe creating that ad that will take your business to the next level. You glance over and see that the laundry is starting to pile up. It’ll only take a minute to get that started. On your way to the laundry machine, you see some laundry in the kids rooms so take a side trip to grab that too. Then you throw it all in the machine and head back to your desk. Now, where were you? After a couple minutes of thinking, you’re back to where you started, 15 minutes later. How much money did you make in that 15 minutes? None.
This is why I feel it is critical to ensure that your office space is as free of distractions as possible. It should be focused on one task, work.
Remember, you’re going to be there a lot. Several things fall under this category. From the color and styling of the room, to the furniture and lighting, many things affect your comfort level.
This is very much a personal taste thing. I personally find natural colors and wood tones soothing (for example, greens and browns) but that’s just me. This can also be impacted by your job. For a yoga studio, you may want calm, relaxing colors and clean styling. For a sales office, energetic colors and inspirational posters might be the best. You know your needs and preferences better than I do but hopefully this gives you some things to think about.
Depending what you do, this could be seating, desks, exercise equipment or other things I haven’t even thought of. The important thing is to make sure they’re comfortable for long periods of time. One thing I’ve found to be important for me is a really good quality computer chair. At over six feet tall, I’m not a light person. I have found great looking chairs that feel like I’m sitting on a rock after a few hours. Spend the money and get good quality furniture, your senses and your body will thank you for it.
And don’t forget the decorations! A few nice plants, bookshelves, or collectables can do wonders for the comfort of an office space.
Good lighting can also play a huge roll in your comfort level. Avoid harsh fluorescent lights in favor of soft colored incandescent or LED lighting. I also find area lights can be much better than ceiling mounted lights or desk lamps. These area lamps tend to point towards the ceiling which then reflects the light in a more even way throughout the room.
This is easy to summarize, keep everything you need convenient. That could be things you need to get your job done. It could also mean things you need to get through the day. For example, if you frequently use a fax machine, don’t put it in another room or worse yet, on another floor! If you’re a big coffee drinker (don’t worry, I’m not hear to judge), keep the coffee maker nearby. Putting these things further away simply opens you up to more distractions and we don’t want that!