Working from home has become increasingly popular in recent years. With the right setup, a home office can provide many benefits like flexibility, no commute, and lower expenses. However, creating an efficient and comfortable workspace at home comes with its own unique challenges.
Here are 7 tips to make your home office work better for you:
1. Designate a dedicated workspace
Having a specific area in your home that is just for work is crucial for productivity and mental separation. Don’t just temporarily set up at the dining table or couch. Choose a spot that can be your designated office space.
Benefits of having a dedicated workspace:
- Helps distinguish work time from personal time.
- Allows you to keep all your office supplies and materials in one place.
- Makes it easier to focus since you associate that space with “work mode”.
- Creates routine by always working in the same spot.
When choosing the location, look for a quiet spot away from distractions like the TV. Make sure it has strong WiFi connectivity. If possible, opt for a spare bedroom or basement area.
Pro tip: Close the door to create clear physical separation from the rest of the home. Use headphones if household noises are still distracting.
2. Optimize lighting conditions
Proper lighting is essential for any office environment to reduce eyestrain and help concentration. But getting the right lighting balance can be tricky in a home setting.
Here are some tips to illuminate your home workspace:
- Let natural light in – Position your desk near a window to take advantage of daylight. Supplement with artificial lighting as needed.
- Avoid overhead lighting – Overhead lights can create shadows and glare on your work area. Use table or floor lamps instead.
- Reduce eyestrain – Use a lamp with a soft yellow or white bulb. Bright blue-toned light can cause eye fatigue.
- Minimize glare – Position lamps so they don’t shine directly into your eyes or onto your computer screen. Use matte screens and desk surfaces.
- Consider personal preferences – Do you prefer a brightly lit space or more subdued lighting? Tailor lighting to what makes you feel focused.
Having appropriate lighting makes a big difference in comfort and stamina when working long hours from your home office. Experiment to find the right balance of natural and artificial light for your space and needs.
3. Reduce noise and distractions
Working from home means contending with potential distractions and background noise. Kids, pets, neighbors, housemates – they can all derail your focus.
Here are some tips to minimize disruptions:
- Set expectations with others in your home about your workspace and working hours. Communicate when you can and can’t be disturbed.
- Use a noise machine or app to play ambient sounds like white noise, rainfall, or coffee shop murmur. They help drown out unpredictable background noises.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. They are especially useful for blocking out sudden loud noises like barking dogs.
- Hang up sound absorption panels. Strategically placed foam tiles can muffle echoes and voiced carry across rooms.
- Listen to music or podcasts if repetitive, familiar sounds help you tune out random noises. Instrumentals or lofi beats work best.
- Face your desk away from high traffic areas in your home, like the kitchen or front door. Don’t position your back to the door.
With some adjustments, you can create an oasis of calm in even the busiest households. Take steps to manage noise and you’ll be able to concentrate so much better.
4. Establish a routine
When you don’t have to commute to an office every day, it’s easy to fall into an unstructured schedule. Without set hours, work can bleed into your personal time.
Creating a consistent daily routine for your home office helps separate work and life. It also leads to better productivity.
Here are some tips for establishing an effective work-from-home routine:
- Stick to regular office hours as much as possible. Resist the urge to do household chores during the workday.
- Follow a morning routine like you would for an office job. Shower, dress professionally, eat breakfast.
- Take scheduled breaks for lunch and screen-free activities. Don’t eat at your desk all day.
- End the workday by tidying your workspace. Then close the office door and don’t go back in.
- Mimic your commute home by taking a quick walk outside or doing a household chore.
Having set work hours and following a consistent routine will make you feel more organized. Even if you have flexible hours, decide on standard start and end times that separate work from personal life.
5. Organize your office clutter
Clutter is distracting and can impede productivity. Make sure your home workspace is organized using these professional strategies:
- Use storage bins – Keep office supplies, electronic accessories, and other items neatly stowed away but easily accessible. Label bins so you can quickly find what you need.
- Minimize desktop clutter – Only keep essential items like computer, lamp, notebooks, and coffee mug on your desk. Store non-essentials in drawers.
- Clear papers daily – Handle mail, forms, and documents as soon as possible. don’t pile papers on your desk. Use trays and file folders.
- Digitalize when possible – Scan documents to create digital copies. Save files to the cloud for access anywhere. Sign up for online subscriptions rather than print copies.
- Keep surfaces clear – Your desktop, bookshelves, and other flat surfaces shouldn’t become cluttered storage spaces.
- Use productivity tools – Calendar, to-do list, and reminder apps help organize your schedule and tasks so your mind feels clear.
An organized office removes mental clutter so you can better focus on work. Make it part of your daily or weekly routine to declutter and tidy your workspace.
6. Invest in ergonomic equipment
If you use a laptop on the couch all day, neck pain and backache will soon follow. The physical toll of an inefficient workspace can rob you of productivity.
Creating an ergonomic home office reduces fatigue and injury risk from long work hours hunched over a computer.
Key ergonomic gear to invest in:
- Adjustable chair – Look for an office chair with adjustable height, lumbar support, and arm rests. Proper chair height reduces strain.
- External keyboard and mouse – Position them at elbow height to alleviate neck and shoulder tension from poor posture.
- Laptop stand – Raises a laptop screen closer to eye level to avoid constant neck craning.
- Monitor – A large external monitor placed at eye level improves posture. Reduces eye fatigue from small screens.
- Foot rest – Keeps feet supported which improves circulation and posture.
- Wrist rest – Foam pads reduce wrist strain when typing for long periods.
- Anti-glare screen overlay – Prevents eye strain from glare bouncing off shiny screens.
Though pricier, ergonomic office setups quickly pay for themselves in greater health, comfort, and daily performance.
7. Add personal touches
Working from a sterile, soulless cubicle can be demoralizing over time. That’s why it’s important to personalize your home workspace in subtle ways.
Personal touches boost mood and motivation when you have to spend many hours a day in your office.
Here are some ideas:
- Hang inspirational art, prints, or photos.
- Display meaningful souvenirs or collectibles.
- Use accessories in your favorite colors like mousepad, notepads, pen holder etc.
- Add healthy office plants like succulents or small herbs.
- Use an essential oil diffuser with uplifting scents.
- Drink from a fun coffee mug rather than plain glass.
- Hang string lights for soft ambience.
- Play your favorite music genres or nature sounds.
- Use a comfort item like a blanket or nostalgic toy.
Customizing your home office to reflect your personality makes work more enjoyable. But don’t go overboard or it becomes distracting. Aim for sparse personal accents.
Tips to Stay Focused and Productive All Day in a Home Office
Now that you’ve optimized your home office setup, it’s time to tackle working productively from this space. Many common distractions lurk at home that can derail you from work.
Here are pro tips to stay focused for hours while working solo:
1. Start with the Most Important Tasks
Don’t check emails first thing. Instead, begin your day by tackling high priority projects requiring deep focus. You have the most mental energy and stamina early on.
Knock out the toughest items on your to-do list during your peak concentration hours when you are unlikely to be disturbed. You’ll achieve greater progress this way.
Use the start of your workday for:
- Complex analytical work
- Learning new skills
- Creative tasks like writing
- Projects with looming deadlines
Start strong by diving into meaningful work right away. Don’t get sucked into busywork and email until later.
2. Take Regular Breaks
Sitting at your desk grinding away for 8+ straight hours is a recipe for burnout. To maintain optimum focus, schedule regular short breaks to give your mind a chance to recharge.
Here are effective ways to incorporate breaks:
- Set a timer to take 5-10 minute microbreaks every 45-60 minutes. Stand up and move around.
- Take your lunch break away from your workspace, like at the kitchen table. Don’t eat at your desk.
- Every 2-3 hours, take a longer 20-30 minute break to run an errand or do a household chore.
- Do some light exercise like stretches, jumping jacks, or jogging in place to refresh.
- Drink water, snack on nuts or fruits, or make a cup of tea. Refueling also re-energizes.
The time away from your screen will clear your head, improve circulation, rest your eyes, and boost motivation. You’ll return to your projects feeling invigorated. Don’t think you’re being unproductive by taking breaks. They improve focus.
3. Create a Daily To-Do List
Don’t rely on just your memory to track tasks. You’ll inevitably forget things. Maintain focus by writing out a prioritized to-do list each morning.
Creating a daily task list:
- Lists all the work you hope to complete that day.
- Lets you break down big projects into specific action steps.
- Allows you to track progress as you check off items.
- Ensures important items don’t slip through the cracks.
- Gives you a feeling of control over your workload.
Refer back to your list periodically. Add and reorder tasks as priorities shift. Crossing completed items gives you a sense of progress. An up-to-date to-do list reduces mental drain.
4. Minimize Email Interruptions
Email can become a massive distraction eating up productive hours. Set boundaries around email time to maximize sustained focus.
Tips to manage email more efficiently:
- Only check emails 2-3 set times per day, like mid-morning and late afternoon. Disable notifications.
- Respond to quick emails immediately. Batch longer responses for later.
- When writing emails, state your purpose succinctly in the subject line.
- Unsubscribe from promotional emails and newsletters you don’t read.
- Use features like Boomerang to schedule emails to send later. Don’t let them distract you now.
- Set email drafts aside. Come back later to proofread with a fresh perspective.
Treating email in batches reduces context switching that fragments your focus. Triage and respond on your own schedule, not when each alert pops up.
5. Listen to Focus Music
Silence can sometimes feel too isolating when working solo. A low-key, non-distracting sound in the background improves focus for many.
Some good options:
- Lofi hip hop – Upbeat but subtle chilled out beats promote steady concentration. Very popular work music.
- Ambient electronica – Down tempo minimalist sounds create unobtrusive sonic textures.
- Piano instrumentals – Peaceful melodies help calm and center thoughts.
- Nature sounds – Gentle birdsong, rainfall, ocean waves etc immerse you in natural calm.
- White noise – Static hum drowns out random noises that break focus.
The repetitive, unlyrical sounds give your brain just enough to latch onto without being disruptive. Avoid music with vocals. Listen at low volume.
6. Set Self-Imposed Deadlines
Do you tend to drag your feet on projects when working unsupervised? Impose artificial deadlines to stay accountable to yourself.
Tips for setting effective self-imposed deadlines:
- Break down larger tasks into smaller milestones, each with a deadline.
- Be realistic about what you can complete daily or weekly. Don’t overestimate.
- Use timer apps to time box tasks, keeping yourself on track.
- Reward yourself when you meet a deadline, like with a short break.
- Share your deadlines with a co-worker or friend for extra accountability.
- Review deadlines at the start of each workday and assess progress.
Knowing you need to finish writing that report by Friday or input the data by Tuesday prevents procrastination. The pressure of a looming deadline can provide motivating urgency.
7. Avoid Distracting Websites
It’s tempting to compulsively check social media, news, YouTube etc when working solo. Resist browsing distracting sites.
Tips to curb website distractions:
- Remove bookmarks for non-work sites to add an extra click if you do visit.
- Use website blockers to completely bar access to very distracting sites.
- Set limits in app settings, like 30 minutes max per day on Facebook.
- Log out of social media on your devices and browser to add further obstacles.
- Turn off all non-essential notifications, like chat app alerts.
- Keep your phone out of sight and on silent mode while working.
Out of sight, out of mind. Eliminating distracting sites altogether is most effective. If you can’t resist, set strict time limits on browsing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Home Offices
Q: How much space do I really need for a home office?
A: A functional home office can be set up even in a small spare corner. Look for enough room for a chair, desk, computer, and some storage. 100-200 square feet is ideal for one person.
Q: Should I invest in a standing desk for my home office?
A: Standing desks help improve posture, circulation, and energy levels when used properly. But using one too long can cause other problems. Consider investing in an adjustable desk that goes from sitting to standing. Or use a standing desk riser on your existing desk. Alternate positions.
Q: Is it better to use the guest bedroom or basement for my home office?
A: The basement is ideal since it’s usually isolated and quiet. However, make sure it has sufficient lighting, ventilation, and internet connectivity first. A spare bedroom works well too. Just install room dividers or screens to hide your workspace when guests visit.
Q: Can I claim tax deductions for my home office expenses?
A: If your home office is your principal place of business or you use it regularly for work, you can likely qualify for valuable tax deductions on office expenses like rent, utilities, insurance and supplies. Talk to a tax professional to learn more.
Q: How can I stay connected with co-workers when working remotely?
A: Schedule regular video conferencing to talk projects, plus occasional virtual social hours. Send regular project updates via email. Use chat apps like Slack. Foster non-work conversations before/after meetings. Share funny work memes. Collaborate via cloud docs.
Q: Should I invest in a separate landline for my home office?
A: Most remote workers can rely on a personal cell plus online tools for communication. But a dedicated business line shows clients you’re running a professional operation. Forward calls to your cell when away from home.
Q: What decor can make my home office feel more tranquil?
A: Incorporate natural elements like plants, wood accents, bamboo organizers, art with nature themes, and natural fiber rugs. Use calm, muted paint colors like light blue or sage green. Play relaxing background nature sounds. Diffuse subtle lavender or eucalyptus scents.
Creating an optimal home office environment enables you to work remotely productively and comfortably. Use these tips to carve out a dedicated workspace, minimize distractions, establish effective work habits, and personalize your space. With the right setup, you can thrive while working from home.
- Designate a specific area as your workspace.
- Optimize lighting conditions.
- Reduce ambient noise and disruptions.
- Create a consistent daily routine.
- Keep your office organized and decluttered.
- Use ergonomic equipment.
- Add personal touches.
- Prioritize your most challenging tasks first each day.
- Schedule regular breaks to recharge.
- Make a daily to-do list.
- Only check emails a few set times.
- Listen to focus music like lofi beats.
- Set self-imposed deadlines to stay on track
- Avoid distracting websites while working.
Following these home office tips will set you up for productivity, creativity and success, even when working independently. Structure your remote workdays effectively so you can excel.