How to Have a More Productive Home Office

Working from home has its advantages, like the ability to set your own hours and a total lack of commute time. But it can be hard to work when your ‘home office’ is just a desk in your bedroom, and your roommates don’t understand that just because they’re home lounging in their sweatpants doesn’t mean that you can afford to do the same. So we’ve got tips to help you build a more productive home office – both the classics and the unexpected.

1. Separate your work and your personal life.

It’s essential to designate an area in your home solely for work, even if it’s just a corner of the kitchen table. Find a place with a desk, a chair and some shelves for storing any necessary documents if you can. It’s also best if you are able to hide it away when you’re done. There are some fabulous home offices that take up entire rooms or closets, but a simple curtain over that desk in your bedroom will also do.

2. Invest in a good chair.

The average person spends over 5 hours a day sitting at his/her desk, something humans were never meant to do. To make this as healthy as possible, shell out for a good ergonomic chair, or opt for a standing desk. You can learn more about how to sit properly here.

3. Sit near a window.

According to this study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, dim artifical light makes us sleepier and more stressed. But natural light boosts our mood, productivity and alertness. Try sitting near a window to maximize your exposure to natural light, and make sure you have a good desk lamp to help prevent eye strain. Don’t have a sunny room in the house? Try ‘commuting’ to work – get up early, get dressed, take a walk around the block and then return to your office. This practice both gives you a jolt of sunlight to wake you up, and gives you a ritual to start your day with.

4. Adjust the temperature.

Too hot or too cold? It’s not just your comfort at stake. A study from Cornell University showed that employees made significantly more mistakes when their offices were at less-than-ideal temperatures. For best results, keep your office at 77° F or 25° C. Don’t control your own heat? Consider investing in a space heater – it could save you boatloads in the long run.

5. Add a little life.

If you have a green thumb, consider keeping plants at your desk. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that keeping plants in an office increased creativity by 45%, productivity by 38%, and health by 47%.

6. Take a break.

You might be tempted to work for hours on end, especially if you have a blissfully uninterrupted chunk of time in an otherwise busy apartment. Ignore this temptation. Working for too long induces mental fatigue, causing stress and low productivity. Instead, give yourself frequent, short breaks by stretching, taking a walk, or even doing some simple household chores. Keep yourself on track with the Pomodoro Technique, which punctuates 25-minute bursts of intense activity with 5-minute breaks.

7. Left or right?

One of the biggest luxuries of designing a home office is tailoring a space so that it’s perfect for your tastes. So why would you design a space that’s great for a right-handed person if you favor your left hand? This is a common problem, according to Susan Sabo of Productivity Cafe. She recommends positioning your computer so you can place a notepad on your natural writing side, and making sure your desk lamp illuminates the right spot on your desk.

8.  Consider the color.

White on white on white? Boooring! If you have the option, try painting your walls a new color to boost your mood. Blue-green is soothing, while yellow stimulates creativity and mental activity.

 9. Add a whiteboard.

One of the hardest parts of working from home is maintaining focus in the face of so many distractions. Adding a whiteboard to your desk gives you a large visual space to create your to-do list. Sure, a Microsoft Word document performs the same purpose, but a whiteboard forces you to edit your essentials and can’t be hidden with a new window. This IKEA desk even comes with a whiteboard attached.

10. Leave.

As lovely as a home office can be, it can also get incredibly boring to sit by yourself all day. Pop into the main office sometimes if there is one, or get a few hours of work done in a nearby coffee shop. Just a short conversation with your barista can brighten your day.

Do you work from home? How do you stay productive? Let us know your favorite tips in the comments!

Photo Credit: Kelly Sue via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Working from home has its advantages, like the ability to set your own hours and a total lack of commute time. But it can be hard to work when your ‘home office’ is just a desk in your bedroom, and your roommates don’t understand that just because they’re home lounging in their sweatpants doesn’t mean that you can afford to do the same. So we’ve got tips to help you build a more productive home office – both the classics and the unexpected.

1. Separate your work and your personal life.

It’s essential to designate an area in your home solely for work, even if it’s just a corner of the kitchen table. Find a place with a desk, a chair and some shelves for storing any necessary documents if you can. It’s also best if you are able to hide it away when you’re done. There are some fabulous home offices that take up entire rooms or closets, but a simple curtain over that desk in your bedroom will also do.

2. Invest in a good chair.

The average person spends over 5 hours a day sitting at his/her desk, something humans were never meant to do. To make this as healthy as possible, shell out for a good ergonomic chair, or opt for a standing desk. You can learn more about how to sit properly here.

3. Sit near a window.

According to this study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, dim artifical light makes us sleepier and more stressed. But natural light boosts our mood, productivity and alertness. Try sitting near a window to maximize your exposure to natural light, and make sure you have a good desk lamp to help prevent eye strain. Don’t have a sunny room in the house? Try ‘commuting’ to work – get up early, get dressed, take a walk around the block and then return to your office. This practice both gives you a jolt of sunlight to wake you up, and gives you a ritual to start your day with.

4. Adjust the temperature.

Too hot or too cold? It’s not just your comfort at stake. A study from Cornell University showed that employees made significantly more mistakes when their offices were at less-than-ideal temperatures. For best results, keep your office at 77° F or 25° C. Don’t control your own heat? Consider investing in a space heater – it could save you boatloads in the long run.

5. Add a little life.

If you have a green thumb, consider keeping plants at your desk. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that keeping plants in an office increased creativity by 45%, productivity by 38%, and health by 47%.

6. Take a break.

You might be tempted to work for hours on end, especially if you have a blissfully uninterrupted chunk of time in an otherwise busy apartment. Ignore this temptation. Working for too long induces mental fatigue, causing stress and low productivity. Instead, give yourself frequent, short breaks by stretching, taking a walk, or even doing some simple household chores. Keep yourself on track with the Pomodoro Technique, which punctuates 25-minute bursts of intense activity with 5-minute breaks.

7. Left or right?

One of the biggest luxuries of designing a home office is tailoring a space so that it’s perfect for your tastes. So why would you design a space that’s great for a right-handed person if you favor your left hand? This is a common problem, according to Susan Sabo of Productivity Cafe. She recommends positioning your computer so you can place a notepad on your natural writing side, and making sure your desk lamp illuminates the right spot on your desk.

8.  Consider the color.

White on white on white? Boooring! If you have the option, try painting your walls a new color to boost your mood. Blue-green is soothing, while yellow stimulates creativity and mental activity.

 9. Add a whiteboard.

One of the hardest parts of working from home is maintaining focus in the face of so many distractions. Adding a whiteboard to your desk gives you a large visual space to create your to-do list. Sure, a Microsoft Word document performs the same purpose, but a whiteboard forces you to edit your essentials and can’t be hidden with a new window. This IKEA desk even comes with a whiteboard attached.

10. Leave.

As lovely as a home office can be, it can also get incredibly boring to sit by yourself all day. Pop into the main office sometimes if there is one, or get a few hours of work done in a nearby coffee shop. Just a short conversation with your barista can brighten your day.

Do you work from home? How do you stay productive? Let us know your favorite tips in the comments!

Photo Credit: Kelly Sue via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

  • Comments

Comments

  1. Excellent article. It does make it easier to focus and be creative when your environment supports it.

    I’ve got all of your tips covered except the white board. I don’t really have a good place to put one. What I use instead is good old pen and paper. I’m most productive on the days when I have 3 tasks written down to be accomplished that day. Its amazing how effective that is.

  2. Is this a misprint, “For best results, keep your office at 77° F or 25° C. Don’t control your own heat?” This is significantly above room temperature, and for me, at least, this is even remotely comfortable.

  3. I’m an author, so I work at home, in isolation except for occasional editing emails and phone calls. I find it important to have a routine of standing and stretching every half hour; of walking my dog twice a day – once before I start writing, and once near the end of the day, when I wind up the creative writing, so that I switch to admin tasks after the walk. I also aim at meeting friends for coffee once a week, and every couple of months I take the dog to a town to be groomed, and work in a cafe there.

  4. One thing that works better for me is to plan ahead so I know what HAS to be done to achieve a goal. Then even if I have a to-do list with 10 things on it, focus only on one at a time. Otherwise it just becomes too frustrating, and not as much gets done.

    Also letting people know you’re in work mode; put a sign on your door so the family knows not to disturb you from this time to that time. This eliminates the “now what was I doing again?” syndrome.

  5. My dad used to write in a cubbyhole basement room with a tiny window that was covered by a green curtain, and blocked by a window well. I have my desk by a window so I can see the sun on the trees and grass…and I can see the activity of squirrels and birds. It might be distracting at times, but it is also inspiring and refreshing.

    In my dad’s later years he did move his office up to the main floor of the house, where he could glance out windows on three sides. I imagine he discovered that a prison-like room could get depressing after awhile.

    Whereas my dad made a great living with his writing; I can barely afford to pay for internet… So, is the problem location, or talent, good luck or bad timing… All I know is I enjoy the light and the beauty of nature…even if I am not always part of it. It can be warm outside, but if I’m writing a winter scene I am cold, and always really surprised that the setting I’ve been writing is not the same one as outside my window.