Raise your hand if you’re working from home these days.
The numbers have skyrocketed this past year, as employers shifted people to remote work in the wake of COVID-19. In fact, according to video conferencing provider Zoom, more than 300 million participants are using their software for calls each day as part of the work-from-home surge.
While it can be nice to be at home, it can also be easier to become overwhelmed or distracting when your personal life and work converge. We’ve put together some tips on creating a distraction-free office space within your home, so you can be the most productive and effective at your job.
Determine how you work best
Each person has different work habits. And, not all work from home jobs are the same.
While one person may be head-down writing code all day, another may be making frequent sales calls. These different approaches may require different types of space.
A person who is on the phone throughout the day may need a space that shows well on camera for video conferencing; their schedule may also be more broken up, with frequent breaks and the need to decompress between calls. A person who is generally an independent contributor may need to get into deep-thinking mode and may require a very quiet space with few distractions.
Whatever your workday looks like, think about the times when you feel most productive. Then, determine how you can maximize that feeling as you work in your home.
Set regular working hours
Time can slip away quickly at home.
There’s always something that begs for your attention when you’re home. If you walk to your kitchen for a drink of water, you may notice a few dishes that need to go in the dishwasher. Then, you may need to toss your dishcloth in the laundry. Then, you notice the washer is full - and, well, it can easily become an “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” situation.
When you’re working from home, set hours that you’ll be focused on work. Communicate those with your housemates, so they know when you should be left undisturbed.
Put a lock on your “office” door
A lock on the door can do wonders as far as keeping out your other family members or housemates (we’re kidding - kind of). However, it also can be a great psychological trick.
When you hear your lock click into place, you go into work mode. Even though you may be working in your bedroom, it transforms into your office during the time that the door is locked.
Create physical separation
In modern homes, an open floor plan can be great for family gatherings or for providing a feeling of airy openness. However, if you have more than one person working from home, your open plan house or apartment can make it hard to find decent workspaces.
To get around this, do what you can to create physical separation. It can be as basic as turning your desk a certain way or adding a white noise machine. At the same time, it can also be as drastic as converting a spare bedroom or closet into a private office space or building a “spare room” office in your backyard.
According to Mortgage Professional magazine, buyers are even expected to start shopping for bigger homes to give themselves a little extra space for their work efforts. Moving to a new home may seem like a drastic choice but it might also make sense if your company sounds amenable to offering remote work as a long-term option.
Move some items to storage to give yourself additional space
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’re having trouble finding a good workspace in your home, consider whether making some temporary adjustments to your furnishings or storage areas might give you the room you need.
A large closet or pantry, when emptied and packed up, can be a great place for a small desk. A guest bedroom might be a tight squeeze with an office set-up alongside regular furniture, but switching your larger guest bed for a daybed or Murphy bed might give you the space you need to spread out your materials and work effectively.
Packing up and storing items away from home might seem like a time-consuming solution; however, it’s certainly easier and more affordable to put away a few things than to try to find a new house to get the space you need for work.
Seek natural light
You don’t want to give yourself eye strain staring into a computer all day and light under harsh overhead lighting. If you can, position your office space in a place where you can enjoy plenty of natural light. However, you also need to balance your desire for natural light with your desire for peace and quiet.
If your most well-lit areas are also frequently traversed by your housemates, you may need to switch off between those locations and a more private area.
Choose your workspace depending on what you need to get done. If you’re checking emails, for example, you may be able to do that in a more open space; digging into a project, on the other hand, might require a quieter and more closed-off area.
And, natural light can come from outdoors as well. If you don’t get too distracted, it can be a nice change to work outdoors in your yard, on your porch or even from a local park.
Working from home can be very efficient and rewarding or very distracting and frustrating. If you’re struggling with making it work, remember that a big part of your work from home success comes down to your expectations.
If you expect to be distracted, you’ll probably find ways to put off and procrastinate your work. At your traditional office, you’re probably faced with even more distractions - meetings, chatting colleagues and more - and you make it work. You can do it at home and be very successful; getting settled into a good workspace and rhythm is just your first step.
Photo by Freddie Marriage.