After weeks of begging, you’ve convinced your boss to let you work from home. Remote working! It’s the dream, right? As a freelance writer and remote worker myself, I can tell you that the rumors are all true: working from home is the best. I can work while the laundry’s going. I can take the dog for a walk whenever he needs to go. I can pace around when I’m mulling over an idea or a turn of phrase without disturbing anyone. I can work whenever I feel most productive, whether that’s at 9:00 a.m. sharp, or at two in the morning when inspiration suddenly strikes out of the blue.
But working from home isn’t fun and games—you obviously have to get work done, too. And that can be hard with hundreds of chores, a thousand distractions, and needful pets or children all begging you for your time. While you can’t rid yourself of every distraction, you can design your office so that your productivity will be at its peak—and your boss won’t regret allowing you to go solo.
Create work zones
If you’re like most people, your work isn’t relegated to one or two tasks; at any given moment, you’re expected to be a gifted public speaker, an influential writer, a problem solver, a human resource manager, and an event planner all in one. That’s why it helps to set up different office “zones” for all the types of work you do. Does your work demand creative work or problem solving? Create a place away—a nook filled with stimulating books, brain puzzles, or toys that can distract you for a little while until you have that aha! moment. If your job requires focus for an extended period of time, design a space for that, and paint it a soothing color, like a blue or green.
Harness the productive power of plant life
One thing that has been shown repeatedly to boost overall positivity and increase worker effectiveness is integrating a little green into office spaces. Memory retention, concentration, and happiness all spiked when basic houseplants were introduced into office spaces in this oft-quoted study—so getting a few into your home base might not be a bad idea. Set a few low-maintenance houseplants in your workspace, such as peace lilies or spider plants, and you’ll have a more inspiring environment—with improved air quality, to boot. If you can design your office in a spot with a window facing your backyard, even better.
Let the light in
Just like plants, natural light also has restorative benefits for our minds and bodies. Researchers are currently testing how different lighting techniques can affect healing in hospital patients, so just imagine how it can help you finish off that report with a flourish. Natural light is best, so pick a spot for your office that has a window—but ideally, one that isn’t south-facing so you won’t have to deal with any glare or excess heat. The right artificial lighting can also help. Make sure you have access to two separate lighting sources: an overhead light, and direct “task” lighting in the form of a desk lamp or nearby floor lamp. Swap out the bulbs for ones labeled 6500K or daylight—this will provide plenty of bright light that mimics the effects of having a window nearby.
Design a space to stand around in
Desk spaces pressed into an attic eave make great fodder for the cover of House Beautiful—but they’re not exactly practical when you want to get some serious work done. Being able to stand at my computer has had a massive impact on the amount (and quality) of work I get done in a day, and I didn’t even have to purchase an expensive standing desk. DIY your own desk space, and you can save those precious earnings for office happy hour. If you’re the kind who needs to have a seat occasionally, you can either set up a separate place for stationary work, or check out one of these.
This is the number one thing I can recommend to increase your productivity. When you’re deep in the middle of a project and you work from home, it can be very, very easy to blur the lines between time spent working and relaxing—after all, the more you work, the more will get done, right? But your mind needs time to bounce back after bouts of deep concentration, and if you push too hard, eventually you’ll hit a wall. Or your brain will sabotage your efforts and keep you up all night just so you can have some time to yourself—leaving your focus ruined for the next day. To keep your productivity from spiraling off the rails, set aside an hour or two each day when your laptop, phone, and email are off limits. It will feel scary at first, but it’ll be worth it for the productivity and clarity you’ll gain.
Forget what you know
Whatever changes you decide to make, keep them in line with your personal aesthetic. If a little clutter energizes you, so be it. If you can stand bright light, don’t be afraid to close the shades. Ultimately, designing an office is a personal matter, so don’t be afraid to break any and all of the rules in your quest for increased productivity—now that you’re working from home, you can decorate any way you please!
About the Author: Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.