In an article earlier this week, we featured people who successfully work from home. They offered tips and strategies for avoiding the all-too-common pitfalls of three-hour naps, Law & Order marathons, and Facebook. But managing your time is only one aspect of working from home. You also need to manage your space. So back to the frontlines we went, gathering ideas from people who’ve been there.
Keep it separate.
One of the most common pieces of advice we’ve heard from successful telecommuters is the importance of keeping your office space separate from the rest of your home. Michael Bremmer, CEO of Telecomquotes.com, notes, “If possible, have your own office at home with a door that closes. The kitchen table is NOT an office.”
Tabitha Smith, social media manager for Strategic Revolution, takes it a step further. “Have different computers for work and home if possible. If not, then maybe use different browsers or logins for the same computer. This will help keep your personal/work life a bit more balanced.”
And Krishna Woods, owner of ExactCPA, reveals an innovative approach that almost any telecommuter can duplicate. “I have a set of keys to my home office. When I leave at the end of the day, I turn out the lights and lock the door. It helps me keep my business and personal lives separate and keeps me disciplined.”
Think in terms of maximum efficiency.
Hassan Osman works for Cisco in Boston as a senior manager. He works from home and blogs about the experience on TheCouchManager.com, which he bills as a resource “on increasing productivity and saving time while working from your couch.”
Osman wrote a blog post back in 2011 called “14 Tips for Designing a Highly Productive Home Office,” one that is “GTD Friendly.” GTD stands for “Getting Things Done,” and it’s based on the book by the same name by David Allen. The popularity of Osman’s blog post led him to issue a more detailed ebook on the subject.
Osman’s office is ultra-organized and designed for maximum productivity. Even if this office isn’t your style, most telecommuters will likely find at least one or two of Osman’s strategies to be helpful. These strategies include having all the right equipment for your particular job, taking measures to protect your equipment and furniture (e.g. a floor protector, which can help you move around easily in a swivel chair and also help reduce static), and setting everything up in a way that works for your work style. For example, Osman has a phone that’s within easy reach—he never has to get up from his chair. He keeps his modem and router farther away from the main desk area since 1) there’s no reason to have them any closer and 2) the humming noises tend to distract him.
Make it welcoming.
Patterson Raines is an account manager at OnClick Marketing. She works from home and loves it, but she also says she took some time to make her workspace just right. “When setting up my office, I wanted to create my own inspirational room, somewhere I would feel good walking into every morning.”
She accomplished this by adding elements of her personality to her office and thinking through everything from where she placed her desk to the colors she chose for the walls. “I’ve spent a lot of time traveling the world. In my office you’ll find an old blue suitcase from the 60’s with an antique globe resting on top of it, a drum from my studies in Ghana, a variety of travel books picked up along the years, and of course photographs of people and places from my explorations.”
So what color did she go with for the walls? Bright green. She acknowledges it’s not a typical office color or one that will work for everyone, but it suits her perfectly. Raines says, “I often feel very inspired while working in a room that is such a good representation of me and my interests. It can be tempting to work from a comfy spot like the couch, but I’ve found I’m the most productive when working from the spot created just for me. My advice to those beginning to work from home: set up a space just for you. Even if you do not have an extra room, a desk with a few pictures can really change your mood and productivity!”
Keep it stocked.
Even if the space is small, take the time to organize it. Make sure you have everything you need within easy reach so that you don’t have to run to the junk drawer in the kitchen when you need a paperclip or extra pencil. Think about all the items you’d normally have in a “cube” at the traditional office—chair, desk, file cabinets—and invest in a similar set up, one that’s comfortable and familiar (psychologically, your brain will relate this setup with “office space,” which is a good thing).
Don’t forget your office supplies, either. You can take advantage of business rewards programs that many retailers offer since this is a good way to save some bucks. And, of course, keep all of your receipts for tax purposes. We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Amsterdam Printing can be your one-stop shop for office supplies as well. Not only that, but many of our promotional products can work double duty—you can use them to run your business (e.g. pens) and to promote your business when you hand them out to clients.
Don’t ignore ergonomics.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness.” However, OSHA goes on to say this: “But work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics—fitting a job to a person—helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.”
Examples of MDSs include carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, and muscle strains and lower back injuries, all things that can happen when hunched over a computer day in and day out. When designing your home office, take the time to learn about ergonomics, understand how you might be at risk, and know what steps you can take to diminish or eliminate the risks (e.g. buying an ergonomically designed chair or using an ergonomically designed keyboard). To start, here’s a short, helpful video on laptop ergonomics.
Do you work from home? Tell us about your home office setup in the comments below.