The need to set up excellent spaces for working at home has skyrocketed in recent years. Today’s small businesses are increasingly willing to allow team members to work from home, and freelancers know well that nothing beats a killer home office for a lifestyle that’s both productive and creative.
We live in a hyperconnected world of smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptops, so what could be the harm in working at your house? There are plenty of decent answers to this question. Not all managers have enough trust to let employees out of their sights, and network security can be a challenge with remote access. Also, a lack of face time with higher-ups may put a damper on your promotion opportunities, and collaborating on a shared vision for projects is also tougher.
But the advantages are undeniable. Data shows that working from home is healthier, cheaper, more productive and greener. And no commute means no traffic – as well as a leg up on forging a great work-life balance.
No wonder telecommuting has grown by 79.7% in the US over the past five years, where it’s estimated that 10.5 million self-employed people work from home. It’s been estimated that 50 million Americans both prefer to work from home and have jobs that don’t require appearances at the office.
If you’re one of these people, you’ll want to make sure that your work day at home doesn’t involve compromises in efficiency or comfort. If it’s important to you that your workstation and its surrounding space is arranged as perfectly as possible, you’re going to have to follow these three rules.
1. Use a Room That Has Just One Purpose
When you first started working from home, you might have been able to get away with sitting with your laptop open on the couch or at the kitchen table. Psychologically, this is problematic, though, as you’re more likely to get into (and stay in) the mood for working when you’re in surroundings that you associate with work.
The ideal is a room that has minimized distractions and good access to natural light and air. An attractive clock on the wall can keep you focusing on turning key tasks around within reasonable timetables, a good desk lamp creates a warm atmosphere, and a small bulletin board allows you to pin inspiring images and important documents where you’ll see them.
2. Don’t Compromise on Comfort and Usability
The right desk and the right chair are both super important, so don’t skimp. Adjustable angles and heights are extremely helpful here, especially if they enable you to work from a standing position when you feel like it. While seated, a keyboard tray can help ensure that your fingers type at the same height level as your elbows rest. Make sure that the top of your monitor lines up with your eyes and that it’s at least 20 inches away from your head. And take lots of breaks to rest your eyes, clear your head and stretch your body – at least once every hour.
Situate yourself facing the room’s entrance and windows. This way, you don’t feel like anything’s happening behind you and the glare from the outside won’t compromise your ability to see the monitor.
Think about an airplane cockpit when arranging your workstation. The stuff you need to reach most often – headphones, checkbooks, stamps, phone, fax, printer, sticky notes, etc. – should be within reach. The rest can be farther away from you – maybe even kept out of sight to minimize clutter.
3. Maintain Access to the Non-Virtual
People who work from home are likely to spend the vast majority of their work hours online, focusing on electronic files hosted in the cloud. But even the most web-based worker occasionally needs to interface with the physical world. Dealing with business management and bureaucracy often requires signing printed hard copies of documents or writing checks, and if you’re an eCommerce merchant, then you’re likely highly involved with the production and shipping of your products.
Keep these aspects of your work day in mind as you design your home office. A filofax or an expandable folder with tabbed pockets can compactly keep your papers organized, as can a wall-mounted tray system. Color-coding helps too. Browse the web for inspiration – there are plenty of innovative, practical, space-efficient products for sorting and storing physical files out there.