Has taking a few steps from your bedroom to your home “office” become your new work normal in these strange times? Although it may be enticing to get work done tucked in bed or sitting at the kitchen counter in front of a half eaten bowl of oatmeal…resist! You deserve a better solution. Take the time to create an at-home workspace that provides a positive and supportive atmosphere to help you be productive, alert and less stressed.
Light makes a space. It’s often overlooked in our thinking, but it’s so important. If you can find a spot with natural light, grab it. Natural light helps keep you alert and engaged. And a window with a view, whether it’s a landscape or a cityscape, helps by giving you a more distant view to allow your eyes to refocus and minimize eye strain. Plus it will remind you that there is a world out there to which you still belong, that may help you in feeling less isolated.
If you can’t set up next to a window then get yourself some really good artificial lighting. Perhaps you need a new overhead lamp, a chandelier, a sconce or a task light. There are lots of on-line resources and local stores that will deliver. Many solutions are as simple as unboxing a lamp you bought and plugging it in! Or even simpler, you may just need to change the bulbs in the fixtures you have. Light bulbs grow more dull over time. Plus the past few years have seen a revolution in the type of light you can get from new bulbs. Consider LED with warmer color temperatures. Stay in the 2500 to 3500k which is generally easier on the eyes than the cooler 4000 to 5000k which are right for labs and hospitals. The bulbs, (technically a lighting engineer would call them lamps) may cost more but they last a lot longer and they use less energy than old style. So you will be helping the environment as well.
You want to get a good balance between task lighting, that’s the name or the lamp that shines on your work, and the surrounding area. Too sharp a drop-off in lighting level will decrease your comfort level and slow your productivity. And if the walls around you get no light it tends to create a dismal atmosphere. Who needs anything that’s gloomier right now? Good light, good mood.
Keep your space sleek and unique. Go for uncluttered and well organized. It will help support clearer thinking if you are less distracted by clutter and mess. Being able to find things you need helps you get work done faster. Get a good desk top organizer. You will have pens, paper clips, tape, even when you are working digitally. And most important at your desk is a good chair. An Aeron is a chair known for its beauty and ergonomics, though it’s expensive. Maybe you can find a used one on Ebay. But these days there are a lot of ergonomic chairs to choose from. Get one. Your back, your legs, your neck, your arms, all will thank you.
Sure work is demanding. But it can be pleasurable as well. A sense of satisfaction from a task you did well? Maybe that’s the point where you deserve a break, or a change of setting for that next call. That might be when you would normally head to the conference room or the lounge at work. At home that means a slight shift in attitude. Turn that comfortable armchair you have into a fabulous conference chair. Try getting an alpaca throw to wrap around yourself as you settle in to close the deal. You don’t have to suffer through a tough negotiation because you have the luxury of making yourself comfortable in your home. This is the time to take advantage of that freedom. If you have a HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplace®, and we hope you do, light it and enjoy the beautiful smoke-free flames and listen to them crackle. Dancing flames from a fireplace have a way of restoring calm as you gaze at them. And if it’s a zoom call you’re on, make everybody else a little jealous, tilt the camera towards the HearthCabinet®.
It can be hard to stay focused while working from home.
Create a dedicated work space for yourself, so that as soon as you set foot in that space, your work mode turns on. And let other people know where and what your boundaries are. Define your office hours. Post them on a bulletin board or on the door if you have one. Set that schedule and stick to it. Make breaks, away from the office area, a part of your schedule. Your iPhone or smartphone timer can help prod you about your schedule. But wouldn’t a nicely designed analog clock on the desk or wall be a pleasanter choice? Place it just at the edge of your vision, as it will help you keep track of the passage of time without barking at you.
Noise of course can be a major distraction. Let your family, friends, roommates, etc. know your work space requires library-like behavior. And after that fails, especially if there are kids around, there are other steps to take. You can add some sound absorbing material around the room, like a plush area rug, or cork bulletin board panels or some extra pillows.
And if it gets really distracting, some noise cancelling headphones, they may be what you need when your housemates are cooking but to you it’s just banging pots down the hall. Smart speakers are of course another option. However, DO NOT listen to the news during work!!! That is the worst distraction of all… and all that news will still be there at the end of the day, won’t it?
PS. Get a clipboard in a bright color. Make a to-do list and check off completed tasks, with a new favorite pen, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment by the end of your work day.
Above all else, remember to personalize your at-home office. You will be spending a bunch of time there. Let your inner interior designer shine and create a bespoke space that fits you. If you love bright colors, bring ‘em on. Painting one wall with latex paint in accent color is just an afternoon’s chore. Or try some easy to hang peel and stick removable wallpaper. You can pick sedate neutrals or passionate patterns. Pillows on that chair or nearby couch are a simple way to add interest.
It’s likely you are going to spend a lot of time at your computer, so go ahead and update your screensaver, don’t accept what Microsoft or Apple chose for you. How about using that spot you want to vacation to when things get back to normal? Or an image of family and friends you are separated from. And put some artwork that you really love on your walls. It’s easy to buy prints on-line. Or help a struggling artist and buy an original painting. Lots of galleries and artists have their work on websites and are eager to make a sale and happy to get their work out there.
Remember, you truly deserve a space that not only helps you maintain your productivity and unleashes your creative energies but also comforts you and reflects who you are.