How to Design Your Home Office for Productivity
Practical tips for optimizing your space to work from home
Working from home is great — no commute, no dress code, no noisy co-workers—but remote work has its own challenges. Namely, staying productive. Working on the couch in your pajamas is great until you realize it’s lunchtime and you’ve barely accomplished anything on your to-do list.
To help you put your nose to the grindstone and keep it there, it’s important to create a space that will allow you to do your best work. We’ve put together some tips and tricks on how to design your home office space for productivity.
Separate your workspace from your living space
Creating a dedicated workspace helps minimize distractions from family, pets, TV, and all the other goings-on at home that might beg your attention.
Besides the practical aspect of a separate workspace, physical boundaries also help maintain some mental boundaries so that your two lives don’t bleed together (that’s where things can get hairy). Having a place to “go to work,” even if it’s just a table or a corner set aside for that purpose, gives your workday some structure. Entering that space becomes a mental trigger that it’s time to get down to work and focus.
For more considerations and recommendations for working or operating a business from home, check out this guide to setting up a home workspace excerpted from Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Homebased Business Handbook.
Several studies reveal that good posture and ergonomics can result in notable increases in productivity.
One from the Institute for Work and Health gave a group of about 200 office-working tax collectors adjustable chairs and ergonomic training and measured their pain levels and productivity. Over time, this resulted in notable decreases in soft-tissue injury and pain as well as productivity increases of nearly 18 percent.
While you may not have the luxury of fancy ergonomic chairs at home, there are a number of ways you can adjust your work setup that will benefit your body and your work.
For example, when working at a computer, your elbows should be at right angles and the screen roughly at eye level so your body is properly aligned, rather than slouched over your laptop or workstation in the “turtle pose.”
Take a look at this roundup of office ergonomics resources for ergonomics for more specific tips on the healthiest ways to work.
Let in the light
Allowing as much natural light as possible into your workspace decreases things like eye fatigue and headaches while increasing productivity.
A study in the 1980s followed a $50,000 workplace renovation that installed more windows to allow more natural light to enter the office. While it was a pricey renovation, the company saw a boost in productivity so high that it experienced a $500,000 surge in revenue.
Apart from numbers and studies, natural light (and that vitamin D boost) makes you feel happier and more ready to take on the day. So keep your curtains or blinds open and make sure you have good lighting in your workspace for when it’s cloudy or dark.
Get some green
Research has shown that exposure to nature and greenery increases worker happiness and productivity while reducing stress. If you have views of trees and shrubs, turn your desk toward the window.
Some research shows that even the smallest engagements with nature can help boost mood and productivity, so no worries if you live in a more urban environment. If your home office doesn’t have easy access to natural views, consider placing some potted plants within your field of vision, or use your breaks to take a walk in the local park.
Keep it clean
You already have enough mental clutter, so why put up with physical clutter? Working from home means that your entire home or apartment is a potential for distraction. You might find yourself unable to look away from that pile of dirty dishes you’ve been meaning to wash or all the toys strewn on the floor.
If things seem to pile up fast, it may be a good idea for you to schedule a time every day or week to tidy up — whether that’s the whole house or just the area you’re working in. Your cleanup time might even serve as a productive break from work when you need one!
Besides cleaning your living space, it’s important to keep your desk area tidy. You might also think about starting or ending your day by organizing your desk area, making sure to file away papers, put away pens, and generally ensure you have a clean and distraction-free workspace conducive to productivity.
One big culprit of desk-dirtying is food. Eating at your desk is especially tempting to do when working from home. While we’re not saying you should ban yourself from eating at your workspace, we are saying that it’s important to make an effort to clean up after yourself as soon as possible. Utensils, crumbs, napkins, etc., make for an unpleasant and untidy workspace, which in turn makes for an unproductive mind.
Finally, it’s a good idea to consider storage options for your work area. You’ll need a place to tuck away any papers, supplies, or gadgets, whether those are boxes, file cabinets, or shelves. Having good storage and organization options will not only help you keep your workspace neat, but also save time and help you find things quickly.
Need more tips for working from home? Check out some of our other resources: