Whether you’re working from home for the foreseeable or just keeping your distance because of illness and still need to link in with your team, here are the best ways to create an effective and sustainable home office space and make a space work for you so that you can work best.
Identify your kit
What do you need to work? A headset for answering calls? A printer nearby for important emails or documents? Extra batteries or SD cards for filming and editing? Identify the functionality you need to carry out your job before you start so that you don’t end up getting mid-way through a big project and realising you can’t complete it without the necessary equipment. Take some time when setting up your workspace to ask yourself: “Do I have everything I need?”
Check your internet
Your home most likely won’t be equipped with the huge capabilities an office possesses in terms of internet use. Suddenly working from home day in, day out, is going to put extra pressure on your internet connection –– it’s worth performing a speed test early on in your working from home experience and also the bandwidth and general capabilities of your internet and provider. Do you need to upgrade to faster speeds? Avoid growing increasingly frustrated with your internet connection while you’re knee-deep in your work and figure out your internet needs before you even begin.
Update or upgrade
If you’re running programmes on a work computer that are essential to now house and run on a home PC, Mac or your personal laptop, make sure you have full access to all the software you need to complete your job. Download, install, upgrade and update all the programmes you require –– you might be surprised what’s out of date, so this is a great way to freshen up your functions.
Create an office zone, whether that’s a spare bedroom with an unused desk or a corner of the kitchen table. Whatever space and means you have, eke out an area that you can dedicate to work from that you’re not sharing with anything, or anyone, else. It pays to do this at the very start of your working from home experience, as it will set you up for the future and by zoning in on one particular corner of your space you’re making the mental connection that when you’re in that corner or that space, you’re at work; once you enter the space, sit down and start tapping you’re locked in and in ‘work mode’. If all you have is a kitchen table, maximise its functions. One corner is for working in, another corner is for eating at, mark and map out your own space and don’t deviate from it.
Avoid soft furnishings
It’s a wonderful idea to think about being wrapped up in the duvet in your bed, snuggled in pyjamas on the comfy couch and cranking out emails or taking calls, but allow that idea to cross your mind and then move on to a much better one.
Having a ‘soft’ office will only become a distraction, unless you have the willpower of a person on a constant deadline, and that’s not sustainable for anyone. Having a ‘soft’ office is not a great idea, and deters from the idea that you’re creating an office within your home. Lounging about the house, in bed, on the couch, in a comfy armchair, and trying to get work done is going to become confusing and blur the lines, so take pride in your appearance, shower, get dressed just like you would for work and take your seat at your dedicated work station each day –– you’ll feel all the better for it.
Still, be comfortable
Choose a chair. Choose a chair you’re happy to spend 8-10 hours on daily. Choose one that works with your own body. Choose a chair that aligns to your desk or workspace, and fits within the space allocated just right. If you don’t already own this chair, invest in one. Of course, stand as much as you can throughout your day (sitting is the new smoking, according to health professionals) and if you have the benefit of a standing table you’re already winning at working from home. But, if you’re confined to a sitting desk for most of the day, really consider the chair you’re going to have. Working from an uncomfortable, heavy, unstable or improper chair is going to have negative effects on both your productivity and your mood down the line. It may be fine for the first day or two, but problems may start to emerge.
Don’t be cramped
You might find your office desk in your workplace is either seriously clean and organised or a little all over the place –– your home office doesn’t need to be a mess, though. This is the option to create a tailor-made workspace that will benefit you exactly how you need it to, so make the space - however large or small - work for you.
Whether you need lots of space for drawings or equipment or you just need a small desk for a computer and a phone, recognise your needs and form them into your space. Being cramped or surrounded by other stuff will impede your work and just represent a distraction or a frustration later down the line, so try make your new workspace as functional and clear-cut as it can be. If in doubt, clear it out.
Desktop over laptop
Not all of us have access to several computers at home, and if your company has only issued you a laptop, that’s perfectly fine –– a computer of some sort is going to be your most essential aspect; the heart of your office. Desktop computers offer more size and space on the screen, so are superior for their functionality, plus having your laptop on your lap or constantly being looked down at isn’t good for your posture or your concentration, looking up at a screen set permanently at eye level on a desk or shelf is far better for you and for office ergonomics.
Monitors, mouse, keyboard
If you, or someone close to you, has a spare monitor it may be a great idea to borrow it for a second screen, too. If a laptop is all you’ve got, make sure you use it in your dedicated “office desk” space, rather than moving it around all the time. A great tip for sticking to this is investing in an external mouse, rather than relying on your trackpad. Not only is this better ergonomically, but it also forces you to work from a flat, sturdy surface, i.e. a desk. It may even convince you to invest in an external keyboard, too…