How to set up a home office that helps improve productivity
For financial reasons, starting out in a home-based office is often the most sensible choice for many new small business owners.
For some, it's also the most practical solution, both immediately and in the long term. Working from home eliminates the need to commute, and provides free reign to create a personalized space with individual touches that can improve productivity and performance.
If you're planning on running a small business out of your home, or want to get more out of the home office you already have, here's how to create a comfortable, professional workspace that will help you get the job done.
Laying the groundwork
As with any building, the foundations are an essential part of putting together the perfect home office. Tackle these four fundamental questions before going any further.
- What kind of gear will I need in my office? Is it just a computer and other gadgets, or will it be a workshop space with specialized machinery and equipment?
- Will I be hosting guests? Do I need a sitting area or just chairs and a desk? Can I include a couch for reading and quiet contemplation?
- What will my office look like when I'm video conferencing? What will it sound like on conference calls? Will I be close to any distracting external noises? Will I be the one making a racket?
- Where will I store my stuff? Whether it's samples and stock, files and records, or just basic supplies, there's a lot, and it all needs a home. Plan on including excess storage space, or being ruthless about what you keep on hand.
Dial down distractions
It's impractical to put your office in an area of the home that serves multiple purposes, such as the kitchen or your bedroom, don't set yourself up for distraction while working, or bother yourself with thoughts of business instead of taking a break. Your office should be a place where you can get away from the rest of your everyday existence, including your partner, your kids, your roommate, and the TV.
Get the light right
Ensure your home office will have an abundance of natural light. Also, make sure the space is equipped with fixtures and lamps – you won't always be working in the middle of the day, or when the sun is shining. Getting the light right can make a huge difference to performance – after one U.S. Postal Service facility in Nevada upgraded its lighting system, it became the most productive location in its half of the country.
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Where in the home?
If you're going to be hosting clients, what will the path be like from the front entrance? You don't want to come off as unprofessional by leading important guests through a messy kitchen, past a pile of dirty laundry, and down a dark hallway before arriving at your office door. If you plan on having frequent visitors, an office that's close to your home's main entrance is probably best.
Also, consider the temperature. A basement space might be private, but you won't want your fingers going numb because there's not enough heat. Likewise, an attic office could be big and bright, but also sweltering come summer. Consider how well you can control the climate in your chosen space, and make sure it's well-ventilated, too.
Set up your desk so your monitor is at eye level, or just below, to minimize neck and eye strain. Put a footrest underneath your desk and a wrist rest by the keyboard if you need them – they'll help you maintain proper posture and avoid repetitive strain injuries.
If possible, create an office that allows you to work in multiple positions: seated at a desk, on a couch with a laptop, and standing. If you splurge on something, make it the chair – you're going to be using it a lot. Remember that purchases for your home office are tax deductible, meaning you may be able to afford something a little pricier than you originally budgeted for.
Put in some plants and other personal touches
Dress up your office with at least one real, living plant. It'll lift your spirits, provide positive energy, and take toxins out of the air. British psychologists have found one plant per square metre can help office workers improve memory retention and other basic tasks by 15 percent. An Australian study reported a 38 percent reduction in fatigue when just one plant was present.
Another idea is to burn scented candles or use essential oils to make the mood more work-friendly – lavender is considered a stress reliever while peppermint and rosemary both promote calm, clear thought.
Finally, adding a few personal touches can go a long way toward creating an inspiring, productive environment. Whether it's photos of your family or favourite places, a motivational slogan, or a quirky item you picked up at the local flea market, there's no shortage of decorative ideas that will help make your workspace feel more welcoming, stimulating, and special.
Choose your colours carefully
Don't disregard the psychology of colour when picking the paint for your home office. Your choice could have a significant impact on your mood and productivity. Blues and dark greens, for examples, are considered cool, calming colours that are often better suited to bedrooms. Brighter greens, especially those with yellow tints, evoke a sense of the natural world and can help our focus and attention. Yellow is pleasant and inspiring, but too much can be hard on the eyes or create feelings of anxiety. The same is true of reds, which are best used as an accent colour, or in active workplaces. Shades of purple, on the other hand, promote creativity and concentration. On the whole, it's best to pair splashes of your preferred colour with predominantly neutral tones such as white and tan.
It'll take some experimenting before you get your home office the way you want it. You'll be spending the bulk of your work day in this room, so create a positive space, one that's free from clutter and distractions, expresses your personality, and inspires you to take your small business to the next level.
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