Technology is slowly bringing down the barriers for working at home across industries and professions. And it can be a boon for both parties. Allowing remote work saves a business significantly in rent, absenteeism and turnover – IBM claims to have saved more than $100 million between 1995 and 2009 by introducing a teleworking program. Hiring remote workers also means a business can hire the very best people, rather than just the best of the bunch living near it.
For employees, working from home can provide much needed flexibility, allowing for more time with loved ones, and to pursue other interests.
Remote workers often report greater satisfaction, as they skip the daily commute, see more of their kids, and even eat better. But working from home can require more than a computer and a stable internet connection.
Here are some key aspects to focus on if you want to do have the perfect home office setup.
1. Create a separate space
Create a dedicated space within your home to become your office – a place you can go, where you and everyone else knows you should not be disturbed. It could be a spare room or just a nook in the corner, the important part is to have a space exclusively for work, providing a clear divide between your work and personal lives.
Having a separate space has other benefits as well. Not having to pack and unpack your work gear means you have a consistent work environment – your files or other tools are always in the same place. It provides a space for you to be in “work mode”, something that you can leave behind at the end of the day.
Having a space to “commute” to, where you need to dress up and head every morning is important according to writer and podcaster Stephen Dubner. Dubner rents an apartment across the street from his home as his workspace, saying “it’s important to have a place to go to every day”.
Bad posture, eye strain and repetitive stress injuries are a concern no-matter where you work. So take some time to set up your workspace ergonomically. Consider whether you want to have a standing or sitting desk – there’s no right answer here. You might even want to look into a desk that converts between sitting and standing. When you are sitting, ensure you have a comfortable chair with good back support and set at the appropriate height.
Relative heights are an important aspect of setting up your workspace – ensure your desk, computer monitor, keyboard, mouse and chair are in the correct position to ensure good posture – bad posture can impact both your body and your mind. Once you have your space sorted, remember to move around regularly to keep the blood flowing.
3. Manage distractions
Working in an office provides a buffer to the rest of your life — friends and family are less likely to disturb you while television and other gadgets are usually absent. Working from home often requires setting up rules and expectations — ensure everyone knows that even though you are home, your time isn’t your own.
A good way to manage distractions is to send a signal — close a door, put on some headphones or wear a “uniform”. Ensure others can tell that you’re busy and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Alternatively, depending on the task at hand, being distracted may be exactly what you need. Researchers have found that introducing more stimuli can foster more creativity, allowing your mind to create connections and wander down new pathways.
4. Include greenery and light
When designing your home office, don’t forget the aesthetics. Plants and natural light are quick ways to bring some peace to your space. Researchers have found that even a glimpse of nature can provide a boost for workers, positively impacting not just mental states, but also physical well-being.
Office aesthetics don’t end with decor. How you organise your desk can have a big impact on productivity and peace of mind. As much as you can, don’t over-clutter you desk — try and leave one side free. Eschew piles of papers and tools, using tools and files to organise your workflow. Stash rarely used items in draws or someplace else you can’t see them.
5. Play the right ambient music and sounds
Working at home can be lonely, without the chatter and background noise of a big office. Not everyone works well in silence, and difference ambient noises and music can suit different work and environments. From classical, jazz through to electronica, there are plenty of ready-made playlists available to fine tune your work environment.
If music doesn’t work for you, you may want to try some of the various apps and tools that offer ambient sounds. There’s Coffitivity for coffee shop sounds, plenty of white noise on Youtube, and playlists for the ocean, and even Wikipedia edits.
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