According to recent reports, more than half of the American workforce began working from home in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. With so many open workspaces and little way to avoid cross-contamination and direct exposure to individuals at the office, it makes sense. However, the new transition brought its own set of challenges as many are adapting to the new environment.
Suddenly, adults find themselves working from their dining room tables, carved out corners of the bedroom, or simply wherever they can find room. All while pets bark and run in the background, children and significant others stay home as well, and the dishwasher or washing machine whoosh.
A New Environment Brings Challenges
In addition to the challenges noted above, the majority of individuals lack a proper work station. When you’re in the office, there’s a place to store your notebooks, your pens, a stapler, and sticky notes. Working from your dining room table doesn’t provide the same structure.
Also, without a proper office chair it’s likely that you’ll find your back is sore, that you have headaches, or that you’re simply scrambling to find the items you need before a virtual meeting. You may feel as if you’re losing productivity.
Here’s what you can do about it and how to set up a home office using items you already have so you can save money and work smarter.
Creating a Productive Workspace at Home
Not everyone has an extra room in the house to designate as a work-from-home office. However, you can still find ways to maximize the space you do have to boost productivity and minimize distractions.
Gather Your Belongings
I find it helpful to gather all of my work belongings at the end of each day and place my “office” materials in a small basket. This makes it easy in the morning to grab the basket and set everything out again just where I left it, since I have to deconstruct my space at the end of each day. If your space is a little bit cramped, consider pulling a Marie Kondo to tidy up in less time.
If you have a space set up that you don’t have to disturb each night, create a station that mimics your desk at the office. Find a container for your pens–try an old mason jar that you have laying around the house. It doesn’t have to cost more money.
Play Ambient Noise
It can be difficult to work in a noisy environment, but it can also be challenging to work in complete silence when you’re used to the buzz of the office. Try playing ambient noise. Research states that playing music while you work can boost productivity.
Find a YouTube live streaming station or a mellow Spotify playlist. You can keep it running in the background of your computer or stream it from your smart TV. Some people find that playlists with singing bowls and chimes help them find Zen while they work.
Designate the Zone “Off-Limits”
Let your family or roommates know that during work hours the space is “off-limits.” Doing so can help minimize distractions. With small children it can be a challenge, so if you’re in a room consider hanging a sign on the door that says “Mom is in a meeting” so they know not to come in. Stick to these boundaries.
Make a Schedule
Did you take lunch at 12:30pm everyday when you were in the office? Keep doing that. Sticking to a routine keeps your brain running on time. Block out what you’ll do and when. Learn the best way to manage your time while working from home.
Manage Your Time on Social Media
Without your co-workers or boss looking over your shoulder you may be more tempted to spend time browsing social media. Let’s face it–it’s inevitable. But spending too much time out of work-mode and in browsing-mode can lead to lost productivity. Learn how to manage your time on social media to help avoid the impulse.
Work Near a Window
If you can, set up your work-from-home space as close to a window as possible. Natural light increases your energy, improves your mood, and can help you feel more productive. The light also reduces fatigue and helps offset eyestrain that results from looking at a computer screen all day.
Bring in Plants and Pleasant Scents
Having plants indoors can increase happiness and reduce stress, and scents like aromatherapy oil diffusers and candles can help keep you alert. While the stress of working can home can be overwhelming at times, these things can help you maintain a sense of relaxation.
5 Home Office Hacks
Google recently announce that the company will provide employees a $1,000 stipend each to purchase items they need to work from home, such as a new desk or office chair. However, many of us are finding ways to create spaces on our own. These days, many of us are also watching our budgets closely and trying to avoid spending money on things we don’t need. I know the thought of spending a chunk of my paycheck on WFH materials doesn’t excite me, especially knowing the situation is likely temporarily.
Here are the best home office hacks to set up a productive space without spending a ton of money (or any money at all).
1. Use a Pillow as Back Support
At the office you may have an ergonomic chair that offers lumbar support. You may not have one at home and find yourself suffering from aches and pains. Take a pillow from the bedroom or the sofa and place it behind you during the day. It’s free, and it works.
2. Make Your Own Supply Holders
If you have a pen holder at the office that is home to a variety of highlighters, pens, scissors, etc. it’s like that you need one at home too. Leaving all of these items strewn across your workspace causes clutter and can be a distraction. But you don’t have to spend money on new organization products. Repurpose an empty coffee container or mason jar. To make it more personal, wrap colored construction paper around it and use cute stickers to brighten it up a little bit.
3. Use Shoe Boxes Instead of Office Drawers
That’s right, shoe boxes. For supplies like staplers, paper clips, rubber bands, and all those other odds and ends you need from time to time. Again, you can decorate them with colored paper if you’re the DIY type, or leave them as is. Label them so you know what’s in each. The best thing is that they’re stackable so they won’t take up much room.
4. Use Picture Frames for Important Numbers
Need to keep a list of phone numbers or passwords handy, and don’t want to waste time opening up a spreadsheet every time you need one? Print them out and put the paper in a picture frame to keep at your workspace. They’ll be right in front of your eyes whenever you need them.
5. Keep Your Cords in Order with Bread Ties
Do you suddenly have multiple devices plugged in around you? Computer monitors, maybe a printer, and a few other essentials? Those cords must be everywhere. To stop everything from getting tangled, or looking messy, take a bread tie and group them all together.
Learn What Works for You
The longer you work from home the more you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe the space you thought was perfect just isn’t working out. If you need to, switch your work station to a different area in your home. You may need to re-arrange some furniture, but remember that it is most likely only temporary.
Or, maybe you’re inspired to create a permanent work-from-home set-up. We say go for it. We’re sure you’ll make it GR8.