Technological advancements and evolving perceptions of the workplace have empowered workers to seek greater flexibility in the workplace and have licensed organizations to allow it. With the number of telecommuters growing by 79 percent between 2005 and 2012, there are over 3.2 million workers (close to 2.6% of the workforce in America), who are working remotely (via Telework Research Network). A research conducted by a team of Stanford researchers also successfully concluded that allowing employees to work from home increased their productivity. However, if you thought that working from home was all about working in your PJs in front of the television in a cluttered, messy environment, you’ve got another thought coming your way. Call it a truism, but where you work definitely affects how you work. Thus, having a well-organized home office that helps you maintain your peak productivity is critical if you are a remote worker. Here are some tips for you to design your home office –
Select the right space
To get started, the first thing you need to figure out is your work space. Selecting a comfortable, well-lit and well-ventilated area is critical for productivity. You also need to ensure that your workspace doesn’t fall in high traffic areas of your home. The nook under the stairs, or the dining room corner might seem like a perfect place but if these areas see high footfalls, chances of getting distracted are much greater and will ultimately impact your productivity. Your work space ideally should be a dedicated space that is separate from the rest of the house and is ‘off limits’ for family and other natural home interruptions during work hours. Less distractions mean more productivity.
Arrange your space
Arranging your workspace according to the nature of your work plays a big role in your productivity. Have 3 designated productivity zones when designing your home office –
- The Scheduling Zone – this area can house your calendar, a vison board or whiteboard for organizational purposes
- The Sorting Zone – This area can double up as storage where you can organize and file away your documents. You can house books related to work that you need to reference and additionally create an efficient filing system. This can also be the place where you do all your non-computer related work such as signing papers, scanning documents etc.
- The Operating Zone – This is the area where you dock your laptop or desktop and where the actual work happens. For ensuring that this zone functions optimally, you’ll need to keep it clutter-free and ensure that the resources that you use multiple times during the day are at an arm’s reach. Office supplies such as pens, pencils, telephone, charging docks all have to be in this area so that they can be accessed easily when you want them without having to move around.
Apart from these three zones, you also have to make some place for a ‘catch it’ space so that you can catch incoming junk without cluttering your work station. This space should have a credenza to catch all incoming mail and documents and, most importantly, a trash can. Having a big trashcan is actually a strategic hack. Most papers that come to the office are either digitized or have to be discarded instead of filed. A large trashcan thus prevents trash overflow and hence helps you cut the clutter.
When working remotely you have to ensure that your office is ‘smart’. Productivity takes a huge blow if your Wi-Fi is shoddy or if you don’t have a UPS system in place. A stable and fast internet connection thus forms the crux of your smart office. Investing in an Ethernet port can prove wise for those days when you have a mountain of work to do and your Wi-Fi connection decides to play truant. A wireless hub gives you the flexibility to work from your desk, your chair or a table at both standing and sitting heights. Apart from this, a separate reliable phone connection designated for office work alone helps in increasing productivity since you’ll not be bombarded with personal calls during work hours on that line. VPN connectivity for a secure connection and data security is another essential that help you work efficiently and productively. Having a printer and scanner in at your disposal is an additional plus since you don’t have to waste precious time and productivity heading to the nearby store.
Take cable management very seriously when designing your home office. Untidy cables are an aesthetic problem but can induce a harrowing maintenance regime and result in premature wear and tear of your equipment. Unruly cables can also be a safety hazard since you can trip and injure yourself, thereby pulling the plug on your productivity. Cable turtles and binder clips are great and economical cable management fixes that you should look at when designing your home office.
A home office is well designed when it is ergonomic. A good ergonomically designed chair might cost a little extra but is crucial for comfort and ultimately productivity. Soft keyboard pads, foot rests, ergonomic mouse instruments all go into enhancing your work experience and make your work time less stressful on your body.
Software and productivity apps
Tracking how you spend your time can help you manage your time better when you work remotely. After all, you can only manage what you can measure. There are a number of productivity apps that help you manage your time better, be it with the help of creating efficient to-do lists or activity trackers that keep you updated on work progress. Apart from this you can also use software tools that can help you understand your workflow and help you design your day for better productivity by analyzing your work patterns and helping you identify your peak productivity hours.
Apart from all this, a little color and personalization of space with bright paintings all help you in increasing your productivity by keeping your spirits high. Your home office should have a positive vibe that affords focus and helps you function with greater efficiency and ease. After all, you’ll only be able to increase your productivity if you are in a place that you ‘want’ to be in.