If you’re still working from home for even a portion of your week, now might be the time to reconsider your space and how to optimize it for the long-term as the world moves increasingly toward remote work.
A home office should be a professional space where you can work with focus and with as few interruptions as possible. Many research studies have been conducted, and articles and books have been written about the benefits of attaining a flow state. But offices need to be set up with more than just uninterrupted blocks of time in mind. Video calls need to look and sound good, you need to be comfortable, and you need to be able to perform a variety of tasks over time.
In short: don’t sacrifice professionalism just because you’re at home. The below guide will cover a few major areas to consider when setting up a home office for optimal remote work.
Silence Is Golden
No one can work when the world is full of distractions, so let’s start by discussing the value of a quiet workspace.
Find A Quiet Space
It may seem simple, but work where you are least likely to be disturbed in the house. A cozy nook under the stairs might look office-worthy, but if you have people coming in and out, phones ringing, dog paws constantly overhead, and children running up or down, you might be better off partitioning off another space away from foot traffic like your bedroom.
Minimize Background Noise
I don’t know how many Zoom calls I’ve been on where the person on the other end apologizes for their landscaper or trash truck making a ton of noise outside.
If possible, choose an interior space to avoid outdoor noises. There are obvious (lighting) downfalls to that approach. Instead, consider double-glazed space to reduce outdoor noise. Close the door, add sound-proofing, find a space and otherwise reduce the amount of noise that gets into your home office from outside it.
Use Dedicated Spaces
Don’t try to work in the living room, dining room, utility room, or other noisy space. Your home office should ideally have a closing door or at least a partition. If this really isn’t possible, use a bookcase, use a curtain, or do anything else to separate the space and dampen ambient sound.
This partition will also help your brain recognize it as a workspace, as well as encouraging family members to do the same. A guest room, garden room, or even a porch can serve as an office if necessary.
Use Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you can’t cut out other noises, invest in a pair of good noise-canceling headphones. This will improve the quality of voice calls you do and help to get rid of distracting noises outside the office space.
It may seem obvious, but our home offices shouldn’t have TVs in them. If you need to use your smartphone, utilize a work mode, get rid of distracting apps, and avoid the urge to check your favorite websites at all times. Just because your boss won’t be popping over your shoulder soon doesn’t mean you can waste time on non-work activities; your productivity will plummet.
Communication Is Key
Assuming you communicate with clients or coworkers, you should place an emphasis on making communication easy. Video and voice calls can be very frustrating (for the recipient) if the equipment and quality isn’t up to par.
On the whole, a good microphone is the most important thing to invest in. This will ensure people can hear you clearly. You should also try to get some good speakers or a headset, and a reasonably good video camera, although these are less crucial.
You may find that listening to music helps you to stay productive at home, and good speakers are a nice addition to a home office.
Be Mindful of Seating
Like selecting an inexpensive mattress, I’m always surprised by how few people chose to invest in furniture they use for many hours each day.
A comfortable seat for your office is the most important place to start, since you’re going to be sitting in it all day. Don’t choose a hard dining chair or a super soggy armchair, but opt for something similar to chairs you would use in a normal office.
A desk chair is often a good choice, as this can be adjusted to suit different tasks, and should support you while you’re working at the computer. An ergonomic chair could be the difference between comfort and back pain.
A good chair makes a lot of difference to how productive you are, so think about your seating and don’t just use the first chair you find. Don’t ignore the seating factor – it’s going to be a big part of working from that office.
Build Your Space Slowly
Now that we’re 18 months into a global pandemic, two things are obvious:
- Remote work is here to stay.
- The theory of relativity is at work.
In March 2020, if you had asked 100 professionals what work would look like in 18 months, most would have said we’d “definitely” be back in the office by now. What seemed like a temporary way of doing business has now been the “new normal” for quite sometime, and there are little signs of changing.
As for your space, you shouldn’t feel you have to rush out and buy everything you need for your home office all at once. You don’t need the perfect space from the start. Use the office for a while to see what works, what doesn’t work, and what you’re lacking. You may find you never touch your noise-canceling headphones, or that overly-complicated microphone gets no use. Equally, you might find them crucial.
Set yourself up with the essentials and then see how it goes before buying lots of expensive gadgets.
Setting up a home office can be fun and it challenges you to get creative and build professionalism into your home.
Fundamentally, you need to make it a great space for productivity. Work to reduce background noise, streamline your communications, make yourself comfortable, and keep a constant eye open for what else you need to improve your space in the future.