Remember The Before Times? Compared to today’s political correctness of social distancing, mask-wearing, and waving instead of handshaking, it seems looking back that pre-Covid life was something of a lawless wasteland. It wasn’t so long ago that we were complaining about the traffic downtown, the commute to the office, and how nice it would be to stay at home and work instead.
Ask and ye shall receive! Now that 33% of the American population is working remotely, many work complaints during The Before Times have gone by the wayside. Now you can wake up, pour your coffee, and sit down to work while still in your pajamas and bedhead, a luxury that was unavailable at this time last year. Indeed, many people have transferred to partial to entirely remote work in the last 365 days — and that means that work patterns have shifted too.
Now that your home is your virtual office, chances are that you’ve had to do some rearranging. No, the kids can’t play their Justin Bieber music in the living room at full blast; no, you can’t endlessly throw the ball for your dog; and definitely no, you can’t have any distractions while you’re trying to join a Zoom call. Since you’ve made those changes, it’s probably time that you make a more permanent change and get a home office set up. Whether it’s a small corner of the dining room or an entire part of the house that you have designated as an office, there are plenty of different ways that you can improve the space and make it more productive for your workday.
Create a Positive Atmosphere
After you dedicate a space as your office, the first step you need to take is making sure it works for you. You need a space that is going to motivate and inspire you, not make you feel cramped and uncomfortable. For example, a room piled floor to ceiling with boxes and piles of trash is not a very welcoming or positive space at all. Once you’ve decided a certain area will be your workspace, you need to make it your workspace.
On your off-duty hours, make the room work for you as an office. Clear out excess garbage and clutter, get rid of anything that doesn’t work in the area, and get organized. Do a whole clean sweep of the room, emptying the entire thing out once and for all. A clean slate is easier to visualize than one that is overrun with junk, and once it’s clear you can better see what upgrades and updates you can make.
One tip to instantly change the office’s atmosphere is to paint it. An Ally study reported that, if you’re planning on painting a room in your house this year, you fall into a group of 47% of others who are planning the same. Some people thrive best in clean, white rooms with minimalist decor and furniture — others prefer bright, happy colors and loud wall decor to get their inspiration churning. Regardless of the color scheme you choose, contact local painting services in your area to get the job done quickly and professionally. Painters have access to equipment that might cost you more money to rent or buy, plus they have the advantage of expertise; this is something that painters do every day. By hiring painting services to help you transform your office, you are one step closer to making it feel more like home.
Invest in Quality, Functional Furniture
When the world first went to remote work, nobody was sure how long it would last. Two weeks? A month? Three months? Nobody had any idea then, but it seems as though remote work is here to stay; as of September 2020, United States companies reported that 46% of all or nearly all employees have stuck to working remotely, virus or no virus.
With that number in mind, you might want to take a look at the furniture that you’re using. Sure, that folding camp table was a good idea when you set it up in April of 2020, but now that it’s been close to a year, it’s probably time to get a real desk for your office setup. You can always visit your local office furniture store to check availability or look online to see what other companies have to offer. You know your setup better than we do, but some recommendations for office furniture include:
- A sturdy desk with drawers
- Shelves or bookcases for storage and keeping things organized
- Filing cabinets, which you can sometimes find included with your desk set
- A desk chair that supports your back and prevents poor posture (this is inevitable when you sit for a long period of time)
When you have the proper equipment to do the job, you maximize efficiency at the same time. Upgrade your office from the temporary setup that you made in a hurry to a well-established, professional-looking space. It doesn’t only look and feel better, but it inspires you to do your best.
The at-home worker’s biggest enemy is becoming distracted. As you type and do your work, you can’t help but notice the laundry pile building up, those dishes stacked in the sink, those muddy handprints on the walls…
Snap out of it! The reason you chose an office space at your home was so that you could work effectively and in peace. If the office is riddled with distractions, then you’re not maximizing its efficiency. This is the place where you need to focus and concentrate on the task at hand, not worry about all the menial tasks that will still be there after your workday is done.
It’s not easy, but minimizing what distracts you plays a massive part in how functional your space will be. If you are changing gears every five minutes, how can you dedicate real time and effort to your work? That’s right: You can’t. Do what you can to alleviate your daily distractions:
- Consider adding insulation to your office walls. It’s an expense and definitely takes a day or two to complete, but what a difference it makes in terms of keeping noise levels down. An insulated office will let you tune out Go Noodle in the living room and stay focused on what you’re doing in real-time.
- Complete as many household chores as you can the night before. After you sign off and power down for the day, do all of the things that you couldn’t do earlier: Run the dishwasher, fold the laundry, and take Rover outside to play with his ball. The more that you have completed before your workday the next morning, the less likely you will be to abandon your current task and lose focus.
- Instead of simply minimizing time-wasting tabs like Pinterest and Reddit, sign out of them completely. Seriously, click the “log out” button and close the tabs. The extra effort of needing to type in your credentials can be enough of a hurdle that prevents you from going to sites like these during the workday. If your phone is your problem, do the same in all of your apps. We get it: Apps make it so easy for you to always stay logged in, but if they’re stopping you from doing your job, they are not serving you well.
While it’s human nature to stray from tasks that we don’t find as interesting as others, your office needs to be a place that prevents you from straying. Creating an environment that enhances productivity and reduces distraction can help you get the job done quickly and done well. Getting rid of those things that keep you off task is a fantastic way to make your home office work better for you.
Create a Sensical Filing System
We already stressed the importance of having a filing cabinet and bookcases in your office. Hopefully, you have acquired some of these office must-haves during the last year; if not, now is the time to do so. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur in charge of your own recruitment firm, a sensical filing system is so important in the production of a healthy business. As one employee in a corporation, you need to be responsible and motivated enough to have a place to keep important paperwork.
A filing system doesn’t need to be glamorous and fancy. The most simplistic methods work just fine: Colored labels that differentiate topics; manilla folders that are grouped by customer; or even binders full of client information. However it works for you, it’s imperative that you keep your files in some kind of order. Even if you’re not the one in charge of individual tax planning, keeping records on hand that can be easily referred to is best practice within any office.
Boost Internet Speed
During The Before Times, your internet connection was something you didn’t think about unless Youtube stopped working or the kids couldn’t connect to the Xbox. Nowadays, your internet connection is your lifeline to your place of work. If you’ve got a poor internet connection and frustrating server latency, it might not necessarily be something an IT service can help with; you might need to contact your internet service provider (ISP).
When you call your ISP, explain your circumstances and that you have a home office. Tell them that computer technical support can only do so much — the problem is that your internet speed is not fast enough. Chances are, the agent will try and sell you the most expensive and over-the-top package; don’t let them! Remind them that your internet speed is fine during the off-hours, but it’s mainly during the workday that you find it locking up.
In some cases, a technician might be sent to your home to determine any physical issues with your office internet. There are a million reasons why it could be slow, and buying a higher-priced internet package might not be the magical fix. If the tech comes out and finds nothing wrong, then you might consider buying an upgrade. Pick your technician’s brain to find out what they recommend, how other customers compare to your situation, and even what kind of service they personally use. It can be quite eye-opening to hear it all straight from the horse’s mouth.
Remodel to Make It Work
The bottom line might be that you simply don’t have the space at your house to create your own home office. In these cases, you might consider doing some minor home remodeling. It can be as simple as adding drywall and a door to an open space, or as complex as building a whole new addition onto your house. This could mean that you hire builders to create a space for you, or you spend a few weekends with your partner doing it yourself.
Construction remodels can be cost a decent chunk of change, so be sure that you are financially equipped to add a home office to your home. Do you have the financing, materials, and proper help to do so? Will it serve you well in the long-term? Ask yourself what it would take to make a remodel perfect for you. If it ends up costing you too much, you may well have to wait until you can afford to have it done properly.
Home Sweet Home
Even though you got your wish to lose the commute and work at home, you may have underestimated just how much extra work it could end up being. Your home office is more than just a place you mess around on the computer for a few hours a day; it is the place that you become your work persona, where you use your professional side and put bread on the table for your family.
Lose the “this is temporary” mindset and take the steps to improve your home office space. While the state of the world is yet uncertain, you can at least rejoice that you have a job at all and that you actually need to carve out a workspace for yourself at home.