3 February, 2016
There are always pros and cons to any environment you’re working in, whether that’s a desk at head office or a studio at the end of your garden (and everything in between). What will most likely determine your success when working from home will be down to the space you choose and how you set things up. From home, having that well earned cuppa can easily turn into something longer if you don’t exercise discipline. And if you think getting away from office noise will improve your concentration, you’ll need to be sure the kids, the dog or the neighbours don’t end up being an equal replacement!
Here are some of the things we think are important when getting your home office right.
(An ideal compliment to a home office is a virtual office. The Hoxton Mix is a virtual office company. Follow this link to lean what a virtual office is and why it is useful.)
“Location, location, location”. We’ve heard it before but it’s just as true for your home office as it is for your home purchase! And one of the most important factors will be regarding noise and distraction. How do you set yourself up at home and not be distracted by other activity in your house? If you have the opportunity, can you use a dedicated room or segregated space so that activity elsewhere has less of an impact?
Ideally you’ll want workspace near a window too, as natural light is the most conducive to focused work (we don’t have to convince you of the challenge of working only under fluorescent tube lighting!). Having a view to the outdoors and nature can also help keep the mind active and focused, with some studies showing that connection with nature reduces stress whilst we’re working.
Of course, this needs to be done thoughtfully as having sun blazing in your face when you need to see your computer screen isn’t going to help your productivity much. And likewise, if you have intense light from behind, a distracting glare won’t be conducive to work, whether that’s developing content for your website or attempting to video conference with a potential client.
Managing light in your work space is worth some thought and if natural light isn’t accessible (perhaps your office space is in the basement or in a hallway alcove) it’s worth experimenting with full-spectrum light sources that can replicate the effects of daylight (if you’re the adventurous type, you might even look at trying out some modern ‘smart’ lighting that can be controlled with an app and adjusted to encourage the mood that you want to create!). At a bare minimum however we do think it’s a good idea to invest in lamps with dimmer switches so you can control the right balance of light between your screen and surroundings.
Once you’ve got the basics in place, like setting up a desk and making sure you have enough power sockets, keeping your workspace separate from the rest of your home is probably the most important step you can take towards a more productive home office.
Having a clear distinction between your work space and your home/family/social space is vital, both from a literal/physical perspective but perhaps more so from a mental perspective. In fact you might find that the clearer your physical boundaries are, the less mental stress you’ll experience in keeping a good work/home-life balance.
Ideally, if you can have a completely separate room as a dedicated workspace/home office, you’ll be able to create a very clear boundary between work and home life. But of course that’s not always possible or practical so if you are using just a part or corner of a room, it still needs to be a space dedicated to your work.
Once you’ve defined your work space it will still require some discipline to keep those boundaries. As much as possible, don’t leave home belongings in your work space (put the basket of clean washing somewhere else!). And don’t leave your work documents or various devices lying around other rooms in your house. Use the back of a sofa or a bookcase to separate your working and living areas if you don’t have a seperate room. Realise that it’s the physical overlap that can often cause distraction and ultimately make it difficult to switch off mentally when it’s time. It might not be all that obvious though, keep an eye out for when household items start to creep into your defined office space or when you start to leave your office items around the home. You might even consider having separate computers and phone so that you’re not using the same devices for work AND pleasure! Check on this from time to time and see if there are any improvements you could make.
In a modern office, whether at your home office or at your company office the technology you use is going to have a big impact. One of the reasons we can even have this discussion about working from home is due to the huge advancements in technology over last few years and particularly what’s available right now. Getting a separate business line for internet and phone isn’t a huge expense any more and it means that family won’t be interrupting calls from your clients nor will you have to compete for bandwidth if you have a number of different users in the house. At hoxton mix we make managing a separate business phone number really easy (you can find out more here) and when you do buy hardwear don’t forget to consider a service agreement which will help in getting a faulty item back up and running as quickly as possible and might save you hours if not days of frustration.
The other advantage of the modern home office is how much you can do with so little. You don’t need huge amounts of large equipment. Often a laptop with a separate screen is enough, meaning you can easily put it out of the way when finished and not have huge lumps of equipment lying around. If you don’t need to do printing at home, save it for a day when you’re in an office with printing services. Think about what the bare essentials are for you to be able to work effectively and don’t just go stocking up on ‘gear’ because it makes you feel productive!
One of the few things we might recommend spending a little bit of extra money on is your office chair & desk. In theory you might well be spending hours at your home office and if you have a space in your employer’s office or a co-working space you’ve probably got a reasonably good set up. But when you use your own space you still need to be as comfortable as possible. Investing in a quality chair that supports your body properly and a desk that’s the right height for long hours of computer work is the way forward.
These days you can get some pretty funky desks too. If you haven’t thought about it before, check out ‘standing desks’ in your favourite search engine. There’s increasing amounts of evidence that suggest sitting all day can have quite a negative effect on your body.
The reality is, many of us aren’t all that great at interior design. So if you’re really struggling for ideas, have a look at some of the most popular photo-sharing websites for some great home office layouts. Pick one you like… and get to work!