The idea of working from the comfort of your couch might seem like a dream to the average nine-to-fiver, but if you’re planning on getting some actual work done, you’re going to need a space in your home dedicated only to work. If you’re just getting started working from home, here’s how to create a productive work space.
Reserve space just for the office
There’s no faster way to derail a productive workday than distraction. Whether it’s laundry that needs folding, dishes that need washing or the new flatscreen TV you’ve just purchased, plenty of at-home office workers find it incredibly difficult to get things done when your office is where you live. Cut down on the temptation to do non-work related tasks by reserving an entire room just for the office.
Barring that, look for a quiet nook, a basement or another area that you can cordon off just for office tasks. If you simply have to set up your office in your living room, kitchen or bedroom, invest in a privacy screen that can separate the areas. Out of sight often means out of mind, so when you can’t see that laundry, you’re less likely to get distracted. The other benefit to having a dedicated room or using a privacy screen: You’re less likely to get bogged down by work during your off time as well.
Get office furniture
If you want your space to look and feel like a “real” office, you shouldn’t sit at your kitchen table all day -- especially if you plan to host clients there. Plus, having an actual desk and a comfortable office chair will be a signal to your brain that it’s time to work. Office supply stores are naturally one place to look, but to keep the costs down, don’t overlook second-hand stores or yard sales.
Control the clutter
Chaos can make it hard to get stuff done, so take some steps to keep your work space organized. Cupboards with doors that close are good for hiding the inevitable paperwork and clutter that comes with office life. A shelf that’s close to the desk surface can store pens, notebooks and computer speakers that might otherwise clutter up your desk. And to keep yourself organized and sane, tidy up your desk surface and office area at the beginning and end of each work day.
Set office hours
You have the materials and furniture that can help you be successful, but now you have one more obstacle standing in the way of your success: Yourself. On top of that, you might also have family members or roommates. To treat your home work space as a “real” office, set office hours. If you live with other people, you might even go so far as to post a whiteboard near the entrance to the office, stating the hours you’ll be working on any particular day. That can prepare you mentally for tackling your tasks within a certain time frame, as well as letting others know when you need to concentrate. It might be OK to pop in a load of laundry or to empty the dishwasher on your break times, but the more you reserve your working time to work and not to home tasks, the better work-life balance you’ll tend to have.
Having a home office can be a way to save money and to work on your own terms, but you still need to treat it like a real workspace and not just an extension of your living room.