As summer comes to an end, even adults can find themselves feeling a frisson of back-to-school energy, suddenly wanting to buy a few new office supplies and get through the stack of papers on their desks. In 2020, however, those desires run up against the harsh reality that many office workers are still reporting to their jobs from a desk jammed into a dark corner of the house.
If your remote work experience is still feeling subpar, it’s time to harness the energy that comes with that crisp fall weather and commit to making the best of the situation.
Read on for a four-step plan to make your home office the best workspace it can be—even if you don’t love to work from home.
Step 1: Make Yourself Comfortable
For workers who miss the office, whether for the feeling of community or for its distance from the demands of home, it can be hard to accept an employer’s choice to close physical workspaces.
If you’re dreaming of the day you can finally leave the house to go back to your office cubicle, the idea of spending money on comfortable office furniture or supplies may feel like admitting defeat—but wishful thinking won’t eradicate COVID-19.
And, it won’t undo the damage you may be doing to your postural health by refusing to upgrade from a kitchen chair or work-from-bed setup.
You might be surprised to find that investing in a convertible standing desk, ergonomic chair, or better lighting improves your mental and physical comfort in equal measure.
Step 2: Spend Time Decorating
If you haven’t wanted to improve your furniture situation in the months since remote work policies were implemented, decorating might be even further from your mind.
However, psychologists have long known that a pleasant workspace boosts mood and productivity, even if you’re not conscious of the effect.
Professional decorators helping their clients adapt to long-term remote work situations suggest two key tips:
- Corral your cords and papers! Even the most attractive desk will look cluttered if it’s festooned with tangled wires or crumpled papers. Keep your desk clear by positioning an inbox for papers nearby and dealing with them promptly and hide cords with a cable tray or box and Velcro cable ties.
- Match your home office décor to the rest of your home’s style. You don’t have to emulate a generic office space. Artistic stationery, colorful desk accents, plants, and artwork can all be coordinated with the aesthetic choices you’ve made for the rest of your house. Pleasant décor will make you feel happier, and it’ll make your office space more unobtrusive within the home.
You’ve probably seen advice that suggests you move your office into a separate room of the house and potentially ignored it if you—like many people—don’t have a spare room suitable for a workspace.
But even in smaller homes, there are opportunities to carve out a quiet place for concentration.
Check out these ideas for miniature offices that don’t require a separate room for inspiration on how to draw physical boundaries around your workspace.
Step 3: Upgrade Tech Tools
Perhaps nothing is more important for the remote employment experience than quality hardware and software that makes it easy for you to connect with coworkers and get through your daily work.
A widescreen monitor that lets you see everything you’re working on at once, an ergonomic keyboard for all-day typing and noise-canceling headphones are all essential for making the hours you spend in your home office productive.
For gadget aficionados looking to upgrade further, consider a separate webcam, better lighting for video calls, and a software phone.
If you’re not familiar with how virtual phone systems work, they’re feature-rich alternatives to traditional office phones, which homebound workers can no longer access.
Softphone systems come with all of the bells and whistles you’ll be used to from the office, but they’re also digital-only, so you won’t have to find a place to fit a phone on your new desk.
If you’re often frustrated by your smartphone’s inability to smoothly merge, forward, or record calls, a softphone will be a welcome improvement.
Step 4: Insist on Boundaries
Working from home is hard enough alone, but for office workers who are also parents, or who are living with family or roommates, constant interruptions can make the workday an exercise in frustration.
For partners and adult family members or housemates, a simple request for quiet during business hours should suffice, but if you have children, you’ll want to take a proactive approach to make sure they have everything they need to finish schoolwork or activities.
So that you can steal a few hours of unbroken concentration.
On the other hand, once business hours are over, it can be just as frustrating to feel like you can’t tune out from work.
You can set boundaries with your job in much the same way that you do with roommates and family members during the day by handling urgent obligations on time and communicating that you’ve logged off for the day once business hours are over.
Schedule time in the morning and afternoon to manage emails so that you can feel confident you won’t miss important correspondence during downtime.
Taking time off can help you be more focused the next day, so there’s no need to feel guilty about giving your brain a break from work.
Working from home might be a dream for some people, but even if it’s not your dream, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the experience.
Treating yourself to a comfortable workspace, great productivity tools, and finite work hours can go a long way towards helping you make the best of remote work.