Thriving in Home Office Productivity
Let’s get one thing straight — working from a home office isn’t cut out for everyone.
If you’re an entrepreneur starting a new “home business” or a telecommuter and don’t feel totally cut out to work from a home-based office, there are ways to boost your productivity, remain organized, focused and thrive in your new space. Having worked from a home office for more than 20 years, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way – tweaked various processes and “work-life integration” to remain productive while enjoying life as a working mom. But it takes discipline and willingness.
A report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs proves that the number of telecommuters has increased 115% in a decade – nearly 3.9 million workers, or almost 3% of the total U.S. workforce, worked from home at least half the time in 2015 (in 2005 it was 1.8 million). And these numbers are only growing – as workplaces are going through major changes to accommodate talent retention.
Kitchen Table is Not A Home Office
If you’re a serious professional starting a home business or telecommuting – then get serious about your home office space. A corner of the kitchen table or the dining room table is not a suitable home office. Designate a special room, a closet, a part of your house or apartment that can be closed off as your official home office space. It can be a corner of your bedroom, a walk-in closet reconfigured with a desk and shelving, or an entire room designated as your office. Whatever the case, having a defined space allows you to have a professional mindset in that particular space where you can focus on your work, free of distractions!
While you can certainly go all out and design a home office with all the latest furniture, desk and accessories, gadgets and all the bells and whistles – and many spend way too much than they should – your home office should be minimally furnished with items that inspire you, not clutter your thinking and creative process. This includes bare essentials such as: strong Internet and phone connections, a spacious desk to hold your laptop or PC, your phone, important papers, a few special photos and a pen/paper organizer. Instead of crowding your desk with your files, get a box file organizer that can sit on the floor next to your desk to hold your files, and double up, when closed, as a surface elevator for such items as your waste basket or electric power strip.
Treat yourself to a soft flooring – like a woven rug, or a Persian carpet – to bring warmth to your space and add simple aesthetics to your space.
If your work requires long hours behind your computer, then invest in a standing desk and divide your time behind a sitting desk and a standing desk to reduce lower back pain and sedentary position. Place your desks across from each other, if you have enough space, to provide different angles and perspectives while you work.
Set a Work Schedule
Working from home office doesn’t mean your work day never ends. It’s easy to pop into your home office after hours just to check emails or work on a document you didn’t quite finish – setting “office hours” helps remain productive during business hours. Having a work schedule will also help your family and friends be mindful of hours during which you are “at work” and not to be interrupted. Some may assume since you’re working from home they can drop in on you whenever they’re in the neighborhood. Reminding them of your work schedule can prevent the untimely “drop ins.”
It’s also important to set these expectations with your own family members – if you have children they need to know when mom (or dad) is working in a designated room. If your office door is closed, you are not to be interrupted. If you have a room with no doors – as I do – then alerting children and spouse when you are about to get on a conference call can help everyone be mindful of the noise level and not interrupt you during your calls. If your work includes regularly scheduled conference calls, like mine does, remain professional and ensure that you tone down the “house noise”.
Get Dressed, Put on Your Makeup – Head Over to Your Home-Office
In the 20 plus years that I’ve mostly worked from my home office, I have never started my work day in my PJ’s. Why? Because it’s not professional. It doesn’t matter where your office is – at home or at a multi-leveled commercial office building – you must act and look professional during work hours. Wake up every morning, shower, get dressed, put on your make-up (ladies), have breakfast and watch the morning news, then get a mug of coffee or tea and head to your home office. Being professionally dressed and made-up will help you be alert, sound and act professional – and remain productive.
Also, if you have international clients with whom you connect via Zoom or Skype, looking professional is half the brand visibility.
Juggling Work and Domestic Responsibilities
Working from home definitely has its rewards and perks – the flexibility to run out for errands, rush over to pick up your sick child from school or manage some domestic chores while juggling work. The juggling act may not be as easy for everyone – so it’s a good idea to determine what domestic chores to handle while working. Sometimes taking time off from your laptop to do a domestic chore is actually therapeutic and sparks creative ideas you wouldn’t have had you continued sitting behind your desk, staring at your computer.
More importantly, as Dr. Patti Fletcher, a leading advocate for women in business leadership and technology clearly spells out in her book Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold there should be a “work-life integration” rather than aiming and feeling guilty that you can’t achieve “work-life balance.”
Live Plants – Music – Visuals – Inspirational Quotes – Thriving Lift-Off
Working solo from a home-office can at times be very lonely. But it is also a respite from constant interruptions of an office setting with other employees – where distraction and loss of focus lends itself to decreased productivity. Liven up your home-office by adding these essentials:
Live plants provide inspirational view – especially if you don’t have a window offering you outdoor views and natural light. On weekly basis buy yourself fresh cut flowers to place in a vase on your desk. Especially if you live in the northeast where long winter months can be gloomy.
Too many studies have proven that listening to music can in fact reduce stress. Sign up for free Spotify or Pandora, pre-select your favorite music albums and turn it on your laptop while you work — it will help break the silence and spark creativity.
Surround yourself with bright artwork or photographs – on your desk or on your walls – to inspire and destress. Having photographs of loved ones, mentors, and travel sites can provide the mental boost and support you need during your work day.
Everyone has inspirational quotes that hold special meaning. Cut out quotes from magazines and frame them in colorful whimsical frames and have them on your walls, shelves or desk. Or sign up for inspirational quotes to be delivered to your inbox daily – my favorite bests are DailyOM or Rumi quotes with inspirational reads that empower and boost mental abilities to deal with daily hurdles in life.
Working from home has many benefits and advantage – but most of all it allows you personal space, increased productivity with less distractions of the normal office setting. So love your work as you go on to make a difference in our world.