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Working From Home? How to Arrange Your Physical Space for Success

Leaving the office behind? Here’s how to create a work space that will work for you.

Courtesy of vander/Shutterstock
Courtesy of vander/Shutterstock

Mentally, you may be totally game for cutting the umbilical cord with the mothership and working remotely. You’re not alone. A PowWowNow survey indicated that 58 percent of respondents felt they would be more motivated completing tasks outside of the workplace, and 76 percent of employees told FlexJobs they prefer working away from the office when they’re focusing on important tasks.

But your home environment may be less than ideal for the life of a perpetual or frequent telecommuter. Organizations appreciate being able to hire talent based anywhere, but setting up a healthy work environment remains in the hands of the employee.

What does this mean for the increasing number of people who eschew the morning commute in favor of staying in their hoodie pajamas (except during video meetings, of course)? Every person who works from home must plan ahead, setting the stage to efficiently blow through each day’s to-do list with ease.

Whether you’ve just landed a remote spot with the brand of your dreams or you have been trying to figure out the telecommute juggling act, try these strategies to navigate the physical elements of living and working in the same general space.

1. Dedicate one area to work.

It can be tempting to work from a variety of spots: the loveseat in the corner, a patio table, even your bed. Yet it’s best to get into the habit of connecting one location with work. Otherwise, you might have trouble turning yourself off at the end of the day. Case in point: Cardiff University research found that almost half of remote employees weren’t able to figure out where work ended and personal life began.

Even if you just designate a small, ergonomically designed sit-stand or counter-height desk in the corner of your living room as your working hot spot, you will gain more control. Try not to use the area for anything other than your job, isolating the location on a psychological level. Centralizing all of your technology, tools, and work-related resources will also help you feel less distracted in the morning so you can jump right into your responsibilities. Be sure to spruce up the space with greenery, photos, and all the stuff you would keep on your office desk for visual and visceral pleasure.

2. Say no to predictable distractions.

Are you working remote but not from home? Maybe you’re one of two or more people who will be working from the same place? Chances are strong you’ll have some noisy distractions, which studies of open office systems show can lead to plummeting productivity. Even if you are a solo at-home telecommuter, expect some ambient noise from the washing machine or rowdy neighbors. Although some individuals swear they work best in cacophonous situations, you should always be able to modulate sound levels. Experiment to see which sounds are motivators and which are annoyances.

Other common distractions include clutter and general home care duties. A pile of dirty dishes or a mountain of soiled clothes can make it tough to focus on work projects. Even the cutest pet can become a needy nuisance. And those personal calls? Telling Mom you can’t talk when she knows you’re in your home office takes guts. Regardless, start setting boundaries and putting measures in place to lessen distractions. Walk the dog before logging on to your computer, silence your phone, and clean your plates after dinner so you’re not tempted to do so during the workday.

3. Make sure you’re physically comfortable.

Unlike commercial properties, many residences lack adequate temperature controls, appropriate lighting sources, and recommended humidity levels. This leaves remote personnel at a clear disadvantage from a comfort standpoint. And everyone knows that discomfort isn’t conducive to producing stellar work. Telecommuters experience stress, often at higher levels than their office-working counterparts, according to a report by the UN’s International Labour Organization. Why add to your worries by having a physically uncomfortable work environment at home?

To combat that stress, home workers should create a workspace awash in sunlight. “Natural light saves energy and money, increases focus, and reduces stress and anxiety,” explains Mallory Fohne, marketing communications coordinator at GeoComfort Geothermal Systems. “There are ways you can increase interior natural light, like painting your eaves white.” And do what you can to control temperature fluctuations, such as by caulking leaky windows and weather-stripping drafty doors. Not only will these energy-efficient infrastructure upgrades save you money and help the environment, they will make you more comfortable as well.

Telecommuting is increasingly a normal working option for people worldwide. Make sure you are ready to rock the remote work life by establishing a physical location that ensures your long-term success.

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