Despite the popular misconception that working from home is simple, creating an effective work environment in your own home can be quite a challenge. Dealing with interruptions and distractions is something that every job holder faces, but for the home worker, these distractions are often more abundant and become very detrimental to productivity.
We asked experts for advice on the following topic:
What is your best piece of advice for creating an effective work environment in your home office?
The single most important productivity strategy is equipping the home office to facilitate the work. Today, in fact, a (used!) Steelcase desk system is being delivered here. The U-shaped work station will put everything at my fingertips – computer, phone, files, notes – whereas when I did this before, I had a less professional set-up. The room I’ve chosen has great natural light – the previous one had a nice view of the back yard (quite pretty) but faced north – in the winter and spring, that meant relying on lamps and overheads. I’ll have brilliant natural light on my desktop in the other room.
Finally, to be successful working at home, you have to have business development plans as detailed and robust as if you were working in an off-home office. Really, people can win with a cell phone and a convenient park bench if the BD plan is solid.
Sean Williams from Communication AMMO
I work out of my home and have for years.
The most important thing for me is to be in front of a large window with lots of natural sunlight.
Lots of other things – be far from the kitchen, be disciplined, etc. But the window is key.
Zale Tabakman from www.ZaleTabakman.ca
- Cut down on as many interruptions as possible. For a WAH parent, this may mean working during nap time, school hours, or hiring childcare/help.
- Keep things where you use them. Examples: Printer paper can be easily stored near the printer for ease of access. Store empty file folders in the rear of the file drawer.
- Store like things together. This can be accomplished by dedicating one shelf or bin to each “topic”. Examples: Keep marketing materials in one location ALL together. Keep materials needed for presentations in one location ALL together.
- Items you use often (pens, scissors, sticky notes, etc) should be in easy reach. You should not have to get up from your seat or dig around for items that you need several times a day.
- Keep the office, the office. Don’t allow toys, food, children, spouses, pets (and their paraphernalia) to throw you off track. Keeping clutter at bay helps bring tranquility and efficiency to any environment!
Julie Bavington from Organize With Julie, LLC
My best advice for creating an effective work environment in a home office is a series of things that, cumulatively, add to your success:
- Good lighting
- Make sure that you have plenty of space for your work area
- Have a dedicated space so that you can leave things out overnight if necessary
- Get a comfortable chair
- Experiment with productivity tools until you find the right one for your workflow style
Stephen P. Smith from …words
Establish times when you are officially working, and then:
1. Don’t take care of household tasks during those times.
2. Make sure family and friends know that you are working and that you are not available for non-work related activities.
Just because you are physically in your home doesn’t mean you can watch TV, chat on the phone, fix a leaky faucet, cook, clean, do childcare, and other household and social activities while you are working. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are being efficient and multi-tasking! Focus on your work so that you use your time efficiently and produce high quality results.”
Sara Sutton Fell from FlexJobs
Rather than face your desk toward a corner or a wall, turn it around and have it facing the door with your chair behind it so you have a clear view of the entry point of the room. This will give you a more “executive” feeling in your office, and will allow you to feel more in control, able to greet whoever walks in the door, rather than feeling vulnerable with your back turned. It’s a feng shui thing, but also a very practical office setup – when do you ever walk into an executive’s office and see them with their back turned to the door? Try it, it works.
Very light jazz or classical music will keep you feeling upbeat and accompanied without interrupting your thoughts, work flow or phone conversations!
Tasha Moody from Simply Staged
Put up a vision board of everything you want out of your business…it will remind you daily of your goals.For instance, what do you want to make yearly–put those numbers on the board…I am making 250,000 a year…Put it in the present tense and use photos of the life you want to lead.
Leslie Jacobs from LesMess.com
My best piece of advice is to create a relaxed atmosphere. A home office can easily become the dumping ground for mail, excess luggage, storage for skis, etc. Eliminate the clutter and create a powerful environment using a water fountain and aromatherapy. Positive sounds and smells can increase your productivity dramatically.
Whenever I have a power conference call, I light an aromatic candle to soothe my senses. It truly works!
Christine Louise Hohlbaum from The Power of Slow
My best piece of advice for productivity in a home office is de-clutter every morning! Pile or file papers from the day before and make sure you are starting with a clean & tidy desk top each day. Clear desk=Clear mind!
Christy Cook from Teach My Toddler Inc.
Create a home work environment that cultivates productivity by diminishing distractions. The distractions can be tv, your baby or even your cluttered desk. Establish one dedicated space to work in, equipped with the papers, computer and area you need to get your job accomplished. The space should have a desk top clear to work on, a credenza or auxiliary flat space to hold an action file and frequent references, and a drawer for less active files. Set times to get work done and administration time to get organized. By setting up your space for your best work, you will feel better about the work itself and accomplish more.
Ellen R. Delap from Professional-Organizer.com
Have a home office that has a door (if possible) or a cabinet that shuts and try not to use it for family space as well. It will help keep your desk and mind uncluttered as well as allow you to shut off “work time” and move into “family mode” a little better.
Kristin Delfau from Delfau Tax and Financial Services
My best piece of advice for creating an effective home office is to select a room in the house that is to only be used as an office preferably with windows, a glass door and a separate phone line for office use!
Since I work at home around my daughters who are 8 and 10, I can see them playing during the summer in the front yard or I will move to our sun room to see them in the backyard while I am holding a conference call.
The glass door comes in handy to block out extra noise but the girls can come to the door and hold up a note or a food item and I can nod yes or no without any interruptions. I can make lunch and walk around the house to keep an eye on the girls all while talking on the phone.
I empower them to be involved so they are in charge of answering the home phone and taking messages if I am on the other line!
Stacy Kannenberg from Cedar Valley Publishing
Use a public scheduler (like Google) to keep you from messing around or wasting time. Give all your clients access and stay true to the client or project to which you’ve scheduled yourself. Take breaks only when scheduled and return personal calls when you’re off the clock (the schedule). Suddenly it will feel like you’re working a lot less – and you may just be shocked to discover how much time your personal projects are eating out of your day.
Debra Yergen from DY&Co media
Nik Halik says
Sean, I love my u-shaped desk. Great advice!
Art Gelwicks says
I agree with the facing the door positioning of the desk. The addition of music for a noise filter, a good scanner to keep down the clutter (combined with my favorite…Evernote) and not being hesitant to remind the family that working from home is still working make all the difference in a home office.
I am a freelancer for over 20 years and a great deal of my time is working from my home. Therefore lots of strategies helped me to enjoy this much more while being more productive.
Set up your workspace: Keep it tidy and remove all personal clutter
Define your work time. I work often in sessions of times bursts – using a timer. Maybe 30 minutes for one project – and no distractions – then 10 or 30 minutes on fun things or doing laundry or whatever. The important thing is to define when you work and when not.
When you are tired take a short break – even a light nap of 20 minutes can be great.
And lastly aks yourself good questions like “What is fascinating about this?”, “How can I make this even more enjoyable?”. Because if you’re fascinated by something work looses its tiring attitude. And you can play far longer than you can work. Try it – it works and is fun!
@Patrick – regarding the light nap you mentioned, I just wanted to mention that studies have shown that a 26 minutes nap will boost employee performances by 34%. Of course, we didn’t need a study to know this, but, just for our record :)
Just for reference if I’m taking a nap at work it’s going to be in a secured area with a lock on the door. Otherwise I’m likely to wake up stapled to the desk or something. :)
Vitor Gonçalves says
I think the U shape and the L shape is also good for the desk, to if you dont have how to put a U shape because of the room space.