Screaming kids, barking dogs, helpless husbands, ringing phones, nosey neighbors – I have enough distractions at home and I’m sure you do too. Unfortunately, that is one of the trade-offs of working from home. Even if you don’t have kids, maybe you have a roommate who won’t stop talking or a dog that needs to go for a walk every few hours.
Whatever your situation, you need to create a space that you can retreat to for optimal productivity. A number of people have a spare room or space (like a loft) that they can devote to their home office, and when you have that luxury (yes, many people consider that a luxury), it makes it easy to create a separate space. If you have limited space – we can work with that too.
Yessss! I’m going to walk you through a few steps that will get you set up and move you toward your optimal home office space. I personally do have a separate bedroom that I use as an office – actually, it’s the guest room but it is big enough that I was able to fit a desk in there as well. The great thing is that it’s a guest room and doesn’t get consistent use. If you don’t have anything set up, use these quick steps to get started. If you already have a home office, double check that you are set up for success. The key is not to dwell on one thing for too long. We are grabbing things you already have in your house to get you started and if you need to do more research on something – like the type of chair you want – then plan to carve out another 10 minutes for that activity another time.
Start the clock.
First things first. Think about the extra space you have in your house. If you have a bedroom or den with a door that you can use, then this part is easy. If not, think about the areas in your house where you can set up a desk or a small table – preferably by a window so you can get some natural light. It helps you work better. It’s a zen thing. If you don’t have a window near your desk space, go grab a table or floor lamp and add daylight bulbs to help lighten the space up as if it were natural light. Actually, let me expand on that – even if you set up your space near a window, you’ll still need a lamp of some kind, for those cloudy days or night working.
If you are having a hard time thinking of a good place, go room by room until you see a space that might work. If you’ve done that and still have not found anything that works, go to your dining room. Pick a spot near the window and designate one chair as yours – for your office. If you live with others, make sure they know this is your space – “Nobody in my seat!”
I wouldn’t recommend setting up in your bedroom. We want to keep work and relaxation separate – kind of like a work/life balance. This can be tough with your work and your life under the same roof, so sometimes you have to schedule in time for yourself or give yourself a ‘quitting time’. Create rules like: No work after 7pm or no electronics in the bedroom.
[bctt tweet=”Work/life balance = keeping your home office out of the bedroom.” username=”mirandamerten”]
Lastly, don’t be tempted to set up in the garage or an area that is not climate-controlled. It may provide the extra space you need, but you may end up being miserable and unproductive if it becomes too hot or cold and you can’t adjust it to be comfortable.
You’ve probably got a phone and computer of some sort that you can start conducting business with. Here is where I want you to decide if you want to use your laptop or desktop and if you want to use your cell phone or a landline.
Even if you have a family desktop in your home, I’d recommend investing in a business laptop – they come in especially handy when you need an environment break and want to head to the nearest cyber cafe. But don’t get me wrong, this is not an excuse to bring your laptop (and your work) to bed with you.
Phones are a bit trickier. If you will be using your cell phone, make sure you have a plan with great coverage for the area you are in and unlimited long distance. There are tons of conference call services now that will help you save on your phone bill. One of my personal favorites is Uber Conference. I will say, you may want to look into investing in a landline if you will be making tons of calls, or suspect you may have many inbound calls. Some companies that use VAs as contractors may also require landlines as they are more reliable in some cases, so keep that in mind as well.
If you don’t already have a printer (I’m going to sound like a broken record), research some printers online. You may think you won’t need one, but even if you don’t want to print out those course worksheets, there will come a time when you will want the convenience of having your own printer. If you don’t have the money for one at the moment, you can always send your print jobs to the UPS Store Online Printing or FedEx Office. If you find yourself printing pretty often though, I say just bite the bullet and buy your own.
Ergonomics: the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Basically fancy talk for sitting up straight and using the right chair – all in the name of productivity.
If you’ve set up in your dining room, then BAM, you’ve got a chair. Unfortunately, it’s probably not the best chair for working since dining chairs are only meant to be used for 30-60 minutes at a time. If you need an office chair (because you’ve set up in a room or small space) then head down to Best Buy or your nearest office store and try some chairs until you find one that feels right. Also, research some ergonomic office chairs online and this way you can check the reviews and see which one might work best for you.
If you are at home, you likely already have a wireless network set up. All you have to do now is find your network name and connect your computer. This step is done.
Charging station, surge protector, storage. This is where we make it look like an organized office. If you’ve got a mess of office supplies strewn everywhere, not only will your productivity decline as you try to find whatever the heck you are looking for, but your family will get super annoyed tripping over your computer chords.
You’ll want a surge protector (especially if you’ve set up a desktop) and even though you may not have tons of chords right now, if you continue to add equipment, your chords will start to pile up and become unruly. For a quick fix, use zip ties or binder clips (yes, I went DIY on you), and when you start getting more chords, use a cable organizer to make it pretty.
Chances are you’ve probably got some boxes or bins somewhere in the house that can double as storage for now. Go ahead and grab them and stack them in a corner of your room. We can work out the details later of what they’ll be used for. If you can’t find any, first sit down and make a list of what you will be using storage for – extra office supplies, client files, etc. – then search the types of storage that align with your purpose and decor. Amazon, Target, Ikea, Pier 1 and The Container Store are among some places to get started.
Well, during the setup, this part takes no time. I’m assuming that when you prep, you will put everything where you want it. Remember, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place!’ But please, once you start working – keep your place clean and organized. My dad’s office is a complete mess, but it’s ‘controlled chaos’ as he calls it. He remembers what pile he put that form in, but if he needs to tell someone else to find it, good luck with that.
Bottom line, keep your space organized and you (and everyone else in your household) will be much happier and productive.
If all else fails, use this 10 minutes to research co-working spaces near you. They are popping up everywhere and are a fantastic option. Switch locations every once in a while for a change of scenery. Use places with free wi-fi (but make sure your connections are secure) like coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. Alternately, if it is in your budget, check out local rental office spaces like Roam or Third Workplace or Nationwide spaces including Regus Offices, HQ, DaVinci Virtual Offices, and OfficeList. They range in price and locations, so pick one that is most convenient for your situation.
Take a step back and look at your office! Next, you can personalize it with colors, plants, books, whatever your fancy! Let me know your favorite part of your office in the comments below.
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