Working on your own is a dream scenario, especially if you can turn it into a full-time career. You get to set most of your own hours, work from your home office, and enjoy a level of freedom that most workers never get to enjoy. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put some consideration into your home office design, however, because how you work is reflective of how much you’re going to be able to earn.
It all begins when you can limit the distractions of your environment. Some distractions, like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve got to limit on your own. Other distractions, such as the neighbor’s mowing their lawn or the desire to do something besides working, can be limited with structural design basics. Have your home office in a room away from daily activities, don’t ever put a TV in your home office, and have equipment that is ergonomically friendly to avoid strains and pains that could tempt you to quit working for the day.
From there, you can then put these essential design ideas into practice.
#1. Keep your equipment within close reach. Have a desk in your home office that is large enough to put your printer, your telephone, and your computer all within easy reach of one another. Spinning in your office chair to reach something is fine, but don’t have your equipment stationed across the office so you have to get up. Every time you get up from your desk, you potentially lose 15 minutes of productivity.
#2. Have the items you need in your office. Working from home means you’ve got access to your kitchen, countless snacks, maybe a coffee maker, and plenty of other temptations. Before starting your day, make sure your office is designed so that everything you need is in there so you don’t have to visit the kitchen. Have a small coffee pot in your office. Consider having a small fridge. Pack snacks like you would for any other job. Remember: every second you don’t work is potentially a second where you don’t get paid.
#3. Protect your floors. The costliest damage to working at home doesn’t come from an ergonomics injury. It comes from the damage that a simple office chair can do to your floor. If you have carpets, then office chairs with wheels will create a circular wear pattern in the carpet over time that can’t be removed without replacement. Hardwood or laminate floors might seem safe, but they can scratch rather easily. Place something other your office chair to limit this damage.
#4. Keep it separate. It is easy to blend your professional life in with your personal life when you’re working from a home office. Keep the office separate from the rest of the home so that it is easier to prevent this blending. If your office is in your bedroom, you’re going to be dealing with more stress than is really necessary.
#5. Take it out into the community. One of the easiest traps to fall into while working from a home office is that you’ve got to stay in your home office. You don’t. You can take your work out into the community whenever you want. Take the laptop out to the beach. Go work in the local coffee shop. On a sunny day, go out into the backyard if nothing else. A little variety can help break you out of a humdrum routine.
#6. The chair you use matters a lot. There are great office chairs priced for less than $200. Some are even less than $100. They’ll support your back and arms effectively while still providing a certain level of comfort. Choose a chair that fits your body frame and height and look for a solid foundation of support. Leather, synthetics, and fabrics all have their own advantages, so choose the one that best meets your particular needs so you can stay productive.
#7. Curved desks are better. You might be used to the design of a “student” desk, or a basic desk with a flat working surface and drawers below. For the home office, however, a curved “L-shaped” desk tends to be a better option. This is because you get the same amount of surface space for your work without taking up as much space. You can purchase small file cabinets, drawers, or even use a dresser in a pinch for the storage space you need.
#8. Don’t underestimate the internet requirements you’ll need. Working from a home office might make you think of yourself as a business, but not everyone feels the same way. When it comes to your internet service provider, you will still be classified as a residential line unless you change this designation. Why is this important to do? Most residential ISPs have a data usage cap in place. Sometimes that cap can be as low as 40 GB. If you do any video streaming for work, you’ll want an unlimited data cap and certain speed requirements and that can be costly – upwards of $150 per month. Plan accordingly.
#9. Colors help you relax… or they help you get stressed. On a stressful day, just take 5 minutes and stare at a patch of green lawn. The color of the grass will actually help you relax. Blues tend to do the same thing. Reds and oranges help to inspire passion and energy, but they also help to inspire stress. The color of your home office matters. If you have white walls, then hang up some artwork. Green walls will keep you happier. This even applies to the background images on your operating system.
#10. Make sure you take your breaks. For every 2 hours of work that you put in, there should be a 10-15 minute break that happens. This helps to keep your mind fresh and you can stretch out the muscles and joints that might be starting to ache. It can be tempting to just sit at a computer and keep typing, but don’t fall for that temptation. You might make more money, but you’ll spend more on your health needs later on.
#11. Where will the sun be during the day? Your home office is going to face some sun exposure at some point during the day unless you’re working somewhere there aren’t any windows. If you have a skylight, for example, and your desk is positioned underneath it, there will be a 60-90 minute period of time at some point in that day where working at your desk will be next to impossible. Some offices are warm in the morning and cold in the evening and the opposite is also true. By knowing when your office will be comfortable, you’ll also know when you can get the most work done.
#12. You should have things to keep your hands busy. Adults tend to learn better when there are things that they can use with their hands to keep them occupied. This might include stress balls, toys, desk games, or anything else that can give you a break to think every once and awhile. These objects also perform a second vital task: they keep your hands and fingers limber so there is a lower risk of injury that occurs.
#13. Don’t assume that retail is always better. It’s pretty easy to run down to the local office supply store to pick up some equipment, supplies, or furniture. That can save you a lot of time, but it might cost you a lot of money. If you’re hooked into the internet, then make sure that you’re shopping around for the best prices possible on the things that you need. The same desk at the store down the street could be $100 more than what you’d pay on Amazon right now.
#14. Grow into your home office. Many workers tend to want everything they need for their home office right away so they can be prepared for any contingency. The end result is a lot of money gets spent on items that may never be used. It’s better to approach the design of a home office with a scalable approach instead. If you don’t need a printer, then don’t buy one until you do. Start with low ISP speeds and work your way up. Spend when you need it, not because you think you might need it.
#15. Give yourself an escape route. What would happen if someone realized you were working from home and had some expensive equipment they’d love to steal? Or if a fire broke out, how would you get out safely? Make sure your home office has a secure escape route for any circumstance so that you don’t get stuck between a rock and a hard place.
These home office design ideas and basics can help you stay at 100% productivity even when the world is trying to distract you. Be proactive about your design, limit personal distractions like texting or social networking, and use these tips to create the perfect home office that meets your needs today.