When people talk about working from home, they usually have a lot of comforts in mind. They imagine people lying in bed with a laptop, still in their pajamas, and almost sleepily typing away, occasionally surfing the Internet for fun because there’s no boss over their shoulder to tell them off for it.
It would definitely be a lie to say that there aren’t people out there who work like that – but, in general, people who work from home don’t have it quite as cushy as people think. A lot of parents who work from home will probably understand this perfectly!
Working from home is becoming more popular for several reasons. It can contribute to a great work-life balance. But it can also save you a lot of money due to the lack of commute (and not being in such close proximity to expensive lunch places!) There’s also the increasing availability of remote technology that allows us to work in such a way.
So if you’re thinking about working from home, or are working from home already but have found yourself with a little difficulty, then this guide is for you. We’re going to look at such sensible and affordable advice for making sure you’re comfortable and productive.
You should have a designated work area. Ideally, this work area would be single-purpose. This is what many people will dub the home office – the room in the house dedicated solely to work. Of course, a lot of use don’t have a spare room in the house for this purpose, so we have to make do with a desk in our bedrooms or something like that. Make sure the immediate area is free from other distractions, though.
When you’re in your “work zone”, you should have as little unrelated distractions around you as possible. It helps you get in a sterner, more professional mindset. While people think that this is the antithesis of what working from home should be about, this is wrong. If you want to be productive, you’ve got to have this mindset! Otherwise, you’re going to end up spending a lot more time on given tasks than you would if you were working in a proper office away from home – and half the point of working from home is that you’re more productive there!
One of the best things about working from home is that you get to spend more time with your family. Once work hours are done – and these work hours, in general, are fewer than those you’d experience in your average office – you can step outside that room and spend time with your family immediately without having to battle through a rush hour commute. But if the family are in the house for most of the day when you’re working, then this is when problems can arise. This is an especially prominent problem during the summer months, when the kids are off school!
Because you’re around more often, it’s much easier for people to be able to rely on you. This is great in many ways, but it can also mean that your family starts taking this for granted! For example, your partner may ask you to help out around the house with certain tasks while you’re supposed to be working. Looking after the kids can also be very distracting – and your kids may end up pestering you for more time than you can actually give!
A comfortable and productive environment at home is possible if you all agree to some ground rules. As much as you’d probably prefer to be spending time with your family rather than working, you need to make sure that people understand that you need to work. Other people – family, friends, acquaintances, strangers – tend to think that people who work from home have a completely fluid schedule where their work time can easily be interrupted and later continued. This isn’t so.
A lot of people accuse modern offices of being energy hogs. And, to an extent, these critics are mostly correct. When we think about modern offices, we think about bright lighting and frequent use of heating or cooling. When you leave such an office and start working from home, however, you start to find out why such energy is so often used. While offices do waste a lot of energy, much of it is used primarily to help keep employees comfortable. Without the right amount of light, your eyes are going to start hurting after you’ve been focusing on your computer screen for a long time. And without heating or air conditioning, your comfort is going to be disrupted by heat or cold. You should do your best to prevent such discomfort issues occurring at home, because it will affect your satisfaction and productivity.
Another thing that people tend to miss is the nice desks and chairs that often come with modern offices. You don’t want to get too luxurious when it comes to your office furniture, but a level of comfort here is definitely important. If your home office chair isn’t very comfortable, then you might be doing long-term damage to your back. If your desk isn’t a good height with a decent amount of space, then you’re also threatening your ability to work comfortably and concentrate. Don’t go over-the-top, but do consider these things when choosing furniture for your home office.
The risk of overwork
While people imagine that everyone who works from home necessarily does less work than someone who works with others in a company office, the truth is that many people who work from home end up working more. Yes, this can be taken in terms of overall productivity in a given amount of time when comparing both. But people working from home may end up putting in more hours across the day, putting them at risk of burning themselves out. A lot of employers may end up taking advantage of the perceived ease with which such a worker can begin work, and start increasing the workload.
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of overwork is to keep your work space and time strictly defined, much in the same way that the first section of this article suggested. When you create a physical and temporal space separate from the rooms and times that you plan to spend on fun and personal matters, it becomes much easier to keep track of the amount of time you spend working. This gives you a greater ability to refrain from working excessive hours.
Another thing you need to put some focus on is breaks, something else that people working from home tend to neglect – often to their detriment. Avoid burning yourself out by taking a small break every hour and a half or so. Even a few minutes of walking around your home or in the garden can have a tremendous effect. Of course, everyone has a different work-break balance that works best for them, so it’s worth experimenting. In any case, don’t just keep working without having breaks. And remember: regular exercise is still a must!
Dealing with clutter
Working from home can produce an awful lot of clutter. When people imagine the average modern office, they usually think of a relatively clean environment that is still a bit cluttered with paperwork and various devices. Your home office can suffer the same fate if you’re not careful!
Clutter can affect your home comfort for obvious reasons. But it also affects your mood and concentration, and thus your productivity. And it’s not just work clutter that you have to think about: you should also consider the clutter that tends to accumulate around your home because you’re so busy working that you don’t tidy up as often as you used to. When you declutter, it helps keep your mind clear and focused on the task. It also helps you feel more comfortable day to day.
A relaxing environment
Most people wouldn’t associate a work environment with a relaxing one. But when you work from home, you dictate what your work environment is like to a great extent. Creating a relaxing atmosphere – the kind you can’t create in a regular company office – can help you focus, can reduce stress, and will also help you feel comfortable in your environment. There are loads of ways to create a relaxing atmosphere in your home office.
Comfortable furniture is, of course, a good start. No-one can relax in a chair that’s causing them back pain. Making sure you get enough natural light in your home office is also a great way of making sure you don’t get too stressed, especially if this means you’re near a window that provides a nice, relaxing (but not too distracting!) view. If you really want to take things to another level, you could consider some calming fragrances, such as cedarwood or jasmine. You can even achieve a potent mix of nature and fragrance by bringing some plants into your office. It’s been shown that being around “green” materials and spaces can help people feel much more relaxed and comfortable.