Whether you work remotely part of the time or full time, or you’re a busy entrepreneur, business owner, manager, or other professional who sometimes has to be on the clock at home after hours, you probably have a home office. Or, maybe you’re on the verge of setting up a home office or will come to need one in the near future.
It’s well established that many people are more productive when they work from home, largely because they’re free of the typical distractions and inefficiencies that exist in most offices and other workplaces. Of course, the flip-side is that without as much direct accountability, and with plenty of opportunity to drift away from the task at hand, working from home can prove difficult if you’re not disciplined.
How you design your work-from-home space can have a big effect on how well you stay focused and efficient. Below are some pointers for setting up a home office to optimize for concentration and productivity.
It does need to be said, however, that many of the following tips are generalizations. Everyone works most successfully under different conditions, and so everyone has to find what works best for them. These tips are solid starting points that serve most people well, though.
How to Create a Productive Home Office Environment
- Ideally, a home office is in its own room; if you must incorporate yours into another room, clearly delineate the work space with some sort of partition, a large area rug, or via the furniture placement. And try to locate the home office somewhere away from heavy foot traffic, sources of noise, and other interruptions and distractions if there are other people in your home.
- Eliminate distractions. Don’t keep a TV or video game console in your home office. If having the refrigerator or backyard pool in your line of sight gets your mind drifting to things besides work, rearrange.
- Get a comfortable, supportive, ergonomically designed, adjustable office chair with arms. Shop around and be willing to pay extra for quality on this item. Don’t underestimate how important the right chair is for your productivity, and for preventing problems with chronic pain.
- An adjustable-height desk that lets you work standing up part of the time can really help keep you feeling energized and focused too, and it’s a healthy option that helps prevent work-related aches and pain.
- If you have room, add a second comfier chair or small sofa for reading and other work activities that don’t require being at your desk. Occasionally switching up where you sit and how you’re seated is good for your body, mind, and mood.
- Consider whether you want to place your desk at a window. The natural light is beneficial, and many people enjoy a direct line of sight to the outdoors. On the other hand, some people are prone to getting lost in thought while staring out the window—especially if it’s a nice view.
- Refrain from aiming lights right at your face, and don’t have your monitor up too bright. These steps help reduce squinting and eye strain, which takes a toll on your energy levels and physical comfort and can cause headaches. And to tie this in to the previous bullet point, don’t have a window right behind your monitor; if you choose to be by a window, it should be off to the side.
- Position the monitor about arm’s length from your face, and so that you don’t have to angle your neck up or down more than a few degrees to see it. This also helps prevent strain and pain, keeping you working at full steam.
- Outfit your home office with the tools and technology you need to do your job, and stock up on all the necessary office supplies. Think about how readily you need access to each item when deciding where to place or store it.
- Have a clear system for organizing your paperwork, desk, and other items, and keep on top of straightening up and cleaning. Most people don’t work as well around clutter, and it can even cause anxiety and mood problems.
- When setting up a home office, don’t forget to personalize it with photos, art, and other decorative items. Even in your own house or apartment, a dull, sterile work space is depressing and demotivating.
- Use color psychology in your home office décor. If you’re often stressed, blues are calming. Red and orange improve focus and performance. Greens promote creativity. Incorporate the colors that will help you in the ways you can benefit from most.
- Put a live plant or two in your home’s work space. Not only do plants help keep your air healthier, they’ve also been show to reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue, and to boost mood and concentration.
- Set the temperature so you’re comfortable. It’s often said that offices should be kept between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, this is an area where different people have different preferences, and they usually feel pretty strongly about what they do and do not like in this regard.