Written By: Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
Many people may hear that you work from home and think “they are so lucky!” The fact is that working from home can be a job in itself and an ongoing challenge. Have you ever been discouraged in your home office? Have you ever been taken away from your work with distractions that others in a typical office may not have? Have you ever found yourself looking at renting an office space to get out of the home? If you have experienced any of these issues, it’s time to renovate for creation and success.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were over 9.4 million Americans working from their home in 2010. Now that number has increased due to the massive progression in technology, as well as lower employee costs for large corporations to have “split” employees. With that said, many of you (including myself) work from home and know how challenging it can be.
In the recent months of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all employees were asked to work remotely from their homes, many of which had never even considered the “home office” as a viable option for them. The sudden work from home transition has caused millions to now adjust their work to function from home.
Some of you reading this may already have a home office in place. Maybe it’s exactly what you always wanted, maybe it leaves some area to improve upon, nonetheless I encourage you all to read on and think of improvements or modifications that will make your workspace even better.
Where in your home will you be least distracted? Having an office set up to the children’s playroom isn’t going to be ideal, as it will undoubtedly lead to distractions as well as sounds that may come across as unprofessional when on the phone with a customer. Choose a space in your home where you feel free to work and motivated to arrive to each day.
When choosing my office, I considered the sound of my daughters, access to the outside for quick walks, and lastly, space and size. These factors work for me but think what’s best for you in your home situation. Some find that a garage can be a great home office, however, temperature and cleanliness can be a chore to overcome. Look at your home from a contractor standpoint and find the space that provides the unique things that you enjoy or require.
Don’t count anything out. Maybe you have a large family room that no one ever enters or utilizes and all it would take to transform it into an office is a doorway or a couple of walls. Construction is never fun but once you have your perfect home office in place, the countless hours spent in it will be much more enjoyable.
Decor and Furniture
The color of a room is proven to effect a persons mood and productivity. Choose a color that inspires and motivates you. Don’t be afraid to paint your office whatever color you wish, it’s paint and can be painted again. An empty room can be an opportunity, so grab a pencil and create some renderings of how you can arrange and maximize the space. Don’t forget the power of natural light in a work place when considering placement of your desk, it not only lifts moods but also is much easier on the eyes.
Invest in furniture and decor that will not only work, but last. The difference between a $100 desk and a $500 desk may seem hard to understand at the time of purchase but in 5 years, you’ll know why. Purchase a desk that is much larger than you need, we all know it will become full of items in no time.
Consider your body type and comfort in the decision as well. I am a fairly tall person and for me, having no backing on the desk was very important. I had learned with my previous desk that a backing and someone my height leads to bruised shins and my knees resting against it all day with no room to stretch. Think about your day and where you spend your time. Is it 100% computer based or do you prefer to handwrite notes or documents? If you do, consider an L or U shaped desk so you will have a clean area to write freely without having to re-arrange your keyboard and other items.
Designing your office should be a fun project, so enjoy it. Your expenses in this project are tax deductible so make sure you get what you want, not just what you need. Many of us are not only the owner of a business, we are the accountant, human resource department, mailing room, marketing department, graphic designer and much more. The time spent running your business is hard enough, enjoy the day as much as you can with quality and nice things surrounding you.
In an ever changing world of technological advancement, do you find it difficult to keep up on the latest technology? I do! It’s amazing to think how far personal computing has come in the past 20 years and as we continue our movement into the future, we are sure to only see more improvements, gadgets and tools. So with all of the options out there, how do you know what is best for you?
One of the valuable things to happen in the past 10 years is the evolution of “hands on” demonstrations from all of the major manufacturers of technology products. Apple was the first to initiate this movement with their Apple Stores that would allow you to fiddle, play and learn their products in an environment that offered assistance for any questions that arose. In recent years, Microsoft has become the next addition to this “hands on” approach, allowing consumers to actually use a product before committing to the purchase. This is huge and absolutely invaluable to all of us. How do we know what works best for us, without using it?
Every one of us has a different style of engagement, learning and work flow which is what makes us all so unique. We all work differently and as we continue to work forward it is extremely important for us to embrace the ways in which enable us to work most efficiently. Take a day and visit your local technology based store and try out the different computer systems, tablets, and other gadgets that spark an interest for you. There are many variations to the typical “desktop” that we once all considered a place to conduct work. Whether it is using your laptop on the couch and your television as the display or using a tablet with a keyboard to efficiently conduct work, there is undoubtedly a solution that fits your needs and work style in existence today.
Personally, I dislike working on tablets or phones, I prefer my work station which consists of a Macbook Pro powering a 32” LED monitor and wireless keyboard with a trackpad. I find that my work is much more efficient when using my desk rather than trying to use my Macbook Pro as a laptop on the couch for example. I will hold off on replying to emails until I get back to my desk, as my comfort in my particular workspace is much greater than using a phone or tablet. That comfort I feel comes across in my replies, work and so forth.
One of the parts of a home office that is often overlooked is the lighting inside that space. Most of your typical bedrooms converted to offices have very dim to little lighting. That situation can be easily altered with some LED desktop lamps.
Lighting can dramatically affect the exhaustion your eyes may suffer from 8 hours of staring at your screen. Don’t hesitate to invest in the best for yourself. There are tons of great options out there that are slim and look great for a workspace. If you find yourself desiring more lighting, adding dimming lights to the ceiling of the space is a simple addition that can be completed by any electrician and may change your outlook altogether.
Speakers are a product so easy NOT to buy that many people don’t. However, have you ever found yourself pressing the volume up as high as it can go while on a webinar or Zoom call? I suggest treating yourself to a decent set of speakers for the days that you need some noise to re-focus your efforts or for those Webinars. Whether it be a podcast, video, news or some music, having quality sound at your fingertips is something to not overlook. I would suggest purchasing a set of speakers that contain a subwoofer for that added quality listening experience. Personally, I listen to music nearly all day while I work, and without my speakers, I may already have found myself in the crazy house.
A clean workspace is an effective workspace. Invest in organizational racks or shelves to assist you in keeping your desk clutter free and efficient. Use your imagination to create the tools to further assist you in your success and growth. Organizers don’t always increase efficiency, especially when they are crammed full of receipts or paperwork from 10 years ago, so do yourself the favor and enjoy the process of knowing where your tools for success are and the ability to easily access them.
Creating your Work Schedule
Working from home, as many of us know, can be equally amazing and frustrating in the same day. Whether it be someone at the front door or laundry that you want to get done throughout the day, we all have hundreds of things that can pull us away from our home office and work itself. How do you control it? How to you manage the distractions?
Many storefronts are open from 9-5, working from home shouldn’t be much different. While the hours are open to vary, one of the easiest rules to create and stand behind is what I refer to as the “Closed Door Rule.” Whether it be at 10 PM or 4 AM, if your office door is closed, that is work time and time to get busy. I promise you the laundry will wait and I ensure you that whomever is standing at your front door will either leave a note or move along with their day. It’s hard at times to create these firm and strict guidelines but setting them in place will not only aide in your success, but also create respect and importance for the work you do from home.
Threading the Needle – Work and Personal
What happens when you are done with a day of work at a typical office? You shut down that computer and head on out the door, thus leaving all of your worries and concerns until the next day. Well it’s a little different when you work from home isn’t it? Sometimes a catastrophic problem will keep you locked in your home office for hours instead of enjoying a family dinner. How do you draw the line?
This is a portion of working from home that is probably one of the most difficult to overcome. In my previous career, I would often work 12 hour days, sacrificing time with my family and for myself, just to obtain that feeling of being “caught up.” One day I realized that I will never get “caught up” and as soon as I finished one report or project, there was undoubtedly more in line for me to look after. Accepting that I simply couldn’t do all of the work in one day made the difference for me. It took a few weeks to adjust but I am happy to say that when I am done with my day now, I shut my office down followed by a shutting of the door and that is it.
Find the balance that works best for you. If you can’t let a problem wait until the next day, take care of it, but make sure to give yourself a little extra time the next day to relax or spend time with friends and family. The balance is real and the struggle to find it takes time. There is no formula for this balance as we all have different work methods and priorities that dictate how we react to situations. My suggestion is to be forgiving with yourself as you find the balance that works for you and your home office.
It doesn’t need to be coffee but when you are working from home, I have found it absolutely mandatory to take breaks. With very few distractions and endless amounts of work, getting up and moving is a must. Studies have shown a brief 10 minute walk can not only improve productivity but also a must for those of us confined to a chair and keyboard for most of the day.
Working from home can save you quite a bit of money by avoiding fuel costs, office rent, and additional utilities for an outside office. I find going out to lunch a great way to not only break up my day while working at home but also to rejuvenate and re-focus. It isn’t fun paying the bill every day but the benefits highly outweigh the expense for me. If lunch isn’t your thing, maybe going for a long walk or coffee is. Remember that just because you work from your home, you don’t need to be locked there all day, get out and shake yourself up a bit, the best ideas and motivation may be a break away.
Going with the Flow
Some days are better than others and some weeks are more productive than others. Sometimes going with the flow of your work style, schedule and personal life will lead to the greatest productivity, even if you aren’t “at your desk.”
Once a week, typically at around 3 PM, I hit a wall. I can’t push through this wall and I have learned that instead of sitting at my desk trying to work and becoming frustrated, I leave. I go outside or I go to the beach with my family. I may not be sitting at my desk but the productivity increase I see that night or the next day is unbelievable. Working smarter and not harder is the goal. Use your judgement and if you know that you have hit the wall and your mentally drained, don’t continue to rake yourself over the coals, enjoy the benefits of working from home and shake things up!
Working from home is a benefit and an AMAZING way to not only be productive but also enjoy life to the highest possible level. Whether it be leaving a bit early on a Tuesday to watch your child or grandchild play soccer or waking up in the middle of the night with an innovative and exciting idea, being able to walk into your office from your bedroom is amazing. It’s something that people just can’t understand until you have done it.
Investing in your home office is an investment in your success. Enjoy the process, space and exciting options that arise from a home office. I hope that these insights have offered some assistance to you on your home office journey and thank you for joining me.