The sudden appearance of the Coronavirus has turned the work world upside down. Many employees have been told to work from home but had little or no preparation for this. While some may work from home occasionally outside of office hours, it may not be set up as a spot to work from full-time or for extended hours, on an ongoing basis. A workspace that is not set up properly, will hamper productivity and efficiency. As someone who has worked from home for many years, I can share some of my lessons learned.
Find a Designated Spot
Where you choose to set up shop will have a big impact on your productivity and comfort. Where you locate your office equipment and tools will also have an impact.
In a home office, you need to designate a specific spot or room in your house. Also, now is a good time to communicate to everyone in the house (including the dog) that this spot is now your office and it’s strictly for business. This may mean posting a formal schedule outside your door or designated area. Designating this spot as your office space has practical and psychological implications. When you enter the space, it will signal your brain to shift to work mode.
Organize to Boost Productivity
If you are challenged when it comes to organization, you can easily become overwhelmed. When you have limited space and competing activities, staying organized can significantly boost your productivity and efficiency. You want to avoid misplacing important items or wasting time trying to find them, which can cause a distraction and make it difficult to refocus.
To get started, you want to allocate a space for your files then choose a filing method. Put equipment in an easily accessible location. Items that you use daily should be on your desk or near it. Items that you use less often or seldom, can be placed farther away, in a closet or in storage; less clutter = more focus. Take the time to figure out the best place for your tools and make the most of your surroundings.
Consider Your Surroundings
You will also want to consider the noise potential, poor visibility and exposure to sunlight. All three things can negatively impact not only your productivity and output, but also your mood.
Studies have shown that employees who are exposed to natural sunlight and scenic views suffer less from depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), low morale and absenteeism.
If natural lighting isn’t available, you can use artificial lighting. To save energy, use LED. Other types of lighting like CFL’s may affect your mood and the produce hormones the inhibit sleep, especially if you work late at night, so be mindful of this if you notice changes in your sleep patterns. Try to choose bulbs with a warner spectrum tint rather than ‘daylight’ bulbs which are designed for daytime hours.
Watch out for glare if you choose a sunny spot. Glare can make it difficult to see your work, strain your eyes and cause headaches among other things. To avoid this, you can position your screen, so you’re faced away from the light source. Alternatively, you can use window covering that reduces glare, but still provides a view to outside. Solar blinds, for example filter light and allow visibility and block UV rays which are damaging to skin and contents.
However, not all solar blinds perform optimally, so choose one that provides near-full visibility, UV protection, blocks glare and is low maintenance. A quality solar blind will also significantly lower your heating and cooling costs which will most likely to increase since you’ll be using it most of the day now that you’re home.
Watch out for increased utility bills. Now that you’re home, you will most like use more water, more heat or A/C and eat more. Encourage the Provincial and Federal government to reduce utility rates or stop billing until the COVID-19 crisis passes.
Once you have your designated spot, you’ll need to make it comfortable. Try to use furniture specifically designed for office use. This does not mean spending oodles of money on high end office equipment and desks or buy a chair with more levers and buttons than the space shuttle. If you only buy one thing, I highly recommended buying a comfortable, adjustable chair vs using the dining room chair which offers no support for your back or core.
There are desks for every need. For small spaces, we usually recommend a desk that can fold away when not in use, freeing up space for other functions. Your desk should have enough space to allow you to move and work freely and support some equipment like a computer and printer. If you do a lot of writing or need to lay out documents or magazines, you might want a desk with a wide surface area that has space for paperwork.
Follow these simple steps and you will be able to work comfortably and barely notice a dip in your productivity.