Creating a “Work Away from Work” Space at Home

a home office set up on the floor with a laptop, magazine, coffee cup, and throw blanket

Working from home? We’ve got the tips you need to create a small home office that’ll keep you productive (and sane) while you click away.

Carve out your new home office

Make a small space in your home that is just for work. If you have the area, take over that “den” or an extra bedroom, find a comfortable seat, and start working in your new home office. If you’re a bit pressed for space, consider setting up in the kitchen, which may have the table you need for all your work accoutrements – your computer, phone, a printer or scanner (if necessary), a notebook, and your headphones.

You can also corner off a part of your living room, but don’t use a place you nap. Even if you’re not tired, simply the act of being in a place you usually sleep (such as your bed) can make you drowsy and lower your productivity.

Check your Internet connection – and then check it again

a tablet shows a window that will not open due to poor Internet connection
Make sure you have a strong Internet connection.

An Internet connection is essential to remote work, but even in today’s digital day, sometimes the Wi-Fi connection is wonky in certain rooms. (The “I’m going through a tunnel” excuse will not work here.) Before designating your “work zone,” try connecting your computer to the Internet and Slack/Skype a work friend to make sure the connection holds.

Look behind you

a woman on a leather couch is working on her computer
Check to see what will be visible on a video call.

If you’re required to take video calls, you’ll want to check what your team is going to see. Keep your background professional and work area appropriate. This might change the direction you set up your computer or which room you’re in – if you have something you don’t want your team to see (for example, holiday lights still decorating your living room window in the middle of March).

Also, while we’ve all taken that conference call from our sweats at least once, some remote employees find that dressing in work clothes keeps them focused on work items and not distracted by housework (no matter how much your favorite home management app might want you to indulge). Consider keeping up the “good” wardrobe.

Bask in the sunlight

A wooden desk in the corner of a living room of a log cabin with a computer and lamp
Got windows?

Sunlight is your friend when it comes to working from home. See if you can set up your workspace where there’s natural light (steal the spot from your cat if necessary). Not only does natural light help to lighten your mood but if you’re in direct sunlight, you’ll also soak up some Vitamin D. That helps to ward off fatigue and muscle weakness. If you can’t score any sunlight – at least raise the shades.

Hang a “Genius at Work” sign

 If it’s just you and your mini Australian labradoodle, then you’ll have a nice, quiet environment in which to focus. But remote workers with the kids or your significant other might (begin to question if your home is the right size) want to have a conservation about priorities and when and how they should reach you during your “working hours.” (We suggest this completely true sign or this practical sign that keeps your family informed of your status.)

Condo/Apartment option: Some high-end rental communities have small offices or meeting rooms, perfect for those work-from-home days. Consider setting up shop in one, but first, wipe down the table/desk area.

Own your workspace

a cluttered work desk with a pink mug, flowers, notebook, and a coffee cup
Be comfortable, so you can be the most productive.

This is your home and now your temporary office. Make it comfortable, so you can produce your best. If a cluttered desk with knickknacks and that empty coffee mug is your ideal workspace, go for it. According to a study by the University of Minnesota, workers with a cluttered desk actually produce more creative ideas than their “neat” counterparts. (Geniuses Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein agreed.)

However, if “the joy of getting your desk clean and knowing all your letters are answered” is more your work style, do it. As we said, this is your workspace.

Gather your “office” supplies

When creating a home office, ensure you have everything you need. Pen, paper, notepad – that bottle of seltzer you sip during meetings or your favorite brand of coffee that you can’t live without. Now’s the time to buy it, and hey, if you ever wanted to join the exercise ball as a chair craze, now you can live that dream. If you need a comfy chair – a staple at most workstations – now is the time to invest in one, too.

Set your “on” hours

a modern wooden table with a laptop, cell phone, coffee, and headphones to create a home office
Create a place for work in the home.

If work requires you to be logged for a specific work schedule, stick to those hours. Keep your breaks as per your routine, i.e. lunch and coffee breaks at the normal times (though you might have to substitute Folgers for Starbucks).

During your breaks, step away from the computer. Take those fifteen minutes you usually walk to Starbucks to do some housework or quick home improvements, which we understand might sound a bit self-serving. However, these tasks will take your mind off your current to-do list, so you can return to your workstation refreshed and ready for work tasks.

We recommend nothing too strenuous. Laundry, perhaps? Doing a set of dishes or sweeping the kitchen floor. Only look to tackle chores/tasks that won’t take longer than your break.

Now, get to work –

a man types on a keyword while working on multiple computers
Time to get to work!

– and avoid distractions. I’m sure you have a Slack channel called “water cooler” where you post Outlander or The Bachelor spoilers, but if something isn’t necessary or conducive to working, shut it off. (If you work better with some noise in the background, then the TV is a perfect substitute to workplace chatter.)

Also, try to keep your area free of those distractions. If that means shutting off your email, leaving your phone in another room during a sprint, or even putting your puppy in the backyard for a spell – embrace the workspace to stay focused.


Stay safe while you work from home

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