If working from home is new to you, you may find it difficult to stay focused all day. Being surrounded by family members, pets, and household chores or projects that are begging to be done can make it hard to stay productive. But as those who have worked from home for years can attest, it is possible to create a home workspace that allows you to stay focused and productive in your work, as well as to leave work at the “office” when you’re done for the day. Here are our top tips for designing a functional and effective home office space.
Start With the Basics
To begin with, make sure you have the right tools to do your job — a comfortable chair, a desk or table you can spread out on, and any technology you need. If you don’t have a separate room for your home office, you will also need some way of separating your workspace from the rest of your living areas — such as a privacy screen, room divider, or tabletop divider. Since you spend a significant amount of time in this space, you’ll want to make sure it’s as comfortable and functional as possible before you implement other design elements.
Storage is Key
In addition to a great desk setup, the right technology, and a way to create privacy, good storage solutions are at the top of the list of important factors for a home office. Even if your work is mostly paperless, you’ll still need a place for office supplies and a few other important elements you need to do your job, and the last thing you want is a messy office space to distract you. A file cabinet, chest of drawers, or even a plastic storage bin or two will do the trick — anything that allows you to stash away the miscellaneous items you don’t need to use every day.
Speaking of storage, keeping your work area as uncluttered as possible will help with focus and productivity. A cluttered desk = cluttered thoughts. Depending on the task you’re working on, you don’t need to keep a lot on your desk. You don’t want to clear it off completely, but stacks of books or papers, cups of cold coffee from the day before, or a sea of post-it notes can get in your way and distract you from the task at hand. Keep out only the items you need for each day’s work; everything else can be tucked away until you need it.
For some of us, clutter outside of our immediate work areas will be distracting as well. If you find that’s the case for you, spend a few minutes each evening straightening up the house (at least the parts of it you can see from your desk) so that in the morning you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
Maintain Separation Between Home and Office
In addition to helping you stay more organized, keeping your work area distinctly separate from your living space will help your brain transition from home to work and back each day. A separate workspace doesn’t necessarily mean a separate room — even a designated chair at your dining table will work. Once you’ve chosen a spot as your “office”, stick with it. The longer you use that space for work, the more easily you will be able to focus on being productive when you’re there.
Position your workspace to reduce the distractions around you as much as possible. Shut the door if you can or use noise-cancelling headphones to stay focused. Keep anything that distracts you out of your immediate work area and use room dividers or partitions to keep your workspace physically separated from your living space and to help absorb sound.
Feed the Senses
To keep you focused, energized, and productive, incorporate design elements into your workspace that stimulate all of your senses.
- Light is important both for ambience and to be able to see what you’re working on. Use natural light as much as you can, as it boosts serotonin levels and lowers blood pressure, among other health benefits. Supplement with floor lamps or add a table lamp to your desk if needed.
- Color. According to the principles of Feng Shui, orange is the color of focus, productivity, and organization — and the brighter the orange hue the better. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to paint your office blaze orange! Simply incorporate pops of color with artwork and accessories like lamps, vases, or plant pots to inspire energy and productivity (and feel free to include any color that inspires you and makes you feel focused and alert).
- Scent. Aside from making your work area smell nice, certain scents can help you focus. For example, peppermint gives a boost of energy, rosemary helps with concentration, and lavender, rose or sweet orange oils help relieve anxiety. Try using a few drops of essential oil in a diffuser to scent the room.
- Sound. Sometimes too much quiet can be distracting. Implement some soft background noise or white noise into your workspace, using a small indoor fountain, a white noise machine, a fan, or a playlist of natural sounds.
- Temperature. If it’s too warm or too cold in your workspace, you will be distracted by your discomfort. Keeping your body temperature stabilized helps you stay focused. If your room is cold, keep a space heater, warm sweater, and blanket on hand. If it runs warm, keep a fan on your desk and drink plenty of cold water.
Bring the Outside In
Incorporate biophilic design elements into your home office. Biophilic design means, more or less, bringing the outside in. The idea is that maintaining a connection to nature in your space can help relieve stress and anxiety. An easy way to do this is to incorporate plants into your workspace and throughout your home. If you’re not sure you can keep plants alive, try something low-maintenance like cacti or succulents.
Here are a few ways to bring the outside in:
- Scatter plants throughout your workspace and home or gather them in clusters to create interesting displays. Use different sizes and shapes to add texture to the look.
- Use greenery to build barriers around your workspace for privacy. Use tall potted trees to create a sense of privacy, peace and quiet (they can help deflect sound a bit as well).
- Set up your work space near a window if possible, to take advantage of the natural light and to give yourself a view of nature to look at in between tasks.
- Create visual and spatial continuity from your home to the outdoors — if you can’t actually work in the shade of your favorite tree, make it feel like you are by integrating green shades into your decor in addition to live plants.
- Incorporate natural materials into your decor, like a jute rug, lamp base made of stone, or even a terrarium.
Incorporating even a few of these design elements will help you create a home office that is a much more pleasant and productive place to spend your days.