As an affiliate, you are most probably working from your home. While working from the coziness of your own home can have many advantages – the most obvious being saving money on office rent and commuting – it can also hold some traps, especially if you consider your entire home as your office. Even when working from home it’s very important to think, plan and invest in the space you are going to call your office. This is why I’ve gathered the five most important rules for you to follow when designing your home office.
Rule no. 1: DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN WORK AND PERSONAL SPACE
Working from home can really be great. It means freedom, and it means working in an environment you can design and decorate yourself. It practically means that your work space can be as comfortable and pleasant as your home.
But that really shouldn’t be the case. You have to distinguish your workspace from the rest of your living space. The majority of people leave work behind them as they close the door of their office. They then get on a bus or train, or they drive home, which is another mental separator between work and fun. When working from home you don’t have that, so you might find it hard to turn off and stop working. This is why it’s so important that you keep your workspace as distinct from your other rooms as possible.
That doesn’t mean you are not allowed to keep your personal style. It just means you have to know exactly where your workspace ends and your home begins. You should never work from your sofa, your dining table or even worse, from your bed. Even if you work from home, you should still make the effort to get up at the same time every day, plan time for breakfast, go for a jog, have a shower, get dressed and start your working day. If you grab your computer the minute after you wake up you might find yourself still in your pyjamas at 1pm realising that the only thing you’ve fed yourself with was a cup of coffee. I probably don’t need to explain how unhealthy that is.
Rule no. 2: FOLLOW ERGONOMIC RULES
Do you have the seating support that you need? Choosing the right chair is probably the most important investment you can make for your home office. Don’t try to save money when buying an office chair and don’t prioritise design over comfort. An upholstered old dining chair might look very classy but it sure doesn’t offer the right level of support for your back.
Consider foot rests, ergonomic mouse instruments that fit your hand and soft keyboard pads that allow relaxation for your wrist. Remember, the human body was not designed to be sitting all day long. Get up, stretch, have a walk, maybe even do fifteen minutes of yoga. Use this as one of the main advantages when working from home as in the office, the only people that get up regularly are smokers.
You can find articles that will explain the positioning of your equipment in detail but let me just point out the most important rules. Your desk should not be too high or too low. Position your keyboard so your forearms are parallel to the floor and adjust your chair so your feet rest on the floor or a footrest if you are short. The top of your computer screen should be at eye level or a little below. That position will allow your eyelids to close a bit, providing moisture which will reduce eye fatigue.
Rule no. 3: INVEST IN PROPER LIGHTING AND LET THE SUNSHINE IN
Good lighting is essential for every working space. Your eyes will suffer for a good part of the day if you don’t plan your lighting carefully. Ideally, you want as much daylight as possible. Working from home usually means your home office will be in a smaller room with a window. Therefore using natural daylight as a primary source of light will not be as hard as in some big office buildings. If no daylight is available, the best lighting will be a combination of general and task lighting. Such lighting is also very welcome when days are shorter or very cloudy. To avoid glare, don’t place overhead lighting directly above computer screens and do not place computer screens directly in front of a light source. If you get glare from direct sunlight in certain parts of the day or seasons, use blinds but don’t forget to lift them when the sun moves position. Always remember that however good artificial lighting is, daylight is always as good as it gets.
Rule no. 4: THINK ABOUT STORAGE
One of the most common problems with a home office is that you wind up having paper everywhere. Filing cabinets are not the most attractive piece of furniture ever invented but there are many prettier alternatives you can use as decent office storage. Try open bookshelves and put magazine racks on them to organise your papers. Most of them even have space to write on so you can be as organised as you want. If you have a tendency to leave things lying around, a pile of clutter will form before you even realise it. In that case, it’s wise to think about some closed storage space. Put doors on some of the cabinets or buy some organising boxes. Keep your desk tidy and clean. Remember, with less clutter around, the clearer and more focused your mind will be.
Don’t forget about the space under your desk and behind your computer screen. We all know what’s usually there. A nest of cables, dust and maybe even a pen we lost months ago. Keeping cables organised doesn’t just have aesthetic benefits. Well-managed cables make it easier for you to move your equipment around and avoid the possibility of accidents like tripping over cables, pulling your laptop or light off your desk when you move your legs, or your pet chewing through them. So take some time and get those cords organised when setting up a home office. You’ll thank yourself later.
Rule no. 5: ADD SOME HAPPINESS
Your office should not look like your living room or your bedroom. But that doesn’t mean it should be “office beige” with stock photos on the walls. Use color and paint the walls – just be careful when choosing your color palette. You can find many articles online that describe the psychological effect of color on your mood, productivity and creativity. Don’t underestimate the power of color.
Add some plants. Plants make people happier and cheer up every room. If, like me, you are not a plant type of person because you tend to forget they need water to survive, you can buy a nice bouquet and put it into a vase. Most will last a week or even longer. Just change the water once or twice.
Add a special photo on your desk – something that motivates you or makes you laugh. Put a photo of a nice sandy beach or Paris at midnight on your wall to keep you going when your productivity is low. That way you’ll be reminded why are you doing it.
I hope this advice will help you design a nice working space in your home – a room that will inspire you and keep you going even on bad days. If you are not the most creative person on the planet and are lacking ideas I would suggest using Pinterest. Just type “home office” into the search bar and be inspired. Just remember this one piece of advice: keep it simple and useful, create yourself a comfortable space that follows ergonomic and lightning rules, and don’t over design – your home office needs to serve your needs first.