Basic Home Office Tips

Toronto Life
Home Office by Johan Larsson
Home Office by Johan Larsson

If you have a job that allows you to work from home, you should pay great attention to setting up a proper private office space for yourself so that you don’t squander this opportunity by being unable to work efficiently and by wasting your precious time. Shockingly, some sources claim that only about 20 per cent of Canadians who use their home as a workplace have an efficient workspace. If you experience similar trouble and often find yourself hunting for tips and tricks that might help your home office space get organized, this post will be helpful to you. Read on, and get inspired by our list on how to create a functional home office!

Establish a clear work/home space division

Working at home comes with the danger of being unable to set a clear distinction between work time and the time devoted to leisure or your family. In order to avoid such problems, create a reasonably strict division between your workspace and the rest of the house. If possible, take over a spare room; if not, use corners and build walls of shelves around you or simply mark the area with a different wall colour. As some people say, if you feel like a professional, you’ll work like one. The statement can be modified here: if you feel like you’re at an actual workplace, you’ll be able to realize that you’re supposed to work (not hang around the house, checking out the fridge every ten minutes).

Desk by Chris Schrier
Desk by Chris Schrier

Desk matters

Even though it might sound like we’re stating the obvious, it’s very important to give your work desk some serious thought. First, check out a few ergonomics tips that will help you establish an ideal height for the desk in relation to your body. Don’t underestimate this advice, as choosing wrongly can have unpleasant effects on your back (sure, it reminds us all of our primary school teachers nagging us to sit properly — but get over it for your own good at least!).

There are many other things to consider besides the height issue. If possible, think about using a corner when positioning the desk. This gives you extra workspace. Furthermore, a corner is a great storage space that can accommodate a printer or other things that need to be within reach but not right at hand. Another tip is to try using a standing desk. Naturally, the ideal option would be getting a convertible desk, but let’s keep it real: most of us don’t operate with an unlimited budget. People who have been using a standing desk often praise its effect on concentration and alertness throughout the day. However, it’s wise to note that a standing desk should always be supplemented by a more traditional desk option, giving you a choice every day.

If you’re still unsure about what kind of desk to get, you might find these office desk design tips useful.

Listen to your back’s needs

If you feel like you can manage with a kitchen chair inherited from your grandfather’s farm, you’re terribly wrong. Backbreaking, pain-inducing chairs (which include basically any chair we normally use in our homes after several hours) can easily ruin your work schedule and health. Plainly said, when shopping for your home office stuff, try to save money on something other than your chair. Try to choose a chair that provides you with plenty of lower back support, as it will keep your posture straight and alleviate the strains of spending several hours sitting. Another point to keep in mind is that you’re not looking for the most comfortable chair in the store: avoid excessively soft and cozy pieces, as they would make you sleepy instead of getting you into a proper work mood. Here are some tips for really good office chairs that might suit you, so check them out for inspiration.

Full of Boxes by Lauren Bosak
Full of Boxes by Lauren Bosak

More storage, please!

There can never be too much storage space around you. Don’t underestimate getting enough shelves, boxes, and binders to save yourself from the inevitable mess that would surely surround you within a few days of working from home without adequate storage. I know that many of us like to believe that we’re not distracted by our own messes and that we’re merely expressing our quirky individuality; however, the opposite is true. A cluttered workspace gets depressing and most importantly kills productivity. Combatting the mess is a great opportunity to get a bit creative and come up with interesting and eye-pleasing storage solutions. For example, think about open shelving with many different, brightly coloured boxes for different types of materials or other pieces that would serve well as shelves. They’re easy to keep track of, and you can take them out completely and roam around the area freely when you need to. Another idea is utilizing your walls by installing wall pockets — a good-looking and cheap yet highly functional trick providing extra space.

Let others know that you’re at work

You have to find a way to eliminate distraction coming from the other members of your household. There are many different strategies that people use, and it’s up to you to establish a pattern that suits you best. If you’re among the lucky ones, whose home offices are located in a separate room, it’s as simple as closing the door to hint that you don’t wish to be disturbed (you could even design an elaborate sign system on the door or use a half-closed door to show that it’s okay to come and talk to you in case of important matters —doors provide infinite possibilities!).

However, it gets more complicated for most of us. One simple idea that could both help you with concentration and show others that you need time to work is using headphones. Playing soft music isolates you from the usual household noises (especially if you have kids, you know what is meant here), and headphones also serve as a good signal and barrier for anyone not to interrupt your work.

Another option is to develop a strict timetable. After some time, even little kids learn to understand that certain times are devoted to your work and that you shouldn’t be disturbed then. Having a work schedule can also enhance your performance: if you get used to working at certain hours, it will eventually become your natural habit and you will be less prone to distraction.

Workspace by Nick Keppol
Workspace by Nick Keppol

Make your office an inspiring space

Creating a functional home office space doesn’t mean that you have to aim for an impersonal and dry office style. Don’t forget to make your workspace a cozy and eye-pleasing place to spend your time in. Choose a wall colour you like, and also keep in mind the special effects different colours have on our moods (do you need a more soothing green, or a more mentally stimulating yellow, or maybe an aggressive red?). Also make sure to project plenty of your own character to your decorations. Personal touches such as family photographs, favourite posters, and gifts from your friends are exactly what turn any office into your office. Some people also like using brightly coloured decals that transform their offices into a giant notebook and look good too. If you aren’t a particularly artsy type and don’t feel like spending time creating hip decorations, there’s a simple solution that fits everyone and costs almost nothing: get a cheap pin board above your desk. You might also take a look at some of the examples of truly beautiful home offices on Pinterest to reach for some inspiration.

Work ethic and a clear mind go together

When working at home, the weak-willed among us might easily fail to keep basic work ethic standards. Try a simple trick to overcome this trouble: pretend you’re actually going to a real office every day. Dress up in your normal office clothes (no pyjamas after noon anymore!) and set up a timetable — just like you would do at a traditional workplace. And most importantly, stop arranging personal appointments such as dentist visits or cafe dates with old schoolmates within the working hours you established. Even though there’s no need to pretend that these rules are sacred and cannot be broken (since we all know that your home office is not a typical office), you’ll be surprised by how well all these organizational tips actually work.

This next piece of advice is a bit tricky, but give it a go before writing it off. One of the benefits of working from home is that when you get tired and feel like you could use a bit of exercise, you can simply hit up the housework. Usually we only need about 15 minutes of distraction to be able to focus on office tasks again, so why not use the spare time to do the dishes or vacuum the floor? These tasks have to be done anyway, and they are a perfect break choice: there’s no need for excessive mental strain, and chores provide you with the movement that your body craves. On the other hand, don’t overdo it. If you’re looking for housework tasks in order to avoid doing your job, you’re wasting your time and productivity. So find the right balance and keep to it (no need to clean the bathroom every two days).

Desk lamp by John Pastor
Desk lamp by John Pastor

If you’re generally not inclined to include another type of work in your already packed workday schedule, go for some other break options. Do a little exercise, play a simple computer game (no elaborate strategy or addictive action games — you probably wouldn’t be able to return to your work), or go and treat yourself with a goodie from your fridge (be very careful about this one, or combine it with the exercise tip!).

There are plenty of things that can be said about home offices, so consider this article just to be a taste of all the different improvements you could go for. This is why it would be great if you would share your own experience with us. If you know or use any other special tips that help to make your home office a great place to work, let us know in the comments!

One thought on “Basic Home Office Tips

March 23, 2016 at 2:21 am

These are great tips on setting up or redesigning an office space. Office space should have the design that you really prefer so that it will be more interesting for you to work even at home. I believe that office spaces should reflect someone’s personality, and no matter how it looks like, the most important thing is to make yourself feel comfortable and productive at the same time.

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