Working from home is an increasingly available option for workers, but among all the advantages of remote work are a handful of downsides. More than 43 percent of Americans spend at least some time working from home, and that number is only going to increase as technology enables more roles to be handled remotely.
Some studies have indicated that working from home can boost productivity, but this isn’t the case for all workers or all roles. In fact, many first-time remote workers find themselves unable to match the level of productivity they had in the office—and in many cases, that’s due to a poorly set up workspace.
Fortunately, there are a handful of changes you can make to your workspace to allow a much more productive workday.
The Role of the Workspace
Your workspace influences several factors, all of which culminate to define your productivity. For example:
- Psychological conditioning. Having a dedicated room for “work” can help you get into work mode when you start your day. It can also help you “leave work at work,” even if it means closing the door to a room instead of leaving the office.
- Focus. Working with a laptop on your couch, in front of the TV is going to leave you prone to distractions. The right workspace will help you keep your focus on what matters.
- Stress. An optimally designed workspace can even play a role in reducing your stress, which is especially important if you’re going to spend a lot of time here.
Redesigning Your Home
Ideally, you can use this time to redesign your home. For example, you may be able to convert that spare bedroom that you never use into a full-fledged home office. Or you might use this as an opportunity to finish your basement, so you can have a more comfortable place to work. It’s a good idea to make your office a separate room, preferably with a closable door, so you can block out distractions and keep your work life as separate as possible from your home life.
Comfort and Posture
You should also invest in furniture and materials that maximize your comfort, and force you to maintain good posture. Over time, slouching in a chair can lead to irreparable back pain and other health problems, so it’s worth spending a few hundred dollars on a chair that keeps you comfy and upright. You should also pick a desk that holds all your equipment comfortably, and invest in small luxuries like space heaters or air fresheners to make your office feel cozy.
Visibility and Space
Clutter can be stressful, so it’s important to emphasize minimalism in your home office; you don’t want to stare at piles of laundry when you work. If possible, face a wall that’s only minimally decorated, and allow plenty of room for you to stretch out when you need to. It will keep you from feeling trapped.
Color and Texture
Color and texture are more subjective choices, but they do matter. Though there’s no single color that has a guaranteed effect on all people, most people do respond to some colors differently than others. Choose a color for your workspace that makes you feel tranquil, or one that makes you feel energized (depending on your preferences).
Without a good source of lighting, your eyes will face unnecessary levels of strain. Invest in strong, pure overhead lighting for your desk, and if possible, make sure your workspace has a window. Natural light has a dramatic effect on your mood, and can improve your productivity while making you feel less stressed. If you can’t get natural light due to the position of your workspace, you can get a lamp that provides an artificial substitute.
Seeking Outside Sources
Even the best remote workspace can’t bring you the comfort of working with other people, and even the most introverted person can go stir-crazy at times. That’s why it pays to occasionally branch out and work in new places, such as:
- Remote workspaces. Collaborative workspaces are becoming more popular, and cater to the self-employed and remote workers of the world.
- Coffee shops. Coffee shops provide the right lighting and just the right amount of ambient noise to help you stay focused.
- Libraries. For a quieter environment, you could always try the local library.
- Parks. Wi-Fi may not be available, but you could use the fresh air for some heads-down work.
It’s ultimately up to you how you want to establish and maintain your remote workspace, but the more effort you put into optimizing it, the better your results will be. Working from home can help you show off your best habits, or highlight your worst ones—it’s up to you to decide your fate.