There was a day when I remember thinking, “I’ve just got to get out of here if I am going to get anything finished.” The “here” I was referring to was a busy newsroom filled with working chaos and distractions. On the other hand, I can also remember shoving my laptop in my bag on a different day and thinking, “I have to get out of here if I am to get anything done.” On that day, the “here” referred to my house.
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As a professional organizer, I’ve learned the number one drawback to working from home isn’t family interruptions, the pull of chores or even leisure. The number one obstacle is not treating your workspace professionally. When you plop on the couch or create a temporary setup on the kitchen table, you won’t have everything you need at hand, and you’ve placed yourself in the heart of disruptions and temptations to do other things. Plus, you’ll waste so much extra time getting up to constantly search for the things you need.
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From helping others create a great work environment in their home, I’ve come up with the top five important elements to create great productivity from home. Here’s how:
Claim Some Privacy
A dedicated home office is terrific. Of course, not every apartment or home can offer that to you. If a whole room isn’t available, then you need to carve out some privacy.
- Try setting up shop in your least-used room. This might be a guest room that is often vacant or a formal dining room you can steal an end of for your own.
- Turn part of the living room or den into your office, but have some clear division. Use one corner or wall as your “office.” Use a folding screen to create some privacy, or add a bookcase or shelving unit to create a division between “work space” and “fun space.” Rearrange furniture so the back of seating area faces your work area. That way, you are not working in the middle of the conversation zone. You can also use large floor plants, like a potted palm, to add some privacy.
- Mixing work and sleep space isn’t the best of options, but if you have no other choice, try the corner of your own bedroom—especially since you can shut the door against any noise. Just make sure to add a folding screen or bookshelf divider and arrange your furniture so that you aren’t looking right at your work when you’re trying to get some rest.
Dedicate a Work Surface
So much productivity is lost if you don’t have a dedicated work surface. You’ll constantly be clearing a surface in order to set up or you’ll waste time looking for your papers and work items because they could be here, there and everywhere. A dedicated table or desk means being able to get up from a project and know upon return that you’ll find it how you left it. Keep it organized with a vertical file to prevent stacks, and add an in/out wall basket to manage tasks.
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Organize with a Bookcase or Shelves
Working from home doesn’t just mean whipping out your laptop. It means you are the worker, the boss, the office manager, logistics expert and the administrative assistant all rolled into one. Piling everything for all of those hats on your desk defeats the whole plan of claiming some privacy to work and having a dedicated work surface. Place shelving next to or adjacent to your work surface. Keeping it in arm’s reach means you can use it organize and hold the many things you need. Use decorative storage boxes to corral extra printer paper, ink cartridges, pens and office supplies. Use another container for shipping supplies. Place binders, reports and trade journals between bookends on the shelf and line up product samples. Move occasional office tools to the shelf, so you only keep things you use daily out on your desk.
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Stash Things in Storage
Begin with a file cabinet. Only store active files and projects near your desk. Use storage boxes in your attic, garage or closet for closed projects. It’s best to carve out some storage space dedicated to work. Add shelves to a closet or garage to hold products and supplies to which you need occasional access but don’t need right at your desk.
Invest in Your Back Health
Lower back pain or worsening back issues can happen from sitting for hours in an unsupportive chair. Grabbing an extra dining room table chair or occasional chair is not a good idea for long-term use and definitely affects your productivity. Invest in a real office chair that offers an ergonomic design. It should allow you to adjust the height of the chair to suit you and the height of your work surface, as well as allow the back support to adjust forward and backward.
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It’s worth taking these five steps. It won’t take long to set them up, and you’ll find if you maximize your efficiency when you work at home, you can then enjoy more family or leisure time.
About the Author:
Keeping home offices under control is a focus of professional organizing expert Lea Schneider, who has had years of experience of running her own business from home. Lea writes her organizational expertise for The Home Depot. If you are researching items such as bookcases for your own home office, you can visit Home Depot’s Home Decorators website for a large selection.