Flexible working arrangements are changing the landscape of the modern workplace. One’s home is being increasingly seen as a viable place to do business for many reasons including taking care of young children, avoiding long commutes, or working during off-hours. While the convenience is enticing, there are also downsides to working from home.  Here are four important ways to keep your home office a productivity powerhouse and not a den of distractions:

Proactively prevent disruptions
It takes 25 minutes on average to refocus after a disruption, resulting in increased stress, frustration, time pressure, and effort according to research from the University of California. The cornerstone of a disruption-free office is its location.  Your workspace should ideally be in a quiet, low-traffic area of your home. Since the luxury of choice isn’t always available, a white noise machine is a low-cost option to dampen noise pollution from both inside and outdoors.  If disruptions are caused by people entering your office, establish firm rules such as when the door is closed you are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.  Try leaving a dry erase board outside your office so that those in your home who need you can leave you notes rather than interrupting your workflow.

Only use the space for business
Sleep experts suggest keeping your bedroom a snack-free, work free and device-free space so your brain associates your bed with rest. The same applies to your home office.  When your home office is used strictly for business, you create a subconscious association between the space and productivity. Remove all distractions and temptations from your office to keep it business-oriented.  When it’s time for a break, you should leave the room entirely, even if it’s just to casually browse the internet.  Treat your home office as you would any professional setting; come showered and appropriately dressed to establish a proper state of mind.

Build the right atmosphere
Productivity is influenced by one’s environment.  Take advantage of any available natural light to keep your eyes from straining during prolonged work sessions. For rooms without windows, try anti-glare lightbulbs in a warmer tone.  When decorating, add just enough personal flare without dominating the space.  Space is a common issue with home offices, so while filling it with belongings may make it feel more personalized, the clutter can be distracting.  Add a few plants for their mood-boosting effects and to improve the air quality.  Plants can also improve your ability to solve problems and work creatively according to research conducted at Texas A&M University.

Furnish it appropriately
Your home office can feel underequipped, makeshift, and ineffective if it’s not properly furnished.  Consider ergonomics and how the space will be used to establish what furniture you’ll need.  Every home office starts with a desk and a chair. Invest in a high-quality ergonomic chair and a large enough desk to place reference material without needing to stack papers.  If you’ll be using this space for meetings, you’ll need additional seating for your guests. Get a computer monitor or a stand if you’ll be working from a laptop to reduce neck strain.

For those who require considerable storage, floating shelves and filing cabinets that can be tucked away are great for keeping things organized in a space-conscious way.  If the option is available to you, going digital with your documents can be an enormous space saver for home offices where space is an issue as well as allowing access to them on the go.

Home offices can be extremely convenient and productive with the right considerations.  The bottom line is you want a physically and emotionally comforting space where you can work continuously without interruptions.  While this may not be realistic for everyone – especially those looking after very young children – these ideas can serve as a starting point for you to tailor a personalized yet effective environment that works well for you.

 

 

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