10 Tips for Creating a Pleasant (and Practical) Home Office
Sure, working from home is great—no boss breathing down your neck, no need to put on a pair of ironed slacks, and no starving yourself until you get a chance to grab some chips from the snack machine in the hall. But, if you don’t put a little effort into creating a nice office for yourself at home, you could find yourself with a whole new set of complaints. Check out these tips to really maximize the freedom and enjoyment that can come from freelancing at home.
1. Invest in a Great Desk
It may be tempting to use that bulky hand-me-down desk that’s not quite the right size. But, working from a non-ergonomic set up will come back to haunt you quicker than you might expect in the form of back, neck, and wrist pain. Look for a desk that lets you work without holding tension in your shoulders, and without slouching. Standing desks are all the rage as of late.
2. Bring in Natural Light
You’re out of the office, and you’ve escaped the yellowish glow of those tubular fluorescent lights. If you’ve never put any attention into the lighting system in your home, now’s the time to do it. Open up the curtains, and place your desk where you can get some natural sunlight. If that’s not possible, consider purchasing a full spectrum lamp.
3. Lay Down Some Guidelines
Unless you live by yourself, you’re going to have to work in an environment where there will be other people around—others who might not be working quite as hard as you are. Have a friendly discussion with your partner and other roommates, and ask them kindly to avoid disturbing you during your working hours.
4. Make a Quick Lunch Menu
When you’re at home the temptation to take a long, leisurely lunch is always there. Suddenly, you find yourself with the desire to make a complicated dish, when you otherwise haven’t cooked for yourself in months. Take some time to think up relatively quick lunches you can fix for yourself; if you’re not into sandwiches or other fast staples, make a large amount of something on Sunday, and eat it for lunch for a few days, to keep yourself from starving and getting off track from work.
5. Buy a Yoga Mat
Or invest in a quick lunchtime Zumba session. Whatever your exercise of choice, consider fitting in 15-30 minutes worth before lunch. Sitting in your own home all day can get lonely, and you may feel yourself lagging more than you did in a social office environment. The endorphins from exercise will keep you from stiffening in your office chair and feeling down.
6. Put Together an Inspiration Board
Even in today’s information-based, telecommuting world, there’s something validating about going to work in an office. In an office, your “legitimate” job means you’re on the right track and making an effort. At home, even though you rationally know that you’re doing what’s best for you and your business, you might be in need of some inspiration. Create a bulletin board with pictures of your loved ones, good work you’ve done, and quotes from people that inspire you, to help give yourself a little boost throughout the day.
7. Paint, Plant, and Declutter
Even if wouldn’t consider yourself an aesthetically-minded person, you would be surprised at what a difference putting some effort into decorating your office can make. If you can’t paint, consider putting up monotone canvases or long curtains to brighten the room. The green of plants will add a little life to the sterility of a computer desk. My last and favorite suggestion: hide your computer and electronics cords—bind them together and stick them out of sight.
8. Get an External Monitor
This is the corollary to buying a desk that works for your body. Staring at a tiny laptop screen all day is going to burn your eyes out and make it harder to work. Consider investing in an external monitor—if you can’t afford that, just buy a separate keyboard and put your laptop on a stand at eye level.
9. Shut Off the Distractions
When working from home, you don’t even have to pretend that you’re doing something legitimate, if you’re not. With this, of course, comes the temptation to watch 40 minutes worth of YouTube videos or go through your entire Google Reader. But technology can save you too—consider the program Freedom, which lets you turn off the Internet for a certain amount of time. WriteRoom is a full screen word processor that keeps you from getting off task.
10. Identify Outside Offices
Especially if you’re an extroverted person, working alone isn’t always going to satisfy you, no matter how nice your home office is. Instead of just crashing the nearest café, however, scope out good outside work spaces, from coffee shops to libraries. Look for plugs for your laptop, table height, and general atmosphere. It’s a bummer to haul all your work stuff to a café, only to find that you can’t charge your computer there.
Joy Paley is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on earning your nursing degree online for the Guide to Health Education.