Home Office Tips – The best way forward
The first step in building a comfortable office is getting comfortable equipment. You’ll spend long hours at your desk and your computer; the right equipment can make the difference in improving productivity and comfort.
Here are a few life hacks for choosing home office equipment.
1. Invest in a comfortable chair
A comfortable chair is the heart of a productive home office. You’ll spend nearly half your day on it. Investing in a good one will make a notable difference to your work life.
Selecting the right chair can be a challenge. Prices can range from a basic chair priced around $50 to a high-end Aeron chair setting you back at least $1,000.
To find the right fit, pay attention to back, thigh and arm support. Also consider the material options and warranties offered, if any.
A second monitor is the closest you can get to a productivity superpower. An additional screen makes so many tasks easier — coding, designing, writing and researching. It also makes multi-tasking more approachable.
If you don’t like juggling windows, a second monitor should at the top of your wish list. For best results, buy the same model as your current setup so you have the same screen fidelity and experience.
3. Don’t forget mice and keyboards
The humble mouse and keyboard are often ignored for larger, flashier equipment. Yet, they play a crucial part in improving productivity and comfort.
For keyboards, try using mechanical keyboards. These have mechanical, clicky keys that give a lot of feedback. While they might be noisy, they offer unparalleled typing comfort. Writers and coders will especially love them.
For mice, choose something larger that fits your hand comfortably. Gaming mice are particularly comfortable and accurate, though they do tend to be on the pricier side. Avoid small travel mice — they’re uncomfortable for extended use.
4. Consider buying a standing desk
There is a growing body of research that show that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for your health. This explains why the new generation of workers are embracing standing desks.
A standing desk is exactly what you think: a tall desk where you work standing up. Most of these desks are height adjustable (i.e. you can lower/raise the height as needed). Some more expensive versions can even be converted into conventional sit-down desks on the fly.
A standing desk won’t magically transform your health, but it will improve productivity, focus and heart health.
If you think your house has enough furniture or you’re not inclined to to buy a standing desk, consider trying a standing desk extender. These desk extenders can also be adjusted by height and are often cheaper. They also allow you to turn any surface into a standing desk. It’s quite convenient when creating a home office for the first time: you can try different places to find the one that works best for you.
5. Follow ergonomic rules
Minimize the damage sitting for long hours causes to your body by following ergonomic rules. Set up your home workspace in such a way that your back and neck are straight and your arms are parallel to the floor. Avoid slouching or keeping your arms at odd angles.
Use the ergotron workspace planner to help you set up your workspace. This tool will tell you exactly where to keep your monitor, keyboard, chair and desk based on your height.
For example, this is the recommended layout for a 6’0” person.
6. Add some green plants
A few green plants will not only add a dash of color to your office space but also increase happiness and reduce stress. In fact, even a few plants can increase productivity by as much as 15%, according to one study.
Instead of choosing just any green plants, pick something that is easy to maintain and helps improve air quality. The spider plant, dracaena, ficus and Boston fern are particularly well known for their air filtering qualities.
7. Wire management goes a long way
You wouldn’t really want to come to work in an office that’s covered in jumbled cables and cords.
Basic wire management can go a long way towards improving your office aesthetic. It’s also fairly cost efficient as well — you’ll just need a few clamps and zip ties to manage messy wires. Here’s a great article from Lifehacker on managing wires with some cheap tools.
8. Make sure you have high-speed internet
Running an online store makes it imperative you have a solid home internet connection. If your service is subpar, consider changing to an alternative internet provider or buying and installing a Wi-Fi router before setting up a home office. It’s easy to get distracted when slow internet connection disrupts your workflow all the time.
For better WiFi signal strength, place your router high off the ground and in the center of your house. Make sure there is no clutter around it, as well as any devices or appliances that can cause signal disruption. For example, microwaves or home phone sets.
Check your internet speed with specialized services like Speedtest, Fast.com, or SpeedOf.Me. For more accurate results, do multiple tests and do them when no one in your home network is downloading or sharing files or doing video streaming and video chats.
It’s okay if the results are about 5-10 Mbps off than promised by your provider. If the results are way lower than advertised, connect your provider and check your network for unauthorized devices. Here’s how you can find out if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi and what you should do about it.
How to Set Up a Home Office Space
Your office space is more than the equipment in it; it’s a combination of the decor, lighting and overall aesthetic.
1. Choose workspace according to your needs
When choosing a place for your home office, think about how you’re going to use it. Will you make conference calls? Will clients come over to your place? Do you need to keep kids or pets away from your workspace? Do you need a place for storage?
Keep in mind that working out of two or three places of your house can be way less productive than working from one place. (It doesn’t apply if you need, say, the garage for storage.)
Appropriate temperature control and fresh air are also important to consider when you set up home office. It’s impossible to concentrate when working in a stuffy room, so make sure your working space is well-ventilated.
The EPA recommends keeping indoor humidity between 30 and 50%. While the World Health Organization’s recommendation for temperature is 64 °F (18 °C) for healthy adults who are appropriately dressed. For people with respiratory concerns or allergies it should be no less than 61 °F (16 °C ). For the sick, disabled, very old or very young, a minimum of 68 °F (20 °C ).
2. Get natural light
The first rule of building a comfortable office is to get plenty of natural light.
Why natural light? A recent study found that adults who get natural light sleep better (46 minutes more than those who don’t get natural light). Another study found that 40% of workplaces with natural light experience 3%-40% improvements in productivity.
Plus, natural light just feels better! So, make sure to position your desk and chair in a well-lit room.
3. Install ambient lights
Natural light is good, but what if you like working after dark or live in an area with limited natural light?
Here is where ambient lighting comes in.
Try placing a few cheap rope LED lights around your workspace. Affix them such that they follow the edges of your desk, bathing it in soft light. Refer to this article to learn more about these rope lights.
Additionally, place a high-quality desk/floor lamp near your workspace. Buy something with a dash of design flair (say, a brass lamp) to add some warmth and personality to the space.
4. Install F.lux on all computers
At normal brightness, a computer screen has a dominant blue light component (i.e. “cold light”). This is the same as natural sunlight. Which is why a bright screen feels welcoming in the morning.
As the sun fades over the day, the amount of blue light it emits decreases. Late evening sunlight has a predominantly red light component (i.e. “warm light”).
However, when you keep the same level of screen brightness after dark, you fool your body’s circadian rhythm into thinking that it’s still daylight, thanks to the blue light component. This causes eye strain, stress and sleep disorders.
The solution is to use a free tool like F.lux.
F.lux automatically changes the color temperature of your screen over the day. It makes the screen “cold” in the morning and “warm” in the evening. For example, this is the recommended screen color for a Thinkpad laptop through the day:
This ensures that your circadian rhythm doesn’t get disrupted and your eyes adjust better to the change in daylight over time.
5. Keep space and equipment for brainstorming
Your best ideas will often come away from the desk. Maintaining space inside your office for brainstorming is a good way to get the creative juices flowing.
How you create this space is a personal preference. Some might prefer a relaxing couch while others might want a simple standing desk and a whiteboard.
At the very least, try to have a place to keep ideas (such as a pinboard) and easy access to pens, notebooks, etc.
6. Add some personality and warmth with decor
One of the best parts about a home office is that you can totally dictate its decor per your tastes. Good decor won’t just make your office space feel more inviting, it’ll also improve productivity.
Even science supports this idea! A warm, welcoming environment improves productivity, per this study. Another employee survey found that 83% of respondents said artwork was “important” to their work environment.
When choosing colors, follow color psychology and pick an energy inducing color, such as shades of yellow, orange and red. Avoid dark, dull colors — they can make you feel less energetic.
7. Clean your home office regularly
When you create a home office, you have to keep lots of things in mind: equipment, office hours, tasks and calls, balancing your work and family time. It’s easy to forget about cleaning, especially when you’re used to traditional office space being cleaned for you.
Schedule some time for tidying up and regularly clean your office equipment and the room itself. Don’t forget to clean all surfaces and use special solutions like wipes, sprays, and sanitizers.
How to Deal with Distractions
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is maintaining focus and energy. It’s easy to slack off when there is no one to supervise you.
There are a few hacks you can use to make dealing with distractions easier.
1. Segregate work and living areas
The idea of working in your PJs from your bed sounds great on paper. In reality, doing so will impact your productivity negatively.
The brain tends to associate certain spaces with certain tasks. Think of how you automatically feel like working out when you’re at the gym, or how you feel relaxed and at ease in your living room.
This is why it’s important to keep your work and living areas physically separate. Your office should be in a room as far away as possible from the place where you sleep. This will help your brain associate the office area with work and productivity.
2. Use a separate computer for work
Two reasons why you should buy separate computers for work and personal use:
- You can claim your work computer as a business expense in your taxes
- You can customize the work computer and eliminate distracting apps and software
It’s hard to get work done when you’re using the same computer for creating spreadsheets as you do for playing video games or watching Netflix.
This is the same principle as separating work and office areas. Your brain associates your work computer with “work”, improving productivity. The lack of distracting software and documents helps as well.
3. Maintain office hours
While working from home gives you the freedom to work anytime you want, you’ll still want to maintain regular office hours if you want to maximize productivity.
Working for a fixed period of time every day helps give your day routine and structure. You automatically shift into “work mode” when you’re within your “office hours”.
Besides improving productivity, it’s good for your work-life balance as well. Being an e-commerce entrepreneur is stressful. Being able to switch off after your office hours will help you relax. This also means that you get time to spend with your family or pursuing a hobby.
Figure out the best way to track time in your home office. For some people a clock on the wall is enough, others prefer Pomodoro timers or use alarms on their phones. Whatever method you choose, it should help you stay focused, as well as make time for resting.
4. Come to an agreement with family members
If your family members aren’t used to you working at home, ask them not to disturb you. You can put some sign on your door to let your family know when you’re on an important task or call. Also, avoid working in the sitting room and similar areas to minimize distractions.
In case your spouse or partner also works from home, alternate care for kids, elders and pets with them. If each of you creates a home office for the first time, it might be a good idea to inform your clients and/or colleagues that you need some time to balance family and work time and get used to new conditions.
Make the most of your kids’ naps: basically, it’s an hour or two of uninterrupted focus for you. Schedule calls or tasks that require your full attention while your children are napping.
Sometimes children can’t help stopping by your working space. In this case, ask them to help you with some easy tasks, for example, with packaging.
5. Keep your office in a “ready” state
Keeping your office in a “ready” state essentially means that you have all the necessary equipment to get to work when you walk into the office each morning.
Some ways to keep this “ready” state are:
- Create a to-do list the night before. This way, you know exactly what to do the moment you walk into the office.
- Keep a clean work environment, so you don’t waste time de-cluttering before getting down to work. Use drawers, baskets, or shelf organizers to keep your workspace clean.
- Keep everything you need within arms’ reach. This way, you minimize distractions and keep yourself focused on work.
- Have a switched on computer, so you don’t have to wait for the startup process
Understand that you’re at your most productive when you first start work. If you waste this time on mundane tasks — cleaning the office area, figuring out your to-do list — you’ll waste this prime productivity.
6. Use special apps
Building a home office space requires not only equipment and gadgets, but some apps too. Here are some of the app that can help you stay productive:
- Serene to avoid distracting websites and apps and silence your phone
- TomatoTimer for time management
- Daywise to control phone notifications
- Zapier to automate repetitive tasks
- Trello to organize to-dos and projects
- Eye Care 20 20 20 to look after your eyes when working on a computer
- StretchClock to provide relief from constant sitting