Many of you may be working from home at the moment due to the Covid-19 outbreak. For the most part of last year, I was working from home and I understand that it can be quite challenging. Work-life balance can be hard to achieve when both are centred in the same location. Ideally, we want to create some level of separation between our work life and personal life. Working from home makes it difficult to achieve such separation. However, there are some pretty perks too: no rush hour traffic, no long commutes, you can work in your PJs, and enjoy lunch on your couch watching Netflix!
There are pros and cons to working from home, but let’s try to make the best of our current situation. Creating a workspace at home is important to give us a sense of routine; a place to clock in for 8+ hours, get into work mode, and complete important tasks. Working at a nearby coffee shop isn't really an option right now, so we’ve got to create an ideal workspace right at home. Here are a few pointers that have helped me over the last year:
1. Location, location, location
Just like real estate, it’s all about the location. Having a room or home office dedicated to only work can help create some separation between your work and personal life. Once you’re done for the day, you can leave the room, close the door behind you, and enter your ‘personal’ space where you can hopefully leave work-related matters behind until the next day. Of course, this isn’t always possible. My husband and I live in a relatively small apartment, and we don’t have a home office. When I’m writing these days, I set up a workspace at our dining table. We usually eat on the couch, so the dining table is just for work.
When I write, I draw the curtains open and sit at the dining table. This helps to put me into work mode. When I’m done for the day, I clear my desk and move over to the couch to relax. Having the right space, even if it's not an entire room, can help to put you into work mode. A few things to keep in mind:
If possible, opt for a spot that gets natural light during the day. Exposure to sunlight is said to improve one’s mood and productivity.
Choose a space away from distractions such as the TV. Again, this might not always be possible. If you need to work in the living room, come to some sort of agreement with your family members about TV usage.
Pick a spot that offers some peace and quiet. This will help you to stay focused on your tasks. Worst case scenario, create your own quiet spot using noise-cancelling headphones.
Make sure the spot you’ve chosen is close to plug points to charge your laptop. Otherwise, invest in extension cables.
If you frequently join Zoom calls, pick a spot with a neutral background, a white or beige wall perhaps.
2. Setting up your table
Use any desk and comfortable chair you have at home. Set up your essentials: laptop, notepad, stationery, and planner. If you have a lot of messy cables running all over the place, try to get it organised. Use some cable ties and tape to create a neater work environment. Be conscious about creating a safe workspace without charging cables running across the room presenting a tripping hazard. The last thing you need is a sprained ankle in the midst of a global pandemic.
Also, you want to create an inviting workspace. So add your own touch to it: framed photos, artificial flowers, diffusers with essentials oils or scented candles, cute coasters for your coffee mug (this also keeps your workspace tidy by preventing stains on the table), whiteboards or pinboards. If your workspace gets some natural light, maybe add a small low maintenance potted plant that’s soothing to the eyes.
Keep a water bottle nearby as well to stay hydrated. I tend to find any excuse to take a break. Without a water bottle nearby, I’ll roam into the kitchen to get a drink and get distracted. Avoid having anything too distracting at your workspace like pillows or blankets. You want to be comfortable, but not too comfortable. Also, avoid keeping too many snacks on your desk as this could lead to a lot of snacking. If you leave the snacks elsewhere, you’re likely to be more intentional with the food and drinks you bring to your workspace.
3. Create a comfortable environment
Once you choose an ideal location and set up your table, you also want to make sure that your surroundings are comfortable so you can work at your optimal level. If it’s hot, consider investing in a stand fan. Bladeless fans are pretty cool, and they’re relatively easy to clean. Alternatively, you could get a portable air-conditioner. The living room in my apartment gets pretty hot during the day. By the time I write a few sentences, I’m usually already drenched in sweat. So my husband and I decided to get a portable air-conditioner. I was quite sceptical at first, but it has been a really worthwhile investment. I feel so much more comfortable now and that really helps my productivity.
Other than the heat, another thing that effectively kills the work vibe is mosquitoes. Living in a tropical country, being disturbed by mosquitoes now and then is inevitable. If you have them buzzing about, consider plugging in an electronic insect repellent to keep them away.
4. Clean your workstation the night before
At the end of the day, clear any clutter, wipe down your desk, and sweep the room. This way, you can immediately get started with work the next day. When I’m feeling demotivated in the morning, anything can distract me. A dusty desk leads to a cleaning spree and just like that, my work gets sidelined.
All in all, it’s important to have a conducive work environment even at home. Working from home can be difficult, so let’s stack the odds in our favour! A well-situated workspace with natural light that’s clean, organised (or messy, organised chaos if you prefer), and comfortable with all the essentials you need sets you on the right track for a day of work at home.
Working from home may pose challenges; some things are just easier to get done in an office environment. However, there are silver linings here. The advanced technologies of today make working from home easier than ever; files can be shared and edited by team members, meetings can be conducted on Zoom, and information can be looked up online. Many people have lost their jobs and income during these difficult times; to have a job and the option to work from home is truly a blessing.
So, there you have it folks! 4 ways to create a conducive workspace at home. I hope these pointers help you if you're working from home.
Now, work mode off. *Slams the laptop shut and hops over to the couch for re-runs of Friends.*