Ways to Improve Productivity in a Home Office
Written by: Lindsay Shugerman
Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Working from home is becoming more and more popular every year. Whether you’re telecommuting for a company or are working for yourself as a freelancer or entrepreneur, the drive to the office has been replaced by a walk to your desk.
For some of us, working from home is a dream come true. We get more done, and feel more in control of our career. But there can also be drawbacks. Working remotely can come with many distractions. (Excuse me while I throw a load of laundry in.) And there’s usually more clutter around than in a workplace, which can make it hard to find things. It can feel like more time is wasted than we would like.
If you’re looking for ways to improve productivity in a home office, you’ve come to the right place. Here are ten tips to get you started on your way to being an organized and efficient remote worker.
10. Designate a work space
It can be so tempting to just take your laptop over to the comfy couch and binge on Friends episodes while you work. Trust me, I know! And it’s okay once in awhile. But when it comes to being really productive working at home, it’s best to designate an official workspace somewhere in your home. It can be a separate room, a desk and bookcase in the corner of the family room, or just an area on the dining room table. Just sitting down in your “official” not-office office lets your brain know it’s time to work.
9. Define your working hours
When working from home started to become a popular choice, a lot of companies worried that remote employees wouldn’t keep up with their work. They envisioned out-of-sight staff members doing their grocery shopping, taking naps or lingering over hours long lunches. In fact, the opposite is true. Remote employees and freelancers generally work longer hours than their on-site counterparts, blurring the distinction between work and family or personal time.
You’ll be happier and more efficient if you take control of this tendency early on, and set office hours for yourself. When it’s time for the workday to end, step away from your computer or paperwork or whatever until the next scheduled time. It’s hard for many of us to do, but the benefits to your work quality and personal life are well worth it.
8. Invest in storage
The day a big report is due is no time to find out that some of the papers you need are missing. Ditto for those replacement cartridges for your printer, the reference book you need for the report or the business card you’re sure you put somewhere safe. Stop wasting time searching for what you need, and create a filing and storage system. Invest in a good file cabinet, some bookshelves and something with drawers or bins for your office supplies.
7. Keep meticulous records
When it’s time to file your taxes or bill a client for the work you completed, you need accurate information. Save your sanity and start keeping detailed records now. Buy business record keeping software or set up tracking via spreadsheets or notebooks, and use it to record every expense, every dollar of income, every hour worked and mile driven for work. You’ll be amazed how easy filing taxes or computing billing will become!
6. Sit in Comfort
Working from home, it’s not unusual for me to realize that I have been sitting at my desk for hours without moving, and that’s not a good thing if your check doesn’t FIT your body correctly. Look for a medium or low back chair that is customized in size to fit your personal needs.
5. Be sure you have the right lighting
That cute end table lamp is just your taste. But that doesn’t mean it works for your home office. Look for lighting that can adjust to illuminate your keyboard or the papers you’re trying to read. If possible, full spectrum lighting is a good choice. Not only does it chase seasonal blues away, it actually can improve productivity in a home office by reducing eye strain and distraction.
4. Get the right chair
Most people who work from home do so while seated. That’s why an ergonomically correct desk chair is so important to working effectively. The wrong chair can cause back and neck pain, increase pressure on your legs and even cause headaches. You can’t work well when you’re in pain, so this is an expense that will actually protect you from lost work hours (or even days)
3. Take time to eat
Just as we work-from-home folks forget to get up and walk around, we also forget to eat. Or at least, we forget to eat real meals. A bag of chips open on your desk is not a lunch! You’ll work more effectively…and be healthier…if you take an actual lunch or supper break and eat a real meal, away from your work. If cooking lunch takes too long try preparing meals the night before so they can be reheated easily. Or stock your fridge with prepared, read to heat and eat meals. Once in awhile, treat yourself to a real lunch out, too. It can make the difference in the world!
2. Use the best technology
When your budget permits, make sure you invest in up-to-date technology for your home office. A new laptop and a printer that works without duct tape and bubble gum to hold it together will do wonders for your productivity. Old equipment may be cheaper in the short run, but the time wasted will make it far more costly over time.
Once in awhile, even introverts like me need to be around real people to get work done. Sometimes the best way to improve productivity in a home office is to leave that office and head out for a bit of co-working in a coffee shop, restaurant, library or co-working studio. Just being around other people can revive those creative juices and get you over writer’s block or whatever else is getting your way.
People who work from home are usually more productive than those who work in an office. But using these techniques can keep you on top of your game.