I’m not alone in feeling that the best thing about blogging and freelancing is that I get to work from the comfort of my own home. I can drink as much coffee as I please [Maybe a little too much actually. My monitor appears to be vibrating as I type this]. Best of all though, there’s no morning rush!
Sounds great right? Well, yes it is, but with great perks come great responsibility. You are now responsible for your own actions. For example, I can’t blame the morning traffic for my late arrival at the office since it’s literally a hop skip and a jump from my bed to my desk. And I no longer have co-workers. That means there’s no one to give me a motivational kick up the backside when I need it: Be prepared to find new ways to motivate yourself.
Study after study shows that our work environment has a direct impact on the quality of work we produce, so it makes sense to start customising and optimising our home office, whether it’s a desk, dining table or the sofa.
Here are some actions I’ve taken to ensure working from home work works better for me. Hopefully you can apply some of them to your own life. If you have your own home-working tips, please share them below to inspire others. And for more inspiration check out office interiors designer group, Penketh Group. They have a ton of office-optimising ideas on their website.
I stretched it out
Let’s start with the most important factor – and my biggest peeve at the moment – : Comfort. The desk chair I’m sitting on is 6 years old and falling to pieces. Its lumbar support is drooping causing me back ache; its height adjustment thingy is bust causing a burning shoulder and neck pain; and the once padded seat is now flatter than a pancake, resulting in a huge pain in the butt.
If I spend more than an hour sat on this thing I’m in agony. Of course, this is a massive distraction from work, and over time it could cause spinal injury, repository issues and more nasty stuff.
I can’t afford a new desk chair at the moment – at least not the way-out-of-my-budget chair I’m lusting after – so to combat the aches and pains, I keep my yoga mat nearby so I can stretch out any built-up tension every hour or so.
Not surprisingly, a 2012 study showed that doing yoga at work can help relieve stress and improve well-being*.
I played with the lights
Lighting really depends on the individual, but because you work from home now that’s not a problem. You can tailor your work space to your own needs.
I’m planning a second office space in a quiet corner of my bedroom (quiet compared to the front of the building which overlooks a noisy main road). Until then W and I have been sharing our office space.
We don’t disagree on much, but lighting is a constant source of huffing and puffing between us: He turns the light off, I huff. I turn it on, he puffs. W swears he can focus better in darkness, whilst I work much faster in well-lit rooms. Leave me in the darkness with a computer and it’s a matter of minutes before I end up yawning and browsing Imgur.
Some studies suggest that dimming the lights can provide a creative boost, which is probably why W finds darkness works for him as he produces music which requires a more creative mindset. Whereas other studies show that bright natural light helps us to stay alert and work for longer, which is why I am more productive with the lights on.
So play around with your lighting options to find what works for you. Simple things like moving your work area closer to a window could make a massive difference, and can even help you sleep better at night.
I silenced everyone (…kinda)
Try as you might, it’s hard to make people shut up. Harsh? Maybe; but being interrupted when you’re in a state of flow is so frustrating! If only I had a magic wand that could silence the main road outside, or stop the doorbell ringing (I mean, it has a button for that, but a magic wand would be way more fun wouldn’t it?).
I have a hard enough time not distracting myself without the help of others. So when W starts showing me hilarious memes on his phone or talking about the YouTube video he’s watching, it’s all too easy to get side tracked and forget about work entirely.
Research shows that it takes 15 minutes to re-focus after an interruption, with one study showing that distraction can cost us 6 hours of our work day**, so it’s important to limit the opportunity for interruption as much as we can.
The best way to block out interruptions is with headphones. Find a long playlist of instrumental music if you’re writing for a few hours. I find film soundtracks work best; The Social Network score is my go-to. If music is too distracting, grab a pair of earplugs. It might seem drastic but your home business is, well, serious business.
I mute my phone, maximise my browser to block out any social media updates, sign out of Skype, and I tell W not to speak to me until I’m done.
If home life is proving too noisy then try searching your area for co-working offices. It’s something I looked in to before I moved from Cardiff. Many of these work spaces are specially designed to provide remote workers with the perfect atmosphere to focus, or even network and collaborate. They often have sound proofed rooms and work pods for privacy.
These are just a few simple ideas to make working from home more pleasant. There are hundreds of ways you can transform your home work space from somewhere that frustrates you into a place of hyper efficiency! Be sure to check out Penketh Group for more ideas.
In collaboration with Penketh Group.