Home office design is something that you might not have put any serious consideration into if you only work from home on a limited basis. But if you telecommute regularly, evaluating your home office can help you see if it’s working for you as well as it could.
Laura Spawn, CEO of Virtual Vocations, knows a thing or two about home office design. Since 2007, she has worked from home after founding Virtual Vocations with her brother, Adam Stevenson.
Virtual Vocations is a small company with a big mission: to revolutionize the way jobseekers look for remote work. As a 100% virtual company, Virtual Vocations understands the unique challenges jobseekers face when looking for telecommuting positions. And as a virtual CEO, Laura has many years of experience refining her own home office design to make it work for her and her role in leading their cutting-edge organization.
Here are some of her best home office design tips that can help you become more productive and enjoy your workspace.
1. Find a Space in Your Home That Works for You
Laura’s space is the perfect size and location. It’s a cozy nook that allows her enough space for dual monitors and desk space. But it isn’t so big that it takes away from the rest of the space she needs for her and her family. It’s also far enough from her main living area that she has a quiet atmosphere to focus on her tasks.
Is the space you’re working in the best space for you? Do you prefer to have a cozy corner, or do you prefer to work in a more open space? Are you able to concentrate as well as you need to in your space? Can you step away from work when necessary to set boundaries of work time versus family time?
If she works at a dining room table, her professional life and family life collide. Setting up her home office space—even if it’s only a corner desk in her living room or bedroom—can define spaces more, and make it that much easier to “close up shop” for the day.
2. Research Home Office Design Styles
You may not consider aesthetics when designing your own home office. But visuals might have more of an impact on your productivity and enjoyment of your workspace than you anticipate.
Spawn finds that a minimalist style works best for her. Clear, open space is crucial to her home office layout. She’s very selective about wall decor. Usually, she hangs just a few colorful prints and some floating shelves that hold items that reminds her of family and friends. In addition, having a lot of open space helps her think more clearly and stay focused.
What style works best for you? Do you prefer a calm, peaceful space with soothing colors? Or do you work better in a space filled with memorabilia, bright colors, and inspirational quotes?
Don’t be afraid to play around with your style to figure out what feels right to you. While Spawn might need clear spaces, you might gain motivation when you see stacks of projects waiting for you. And while she might like some personal items around that remind me of the people she loves, you might like more business-focused or inspirational decor.
3. Make Sure You Have the Right Kind of Lighting
Lighting is integral in our workspaces. Spawn always has bright lighting to make sure she can see well. Proper lighting ensures that her eyes aren’t overly tired by the end of the day. She’s used lamps in the past, but she now has overhead track lighting. This type of lighting is easily adjustable, so she can tweak it to her liking.
Something many people don’t often consider is the blue light. The blue light we take in from our computer screens can cause adverse health effects. Conversely, natural light is vital to your energy levels. If natural light is something you enjoy, is there a space in your home that has a window you can put your desk against? Or would you find working near a window too distracting?
These are all personal preferences that vary greatly from person to person. But since it’s your own home office, you get to make the choice that works best for you!
4. Pay Attention to the Ergonomics of Your Home Office Design
Ergonomics is an integral aspect of home office design. However, some of the most important ergonomic tips center on your choice of chair and desk. By choosing the perfect setup, you can maintain a proper and healthy posture.
A cute chair might fit in with your office aesthetics, but it may not provide the right support you need. Pay special attention to back support and high adjustment to select the ideal ergonomic chair.
Spawn has purchased a number of ergonomic chairs over the years to help her posture while sitting. In her opinion, it definitely helps. She also uses an adjustable platform for her feet to improve her posture.
Another ergonomic consideration is the height of your external monitors. By making sure the screen is at the right level, you can reduce eye strain. If necessary, use a monitor riser or a stand to place the monitors at the correct height.
We’ve all heard the stories in the news for the past few years about the negative health effects that sitting can have. That’s why Spawn’s never averse to taking breaks! She has found there is just no substitute for getting up and walking around for a few minutes every hour or so. You can even set a timer to remind you to do so. Such a timer is perfect for people who dive deep into projects for hours on end.
Standing desks have also become more widely used recently. If you’re not ready to fully commit to a standing desk, you could research desks that allow you the option of either sitting or standing. You’ll also find low-cost standing desks made of sturdy cardboard that can be used on any work surface, and then be folded up and stored away.
Spawn keeps “easy care” plants around because nature always makes her feel less stressed and helps her focus. Perhaps even more importantly, the benefits of having plants in your home office can even go beyond these two positive effects.
In addition to removing some of the toxins by filtering the air, plants can also improve your health by acting as a natural humidifier. By adding moisture to the air, plants can actually reduce headaches and coughs! Take into consideration the location and lighting of your home office area before you chose some low-maintenance plants for your space.
6. Develop an Organizational Routine That Blends With Your Home Office Design
Spawn always clears her desk at the end of the day as part of her organizational practices. This includes returning papers to specific folders for home and work projects, even if they aren’t finished. The top of her desk is completely cleared off at the end of each workday. By settling into this routine, she starts fresh the next day without feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done.
She also does the same thing with the desktop on her computer! Because she downloads and saves everything to her desktop, she also needs to clean her virtual desktop. By either saving files to folders in Google Drive or dragging them to the trash, she leaves her desktop screen clear for the following day.
You might even take it a step further by setting up your goals for the following day after clearing off your desktops. Some people like to have a to-do list that they can use to help focus on their goals each day. Before shutting down for the evening, you could write yourself a list of the “Top 5 Things” you want to accomplish the following day. By keeping a list like this on a daily basis, you are setting yourself up for success right out of the gate.
7. Create Your Own Process for Taming That Paper Tiger
Spawn doesn’t keep a trash can in her home office space on purpose. She had one for years, but with as much paper as CEOs go through, the trash ended up filled and overflowing frequently. She’d often end up having papers piled on the edge of her desk that couldn’t go in the trash because it was too full.
Because her office trash is almost 100% paper, she either shreds it immediately or puts it in a pile on the floor. As part of her end-of-the-day routine of “closing down the office,” she takes it out to the recycling bin, avoiding the entire overflowing-trash-can saga.
Reducing the amount of paper we use in our home offices should seemingly be easier with technology. But if you haven’t been able to reduce or eliminate the use of paper, come up with your own process for handling and recycling. This will clear the clutter and maintain a healthy, positive vibe for your home office.
Home office design is highly subjective—not only because of the personal aesthetic choices involved, but also because of the processes incorporated to make your workday more efficient and effective. These tips have served Virtual Vocations’ own CEO well over the past several years, and she hopes they offer you some guidance and ideas about how you can design your office so that it best works for you, too.
iStock Image: imaginima
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