If you’re working remotely without a home office, you aren’t alone. After the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of American workers turned a room or a nook of their home into a makeshift office. Even more interesting, remote work may become a normality of employment, creating a permanent necessity for a dedicated office space. Regardless of your current situation, you can still find ways to optimize any area of your home to masquerade as a dedicated office space. Here are some tips to get you started.
Your Bed Isn’t Your Office (Or Maybe It Is)
Beds are comfortable. They’re plush, soft, and comforting. They’re where humans spend half of their lives. So working out of bed shouldn’t seem like a far stretch.
But studies show that working from your bed can be harmful to your productivity and sleep patterns. Subconsciously, your brain associates work with your location. So if you start to blend sleep and relaxation with business, you’ve confused your poor brain. Suddenly, your place of refuge has become an in-home cubicle. And that’s a feeling that no one should have.
Solution: Get your office as far away from your bedroom as possible while remaining comfortable. Some sort of table is preferable, but if you need to sit on a couch or in a recliner, just don’t get too comfortable.
Got a Bit of Extra Closet Space? Don’t Waste It
Are you a shopaholic when it comes to clothing? If so, you may not have a ton of extra closet space. That said, going through your closet and weeding out the hand-me-downs and donation items might be worth your while. Closet space can often double as a desk—at least a temporary one. Working from a closet may seem like a step backward. But it’s still an effective way of working remotely without a home office.
“I shared one room with two other guitarists (at Berklee School of Music), so we had the three of us, and my designated area for private practice was in the giant closet that was in this particular room, which was on the fourth floor, I believe. I spent I think 8 hours a day in that closet. And I was really motivated, let’s say…to the point of insanity. – Al Di Meola, world-renowned guitarist
Solution: If you’re short on space or live in a small apartment, add/remove shelving from your closet to create a micro-office.
Easily Distracted? Watch Those Windows
Have you been diagnosed with ADD, or have your friends or family accused you of having it? If so, you might want to consider windows and other areas that are problematic to your short attention span. Windows provide an escape to the outside world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they also become an addicting source of momentary entertainment or daydreams. Possible distractions may include:
- Floating plastic bags
- Neighborhood kids on or near your lawn
- Mail Carrier
- Neighbor washing car
All joking aside, the distractionary abilities of windows are apparent. The idea is to limit your time daydreaming, even though daydreaming might just improve your memory. If you’ve decided that windows pose a concentration threat, you still have options.
Solution: Plop your temporary desk in some natural light away from windows (if possible), and voila! You can reap the benefits of sunshine without minor interruptions.
Don’t Know What a VPN Is? You Probably Need Some Added Cybersecurity
Does your computer spam you with pop-ups that say you need to renew McAfee Antivirus? Do you know the terms phishing, VPN, or firewall? If not, you might want to invest in some extra cybersecurity and privacy for your home (now office) computer.
In case you’re unaware of some of the terminology, here are some terms you should familiarize yourself with:
- Spam: Like the junk mail that comes to your house every day, spam is a virtual form of junk mail, often unsolicited.
- Phishing: Phishing is the practice of sending unsolicited emails to defraud the recipient. Oftentimes, hackers using phishing techniques will build exact replicas of well-known company websites in hopes that you divulge important information (bank accounts, social security numbers, etc.).
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of software that enables a third-party to lock your computer. While this qualifies as a virus, the kicker is that you must pay a ransom to have your computer unlocked.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN): A virtual private network, or VPN, is an encrypted internet connection. By using a VPN, you can mask your location and other private details.
- Antivirus: Antivirus software keeps malicious programs off your computer. If it’s not updated frequently, hackers can expose holes in your system.
Solution: Unlike your office computer, your home computer may not have sophisticated cybersecurity. As a result, you may need to take matters into your own hands. Use a VPN, install antivirus software (and update it), and be wary of emails from unknown senders.
Never Done an Online Meeting? Don’t Worry
With the advent of free and paid video-conferencing platforms, IT and software companies are revolutionizing the way people communicate. Whether you’re living 15 miles or 1,500 miles from your team or client, you can always conduct an online meeting. Some of the more popular video chat programs include:
- Google Groups/Hangout
- Microsoft Teams
Plenty of other video-chat websites and apps exist, so explore options to suit your needs. What one video chat does well for getting down to business, another might work better for a remote happy hour!
Solution: If you haven’t done online meetings or video-conferencing before, you shouldn’t stress. Choose one of the above video-chat options and see how you like it. If you’re having trouble, hop into Google and type something like “Skype help” or “Zoom help.” You’ll be able to find just what you need to make it work for you.
Invest in an Ergonomic Chair…or Improvise
You only get one body. So, it’s in your best interest to take care of it. That’s why you shouldn’t just sit on a kitchen stool or dining room chair. While some of these chairs can pass the comfort test, others aren’t made for long hours of sitting and working. As a result, you may start to experience back pain or discomfort. But you shouldn’t have to. For a few hundred dollars, you can have a chair that embodies the spirit of sitting on a cloud. Plus, you can arrange certain areas to become more comfortable.
Solution: Purchase an ergonomic desk chair to stave off back pain. If you don’t have the budget or you can’t buy one for any reason, use an ample amount of cushions. And don’t forget to practice good posture to turn your “desk chair” into something that’s safe while working remotely without a home office.
Set Those Hours
Freelancers are often an odd bunch. They work irregular hours, suffer from wanderlust, and have an entrepreneurial mindset. However, fresh remote workers will benefit from set hours, as will those with an employee role. Unlike freelancers and contractors, remote employees are often more productive and responsive when they work hours similar to traditional office hours.
Solution: The good news is that this is achievable as long as you practice the habit. Sure, having a few days of lounging around is great. But don’t forget to get back to business as usual. Set normal office hours each day to avoid sleep deprivation or a loss in productivity.
Dress the Part (or Don’t)
A popular opinion from many veteran remote workers is that you should dress like you’re going to the office even if you’re not. I’m here to tell you that to some degree, it doesn’t matter. Comfort is synonymous with productivity, as is a rigid structure. The idea is to figure out a scenario where you balance your attire with your level of productivity.
Solution: If you slack when you’re in your pajamas, get into the habit of doing your morning routine from your office days. If you’re killing it with flip flops and a 10-year-old tee shirt from your family trip to Key West, keep on doing what you’re doing.
Is Your Office Your Dining Room?
When you’re working remotely without a home office, your dining room is often ground zero for a makeshift office. That said, your dining room may function entirely like your bedroom. Work in it too much, and your brain will start playing tricks on you. And there’s no crueler fate than reminding yourself of work every time you eat a meal. As a result, you should think twice before using your dining room as the preferred option for your home office. Not only will you feel strange working where you eat, but all of your stuff strewn about might prove a distraction for family members.
Solution: Avoid using your dining room for work if possible. If you need to use it for business, eat somewhere else to avoid mixing the purpose of the areas. Take a walk as you eat or go outside as an alternative.
Decorate…Just a Bit
Unless you’re a huge fan of Communist-era Brutalist architecture, a few posters, paintings, plants, or colors can liven up the room. When you’re working from home without an office, these little touches can make a world of difference in regard to productivity.
Solution: Throw up an inspirational poster and a splash of color to keep the vibrancy in and the drab out. You don’t have to spend a bundle either. Just do some DIY home office decorating or grab a few plants to make your home office look and feel great.
Having a home office is a great bonus when you’re working remotely without a home office. But if you’ve been thrust into the role, your “office space” can become anywhere you have the will to create it. Just follow these tips, and suddenly you’ll become an office legend (even if it’s just a self-proclaimed employee of the month).
iStock Image: martin-dm
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